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Old 04-22-2010, 02:12 PM
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Watering Guide for Spagnum Moss

I have looked at the sticky on spag moss so now know what it should look like - thanks. Can anyone let me know how often I should water?

I already have a phal in bark which is thriving, I've had it for a few years so know when it needs watered by the look of the leaves (usually every 4 weeks). I soak it (30-45mins) and then rinse it.

I know moss is different.... should I water it more regularly (it's another phal)? Is the best option sitting it in a dish and topping up the water from the base of the pot? The leaves are looking quite droopy and wrinkly but still in bloom and the leaves are green.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old 04-22-2010, 02:36 PM
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Well, you mention your phal has green, wrinkly, floppy leaves. This is likely the result of improper watering, usually overwatering. The excess water causes the roots to rot, in effect dehydrating the leaves, as the root system gets smaller and smaller. Have you inspected the root system of this plant? Are they healthy, firm, roots? What kind of light are you giving them? North, south, east, west? What's the temperature around them? All these things matter.

Also, I'm a little concerned that you're only watering your current phal every 4weeks. I see you're in Scotland, but even then, every 4 weeks seems much too infrequent for a phal. They have no organs to store water, and therefore cannot tolerate long dry spells. As you say, that phal in bark is doing well for you, but I would be suspicious of an every 4 week watering schedule being enough. I'm in Pennsylvania, with most of my phals in a bright, warm west window, and right now, I'm watering every 3 days or so. However, our conditions are different, and yours may be potted in a different container than mine.

You also mention that phal is in bark, which, depending on its age and condition, holds less water than sphagnum moss. Sphag holds a ton of water, so an orchid like a phal that's in exclusively sphag needs to almost dry out between waterings. Also, it's best not to have the sphag packed too tightly around the plant, as it will never dry out if it is.

The bottom line is, there's no "magic number" of days for watering. Typically, with sphag, you will water less often. You have to do what works for you and your plants. Try watering based on the weight of the container. Know what your container feels like weight-wise when totally dry, and soaking wet. Then, you'll be able to gauge pretty well when watering is needed. Some folks also use the skewer method. I don't, but I know it's helpful to some. There's a sticky on that I think. Maybe you could provide a few more details for us, and we could help pinpoint the problem better. Also, you could post some pics for us. HTH!
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Old 04-22-2010, 02:39 PM
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Oh also, I just saw the bit about putting the phal in a dish with water in the bottom and topping with water from the dish. This is not a good idea for this type of orchid. Phals don't want constantly wet roots or constantly soggy potting media. This will spell disaster for your roots. You must have a pot with adequate drainage points in the bottom, and perhaps the sides.
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Old 04-22-2010, 04:12 PM
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Another thing about watering from the bottom, salts easily accummulate in the pot. Top watering flushes them out, which should be done at least once a month.

You would benefit by watering with the skewer method. Get a shishkabob skewer, the kind they sell at the grocery store, trim it down, and put it into the pot and leave it there. The next time you think the plant needs water, take it out and touch it to your lip, cheek, or the back of your hand. If it's damp, don't water. If it's dry or nearly dry, water. How wet or dry the skewer is before you water will depend on the type of orchid it is.
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Old 04-22-2010, 06:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woods View Post
...Can anyone let me know how often I should water?
Watering frequency is relative depending on the type of orchid you have and the conditions (humidity levels, temperatures, etc) you're growing it in. It's always best to refer to the plant's needs. Phals need gentle, even moisture, never dry but never soggy. Use the skewer method as 11Orchid126 suggests to determine how fast the mix dries out.

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Originally Posted by Woods View Post
I already have a phal in bark which is thriving, I've had it for a few years so know when it needs watered by the look of the leaves (usually every 4 weeks). I soak it (30-45mins) and then rinse it.
By the look of the leaves? Do you mean the leaves start to loose their rigor (stiffness)? If so I'd recommend watering more frequently as loss of rigor in the leaves is a sign of stress from dehydration.

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Originally Posted by Woods View Post
...The leaves are looking quite droopy and wrinkly ...
If the phal is in sphag and has droopy leaves I'd check the roots right away. With sphag it is very easy to over water leading to root rot which then in turn results in droopy leaves.
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Old 04-22-2010, 10:10 PM
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in my opinion letting phals growing in sphag go dry is the root killer not keeping it too wet.

Once I hydrate the moss I never allow it to go dry again.

I water my phals like a tropical shower. soaking the plant and the moss. flushing out any salts that may be in the pot. moss as a rule does not readily collect salts and will have a PH around 5

I use clay pots or baskets not plastic pots and my moss will go from soaking wet to damp in a couple of days.

The skewer system makes no sense to my way of growing in sphag. I say this since the moss is always damp.

I believe the root rot is not caused by over watering phals but under watering phals.
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Old 04-23-2010, 02:43 AM
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in my opinion letting phals growing in sphag go dry is the root killer not keeping it too wet.
Yes, Bob, that's a good point. Letting it dry out can be just as damaging as keeping it too wet.
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Old 04-23-2010, 03:43 AM
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Thanks everyone. I tend to agree with kmarch and feel it's through dehydration that the leaves wrinkled/lost their firmness - exactly. Due to my 4 week watering of the bark phal, I hadn't watered the moss one yet.

I used the skewer method with my bark phal initially and that helped me work out the weight, appearance of leaves etc when it's needing watered so might try that again.

I might add some extra holes to the sides of the plastic pot to help drainage as there's only one large hole on the bottom of the pot and I wasn't too impressed by how the water drained. I keep a dish of water beside it to help humidity.

Thanks again, A
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Old 04-23-2010, 06:31 AM
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Gentleman could you share your source of information regarding the danger of letting sphag get too dry and root damage?

Brooke
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Old 04-23-2010, 07:05 AM
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My source is my own experience. As you probably know I don't grow many phals, I only have one left and the other 3 were lost from either root rot (1) or allowing them to stay dry (2) for too long. The results in all 3 instances was root loss. I see this even more in my paphs. I don't often see root loss in my paphs form over watering but I do see it from under watering.
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Old 04-23-2010, 08:03 AM
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My source my own experience in successfully growing phals in sphag for over 5 years. I had mixed results (mostly poor) for years before the switch.

It's been my experience that when you allow sphag to go crunchy dry, the phal roots whither.

I keep my sphag moist constantly and my phal roots are as big around as my little finger.

I've attempted to find a reference that supports my experience but everything I've found written about growing phals in moss suggests that it is necessary to allow the moss to dry. If I do that I have trouble.
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Old 04-23-2010, 08:09 AM
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Thanks Kevin for sharing your experiences.

I do grow a lot of phals anywhere from out of flask up to large pots to mounts and find just the opposite to be true. Before the g/h I grew under lights, in a window and outside. One of the first things I learned was if you think it needs water, wait another day or two. It has served me well and root rot has never been a problem for me.

The only place I've ever seen the theory of root rot being caused by letting the media dry out is here on this forum, quoted from a book written in the '80's. Even in the book, too dry was never explained - a day, a week, a month?

It is my belief that most of the problems from root rot in phals is 99% of the time is from too much water in conjunction with not enough light, warmth and air movement. Most new people love their phal to death taking care of it.

Brooke

Thanks Bob I appreciate your method too - you posted while I was posting. You do have the advantage of living in FL with an abundance of light, temps, a constant breeze and clay pots that breathe.

The secret to sphag farther north is to let the sphag get crunchy on top and then water it. This refers to loosely packed sphag, not the tight mess used by the original vendor.

My fear is having a new person worry about rotting the roots if they don't water and then over watering and killing them. You and Kevin are both experienced growers and have figured out what works for you. If a new person kills their first orchid or two, they might be discouraged and leave the hobby.

Brooke

Last edited by Brooke; 04-23-2010 at 08:21 AM. Reason: to add response to Bob
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:23 AM
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Living in a Northern clime...I can attest to better results w/my phals...especially during the cooler, less sun, winter months...by letting them dry just a touch between waterings.

Woods - If your other phal is doing well in a bark mix...why not just switch this one to bark? It sounds like you have a good system in place so it makes sense to move this one to something you have experience with and have had good results using.
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Old 04-26-2010, 04:32 AM
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I use similar techniques to Bob. I never let it dry out and never have problems.
However, if I lived in a less temperate place then the cool weather would wipe out my plants everywhere in spag.

This year, sometimes it has been 3 weeks between waterings, but the humidity was near 100% for that time and the spag stayed moist because of that.
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