Q: Just purchased one of your beautiful phalaenopsis...love it. I can't find any mention of the long root-like growths from the base of the plant...about 6" long...can these be removed?
A: The roots of the plant that you see are what help the plant absorb moisture and carbon dioxide from the air. Also known as “air roots” these are perfectly normal and don’t indicate that you need to repot your plant. You should also keep them on the plant as long as they remain nice and plump and are a sage-gray green color. If they turn yellow or shrivel up, you can wait until your plant stops blooming and then trim them off with a sterile scissors or razorblade. Long story short, please try to keep all of the healthy roots on your plant. Try not to stuff them into the ceramic pot (let them come out the top) so they can “breathe.” Orchids like to be root-bound and can stay in their existing pot for about 2 years after you’ve purchased it. Then, the potting medium does start to lose its nutrients and breaks down, so it’s time to re-pot. You can find lots of info at www.matsuinursery.com/repotting.
Q: I have a customer with a nobile dendrobium that has asked me about roots growing from higher branches. It is a healthy plant and he wants to repot it so it continues to grow. Should I just leave this high roots alone, they are healthy, and just repot as I would a normal orchid?
A. Usually when roots start on the stems it means the roots below are not happy. My guess is they still have this plant in the deco pot (which doesn’t breathe as well as a terra cotta). Not much you can do other than repot and keep the roots below warm so they can recover. To get more flowers the plant has to grow new canes. Leave the old ones on.
Q. My daughter gave me Miltonia orchid garden from Von's yesterday. The leaves are already brown in places and it needs water. I also can't get out of the 2 containers. Roots may be stuck in bottom. How do I get out? If I repot, do I use potting soil and what do I use for fertilizer? It seems extremely crowded.
A. Orchids like to be “tight” and root bound. We would cut off any brown leaves with a sterile scissors and see how it does. As for the pot, it was placed in the ceramic pot just before it left our facility, so the roots shouldn’t be growing in it yet. The ceramic might have been a little small due to variations in manufacturing. To remove, we’d try to get the potting medium nice and wet so it gets “squishy” and slowly work it out of the ceramic. Just be sure to wear an old t-shirt when you do in case it comes out really quickly and gets some potting medium on you! Then let it get almost dry before watering again, in about 10-14 days.
We wouldn’t recommend repotting until the plant is done blooming, and even then, it can go another year/ blooming season without getting repotted. I should note that we consider Miltonias a “living bouquet” with flowers that last about 6 weeks, sometimes longer. They can be tricky to rebloom and without the perfect greenhouse growing environment they often don’t live for longer than six months from purchase. Some people do have luck with keeping them going, so once it is done blooming, you can fertilize monthly.
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Q. My Nobile Dendrobium has lost all its blooms after giving me much joy. The plant looks very healthy and has two new leafy shoots. I am wondering if I should transplant the Dendrobium to a larger pot than the 6 inch plastic pot it came in? I am also hoping the plant will bloom again.
A. Continue watering and fertilizing as directed. Nobiles will typically bloom once per year, so you’ll need to be patient to have it rebloom. You can also repot, but you don’t necessarily have to go up in size unless it’s outgrown the pot. They do like to be a little “tight” in the pot.
Don’t cut the formerly blooming cane on the Nobile. It needs it to get stronger! You’ll want to continue to care, fertilize, etc because you want to grow another cane. Once that cane grows as big as you think it will get (it will probably be smaller than the previous one), and it has plenty of leaves, you’ll notice a knobby end starting at the top (called a mitten), it will look almost like the very top of a finger. Then you’ll want to go to cooling (dropping the temps down to 55-65°F at night). Once you see flowers, you can bring it back to normal room temp. The methods to rebloom Phalaenopsis are very similar methods to rebloom Nobiles.
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Q. Recently, I purchased a Matsui Phalaenopsis orchid. Can you tell me how old this orchid was at purchase? I read the repotting instructions just need to set up the appropriate time to repot once blooming process is complete. Also, do I repot in a larger plastic container and where can I find this container?
A. Your Phalaenopsis has been potted in that pot for about a year, though the plant itself is older. Mature plants like yours can be grown in the same container until the potting medium starts to decompose, usually in another year or two. We recommend repotting in spring, immediately after flowering. You can use the same pot, just change out the potting mix. If the orchid has gotten lots bigger (usually in a few years) you can go up to a plastic pot one or two inches wider (found at home improvement stores or nurseries). We do not recommend direct planting to the ceramic as this won’t allow proper air flow or drainage.
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