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Old 10-09-2006, 10:34 AM
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Crazy Harlequin Phal?

Hi!

First a bit of history before the lengthy questions:

I have grown orchids (phalaenopsis, dendrobium and oncindium) in the past but killed all of them in a matter of months when I tried to take care of them the way my mom did in South East Asia. So, I did some research on their care in this drier, cooler and less light climate in the Northeast states.

Years passed and I finally got hooked again after spotting a lovely Harlequin phal in Home Depot. The plant nametag says Harlequin Bright Peacock, if that's of any help. I bought it sometime in Feb or March of this year. It was planted in a bark mix and had 2 spikes (both in very early bloom/bud). It also had 5 large firm green leaves and a peek of the roots showed very little root rot.

I re-checked the roots as soon as I got home. They were in all right condition so I replanted the phal in a new bark mixture in a clay pot with 4 side slits and one round hole at the bottom. I also sat it in a clay tray filled with pebbles and water in my bathroom. My humidity meter next to the pahl reads anywhere from 50% to 70% humidity. This phal sits slightly back from my southern window (light strength controlled by shades). For watering, I alternate between fertilizing one week, then just flushing with water the following week. I would water from the top of the pot, avoiding the crown and leaves, then leave the pot to soak in the water (totally covering the slits) for 10 to 15 minutes, then draining the water. I am using a generic orchid fertilizer.

The phal seemed to do quite well. I didn't lose any flowers to bud blast although a few buds never fully developed (turned brown and dropped off before opening) because I underwatered during the summer months. The lowest leaf yellowed and dropped off leaving 4 leaves each spanning at least 5 inches or more. Both spikes continued to bloom and grow (although very slowly) though spring, summer and fall.

Finally, in mid-september, it looked like the blooms are done. There is only 1 flower left on one spike, the other is completely bare. I decided to leave the spikes as they were. I did notice one tiny spike at the base sometime in early April but it seemed to have stopped growing and stayed the same size since. The phal also decided to drop its next lowest leaf, so I am down to 3 leaves. After seemingly dormant for the past 3 weeks, the phal put out 3 new roots, what looks like another new root is popping out, and a tiny leaf is visible from the crown. In addition, the two old spikes have come to life again! The tips have continued to expand and there are more fat buds coming out. I thought it was done flowering?

I have so many questions that I don't know where to start.

1. Is it normal to have such a long flowering season? This phal's 2 spikes has been flowering from Feb through October! I thought they only flowered in Winter through Spring?

2. Will the 3rd baby spike ever develop? It is still as green, fresh looking and the same size as when I first saw it in early April.

3. I thought the "growth" season was in the summer months? My phal did nothing but continued to flower in the summer and is only now showing plant growth in the fall. I am so confused.

4. What do I do now? How can it continue to flower and grow new leaf and roots at the same time?

5. Since my phal seems to be behaving in this wacky way, does it mean that I should not expect anymore spikes/flowers next year? I mean, it seems like it isn't done flowering!

6. When do I repot? I just repotted earlier this year but the phal is showing lots of rooting activity. Should I wait until next spring or let it go until the following year? My pot is quite big (6" pot). Do I just stuff the new roots under the bark mix when they grow long enough? The existing older roots are firm and those close to the surface are a bright firm green.

7. If and when my 2 existing spikes should stop budding and flowering, should I leave the spikes on or cut it? I really thought it was done flowering but viola! They just came to life again.

8. Why isn't my phal behaving like the what the textbooks say? Everything I have read says phalaenopsis orchids flower in winter/spring and grow in summer/fall. Am I overtaxing my phal or growing it incorrectly? This is the first orchid that I have kept alive for more than 6 months!

Please advise!

Last edited by chrono; 10-09-2006 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 10-09-2006, 01:52 PM
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Congratulations, it sounds like you are a successful orchid grower. If you are confused, note that your plant my also be a bit confused, so don't expect the exact same pattern next year. A new environment usually upsets plants, sometimes a lot and some times not at all. Yours may have been affected positively. Don't take the published info on growth patterns as gospel. There are many species in the background of these plants and they do what they want. I am probably not the best person to answer your questions as I am still trying to get it right. In the past for me it has been too much light, growing like Catts, too little heat, 61F at bench level doesn't seem to cut it, and watering with very cold water, causing tissue collapse. So, I just added a little electric heater on low heat hanging up in the corner where I hang all my low light warm growers, will see if this helps. I also jurry rigged up a method of heating any water I use in the greenhouse. At this point, I really never have more that 3 leaves on any of my phals, it may be with good light they don't need more, but will have to see when I really get these growing well.

You should not have to repot more than once every 2 years, and maybe once in 3 years. It will be necessary to repot when the mix starts to break down and hold too much water, and take too long to dry out. Put your finger on the top of the mix and press down. If the bark pushes back, it is not time to repot. If your finger goes into the mix, repot. Phals can be repotted just about any time, so there is no down side to waiting. When you repot, you should use the smallest pot that you can get all the roots into. While roots are growing, I sometimes try to direct the roots into or toward the pot. A little twist tie material putting a little pressure on the side of the root can sometimes get it going into the right direction.

Your stalled spike may or may not start up again. When your spikes finally finish blooming, because of the long length of the current blooming, I would think it good to cut them off, especially because by then you should have new spikes, and there is no point in sharing the energy with the old spikes. As far as expecting new spikes, as long as the plant knows it is winter, it should produce spikes. So, don't use a lot of artificial light around the plant, don't leave the lights on till 10pm every night or the like. Let the plant get a little cold, may be as low as 55F for a few weeks in winter, and increase the light at the same time a little, if possible.

Cynthia
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Old 10-09-2006, 05:35 PM
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Wow - I hope my two phals that aren't fully bloomed out last that long. The one I've had last the longest I bought in bloom on Memorial Day and the last flower finally dropped the week after Labor Day.
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Old 10-09-2006, 09:02 PM
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Hi, Chrono
The story of your Phal is almost similar to the history of my two Phals which were busy from February until now - flowering, developing simultaneously new roots, spikes and leaves (7 leaves each, the biggest is close to 11"!) They are in bloom again.
I keep them in conditions of low humidity, warm water for watering and a lot of light.

We'll see next year what they are going to do ...
Aniko.

[I wanted to attach a picture, but uploading doesn't work...]
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Old 10-11-2006, 08:06 AM
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Thank you everyone, for sharing your experiences.

The phal seems happy: the buds on the old stems are getting larger (you can see some dark spotting on the outside now), 2 more new roots have sprouted since my last post in addition to the other new roots, and the new baby leaf is getting larger too. Perhaps it is my imagination, but the stalled spike appears to be growing too? I'll have to wait and see, it might just be my poor eyes.

I really wish I have a digital camera so I can proudly post a picture of my first successfully "kept alive" orchid.

Since there is still a lot of plant activity, should I continue to fertilize as before? Alternate between fertilizing one week and flushing the next? Is my generic orchid feed okay?

My mom is dying for my orchid to grow a keiki since she loves the flowers. How do I encourage my phal to have a baby orchid? Is it adviseable?
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Old 10-11-2006, 11:00 AM
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The liklihood of your orchid to have a keiki (baby) is somewhat genetic - some types naturally produce them all the time and others have to be coerced. If you do nothing but leave your old spikes you may find one day that out of a node has sprouted a little tiny leaf that will grow roots and additional leaves and before long you can remove and pot up as a duplicate of mother. The happier your plant is the more likely it will do so if naturally inclined. On the other hand some other types will have to be encouraged through the use of a material termed keiki paste. Oh - fyi - after removing a keiki you can expect to wait approximately a year and a half or two to get your first flower on a young plant.

Last edited by mayres; 10-11-2006 at 11:02 AM. Reason: Additional information
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Old 10-11-2006, 06:41 PM
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When your flowers finally fade and you are going to cut the spikes off, don't cut them all the way off. Leave a couple, mabe three nodes close to the bottom of the plant. From recent reading, it appears that cutting the spike near the lowest flowers encourages more blooming, and cutting it short, encourages keikis.

Definitely fertilize if you see activity. It takes fortification to build all those different parts of the plant. Generic orchid food is fine. Cynthia
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