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Old 07-16-2008, 10:20 AM
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To sphag or not to sphag...opinions/experience please...

This past winter/early spring I read that it's good to put sphagnum on the top of moisture lovers (phals, paphs, zygos, etc) to help hold in moisture. Well, during all repots I did just that...now I'm questioning this move.

The more I think about it...the more I start to wonder...these guys are in plastic pots so does the have a negative impact on their ability to get air at the root zone?

Thoughts? Opinions? Experience?

Thanks!
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Old 07-16-2008, 11:17 AM
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Hi, Kat. I don't think a *thin* layer of sphag on top of the pot will hinder the getting of air to the roots. A *thin* layer. This is because good new uncompacted sphag has a remarkable ability to hold air *and* moisture at the same time.

Of course, if you put on some stinky old sphag on real thick, that might be another matter

I've used a thin layer of sphag *sometimes* for both catts and oncids where the plants needed new roots that were forming at the top of the pot: The new roots aim themselves right at the sphag and grow right into it. They *love* it, just spread out and grow and grow in it.

Now you need to remember this is different from a whole lot of sphag at the bottom of a plastic pot, which wouldn't work the same way. But certainly no harm to the plant, and often a benefit from the thin layer of sphag.

Don't know if it would be good for paphs or zygos, as I don't grow them.

I just wanted to comment on phals in plastic pots: Bob Gordon, in *Culture of the Phalaenopsis Orchid* recommends making extra holes in plastic pots for better root aeration. Most pots come with only 4 holes and this isn't enough. I use a 3/8" soldering iron, and hold my nose while I burn new holes in the pot bottom. A couple of holes at the *side* of the pot bottom would be good, too.

Don't know if you do that already, but it's worth it in peace of mind about root aeration. Also, I use a net pot or a few peanuts in the center of the rootball of phals to make sure the center of the roots doesn't get waterlogged.

Hope this helps.
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Last edited by mehitabel; 07-16-2008 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 07-16-2008, 12:15 PM
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Hi Mehitabel! It's just a thin layer...probably about a 1/4 of an inch...of fresh NZ....just enough to cover the mix below. In some case...a little more to give the plant a bit more stability...but definitely not a big thick layer. I had everyone potted in terra cotta pots last year and over the winter I realized it was a mistake because I couldn't keep the phals moist enough w/out them being soggy. So...needless to say, many of them developed a very dehydrated look over the winter months. They seem to be coming around since being repotted and moved outside but I've noticed what looks to be a bit of shock w/a few and was worried that maybe it was the sphag I put on top. I'll just chock it up to all the changes they've undergone over the past several weeks. They're putting out new leaves and new roots so I'll assume it's just temporary.

As for the pots...I sterilize and recycle all the pots that my plants arrive in. I use the (I think they're called) cone pots whenever possible...the ones w/the raised center bottoms. I also purchase the orchid pots...the ones w/extra holes (8 I believe) in the bottom and holes on the sides. But...your idea of poking holes is a great one...I'll keep that in mind! Sounds like it would be more cost effective...the other plain pots are less than the orchids pots I believe.

I do use the p'nuts in the bottoms and in the center (not in the cone pots though). Especially on a couple that due to the roots being so HUGE and extensive I had to use a pot that's bigger than I'd prefer...p'nuts to the rescue!

Thanks for your input -- it's much appreciated and helps to put my mind at ease.
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