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Old 02-25-2008, 05:42 PM
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Splitting Cattelayas

If anybody can tell me if you can completely split cattelayas and throw away the pseudobulbs that are at the end with the dead roots. Will this kill the plant? Mine have new growths and roots and I want to do some trimming.
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Old 02-25-2008, 06:46 PM
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The old pseudobulbs, called back bulbs, continue to store water and nutrients that strengthen the whole plant. The new growths draw on these reserves to grow until they have roots of their own. While removing them probably won't kill the plant, but it may set the plant back and postpone blooms while the plant builds itself up again.
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:10 AM
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How big is the plant? If it has lots of old pbulbs and the newest growths are at the edge of the pot ready to grow into space, then repotting it can be useful. If it only has a few pbulbs then I wouldn't remove them even if I wanted to repot into a different container. As kmarch says, these are still providing nutrients to the new growth.

Don't throw the old pbulbs away. If you have any dormant eyes on the rootless pbulbs, you probably can get these to grow and have two divisions or you can share the plant with a friend.

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Old 02-26-2008, 10:15 AM
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One of my plants has alot of old pbulbs and the roots are a dull brown in color and the other has a few pbulbs with the dull brown roots but the bulbs are shriveled looking. Can the roots in this bad condition promote disease? Just a thought.
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:29 AM
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I would leave it until it's completely drained. It may not look the prettiest, but it's beneficial to the plant. Now if you see disease, then you'd want to remove them of course. Like Brooke said, there could be eyes near the rhizome that are forming that you may not see yet. Removing now could potentially remove new growth without knowing. You can see on my divisions I left some old bulbs for the new growths to "feed" on. Not pretty looking, but I have to show you the after shots of the new roots and growths that I have now.....WOW!!!
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Old 02-26-2008, 05:18 PM
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Thanks Articuno, I will do that. I appreciate all the help. When I divide this spring I will look for the "eyes".
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Old 02-26-2008, 05:18 PM
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I remove old back bulbs when they're shrivelled and/or black and have no roots, and definitely if they're getting soft. I only remove them if the remaining growth has at least four or five bulbs, as these are the minumum number of bulbs in order to have a blooming size plant. And often I have enough to divide the plant into two plants.

Sometimes leaving these old shrivelled back bulbs forces the use of a much larger pot, and then the healthy part of the rhyzome is in a pot with too much medium that stays too wet too long and roots rot.

Last edited by 11Orchid126; 02-26-2008 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 02-26-2008, 06:28 PM
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I have to split from the main stream of keeping old pseudobulbs.

They certainly can cause root rot if their roots are dead. I just replaced an orchid from a customer that I sold them a couple of months ago with large 7 inch flowers. One look told me I kept too many roots. It was my error in not removing more roots and pseudobulbs and I replaced it. The plant had been re-potted a year ago and the roots were dying all that time. It was part of 150 I re-potted and the ones where I cut the roots drastic did fine and where I kept more roots and pseudobulbs I lost about 20-30% of the plants.

If you have three good pseudobulbs or more than the plant has lots of sources to obtain nutrients if needed. I believe Cattleya choke themselves to death in a pot if they are not rot pruned at re-potting. Especially the center of the pot is almost always dead roots on an old plant.

I occasionally remove newer bulbs and even some leaves on large plants to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

If my first impression was the plant would be better or even just look better with the bulbs removed than I them off.

I do not say anyone else need treat theirs the same way. But this is a business for me and I do not do what I think is not working.

I recently cut all the roots off most of 500 new plants and in only 3 weeks I have new roots 1/2 inch long. Plants where I did not remove the roots are not showing any growth.
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:22 AM
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Jerry, thank you for that info. I have not really grown any type of cattelayas and alot of the advice is great.
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Old 02-27-2008, 10:46 AM
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11orchid126. I notice you live in NJ. Do you keep your orchids inside. I keep mine indoors during the winter and although the heating system is drying it seems to keep down some of the problems with water standing in the base of some of my plants. In Florida, where Jerry is alot of the plants have a healthy dose of humidity and may keep more water around the base and may need a little more of a cut back. I noticed some rot on a Stanhopea I have when I've left it out in the summer during periods of alot of rain.
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Old 02-27-2008, 12:45 PM
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The rule of thumb for Cattleyas is to leave no less than 3 mature bulbs in a row, and I generally tend to leave 4. As to removing roots, remember that Jerry lives in Florida, a much more hospitable place than where most of us live, so leave a fair amount of roots when repotting. Personally, I leave all living roots on a plant, unless it is a very vigorous rooter, and there are just too many roots to fit into a pot. Not something I see very often.
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Old 02-27-2008, 01:36 PM
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Thanks. I will keep that in mind. By the way I do have some small shoots at the base of one of my plants and I will let this go until spring. Then I will re-pot.
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Old 02-27-2008, 04:17 PM
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Here in New Jersey indoors the house is very dry as we have hot air heat. I keep the plants over humidity trays (even though many say this is a waste of time). I also have a cheap humidifier that I bought at the Veteran's thrift store for seven bucks which runs 24/7. I don't use a filter because I'm not interested in cleaning the air as much as moisturizing it. In the summer, from May to the end of September, all the plants go outside. This outdoor holiday is so rejuvenating for them I think it's what helps them to cope during the dry winter indoors.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:09 AM
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Same for me as far as keeping them outdoors. They hang in a big oak tree in the yard to the consternation of my husband who has to mow the grass underneath. They get a whole seven months out of doors and they reward me with blooms around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:47 AM
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I would like to add more to Cynthia's reminder that I am in Florida and have different growing conditions. Always know the source of the advice and consider any reasons why it might not work for you. This applies to all advice.

I try to mention that I am commercial and my location is posted, but use this knowledge before applying it to your plants. I said in the post that I was not advising this as a routine but as an example.

One thing that will be hard to explain is what is a dead, dying or on its last legs root. I said I cut almost all the roots and Cynthia said she does not cut living roots. This is the same advice, but applied to different plants. Cynthia re-pots her Cattleya regularly and my commercial suppliers do not. Even more so when I buy a large quantity of neglected plants at deep discounts. I would expect her roots to look much better.

New hobbyist and even more experienced will have a hard time deciding what is a dead root. Obvious soft and squishy are removed, but how do you decide that that nice white root is no longer supporting the plant. These are the ones I remove. It is a matter of experience and even then I make mistakes. My mistakes are only money while your dead plant is emotional.

I take a Cattleya to be re-potted and wash the roots by swirling it in a bucket of water. If you do this for only 10-15 seconds on damaged root systems you will see roots display different colors. Consider this a graph of root health. The really bad are obvious, then it is guess work. I err on the side of removing more. If it is a special plant, I leave more roots and re-pot again in 4-6 months, usually removing more roots as the new roots take over from the older sections. I can not re-pot everything that often so I cut heavy.

I do use as a rule that if dark poor looking roots are attached to old back bulbs I remove both. They are dying at the same rate and I do not want the old back bulb rot and to lead to rhizome damage.
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Old 02-28-2008, 03:03 PM
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Thanks all. When I get the hang of it I will send some pic's of my plants.
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Old 02-28-2008, 06:01 PM
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Question for Jerry Meola. You said "Obvious soft and squishy are removed, but how do you decide that that nice white root is no longer supporting the plant. These are the ones I remove."

Jerry, are you saying that nice white roots may not be supporting the plant? How can we tell if a good root is no longer of use? What should we look for?
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Old 02-29-2008, 11:50 AM
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Good question 126. Jerry, can the roots actually be a little too little for some plants sort of like the plant out growing itself.
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