Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Phalaenopsis Rescue

Let me begin with something simple: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TAKE A CHANCE ON AN ORCHID FROM WALMART. Sure, Walmart's great. We all love Walmart. I love Walmart, too. Hell, they have everything. That's the problem; in trying to do everything, their wares sometimes suffer, including the poor little phals I rescued. Obviously, the person/people working in lawn and garden didn't know how to care for them; this isn't their fault. Walmart doesn't specialize in plants. And if you do choose to buy from Walmart, buy one as soon as the shipment comes in. In other words, before they have a chance to do anything potentially harmful to it.

My two phals airing out on the table.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I purchased several plant books before making a trip to the local Walmart to check out their selection of phals. I studied up on orchids in general and started to feel more like I knew what I was doing. Where I live, there are two basic places to buy plants in winter: Walmart and Lowe's. Most of my plants have come from Lowe's, and I've found them to be of better quality than Walmart's. However, Lowe's still has its issues, like having plants infested with gnats (believe me, that was super fun to remedy). I did some research online to find orchid vendors in my area; the nearest was quite a drive away, and prices were a bit too high for my comfort. It was then that I remembered Walmart had gotten a shipment of orchids in time for Christmas, and I figured they would be on sale since the season was over. However, I knew I wouldn't be getting the cream of the crop; I wanted a challenge, though, and was willing to nurse one back to health. When I arrived, they had only 6 or 7 phals left, most of which looked pretty shoddy. I picked out the largest and healthiest-looking of the group, a specimen with white flowers speckled with magenta. It was then I spied something unusual: A smaller plant with peachy-pink colored flowers, though those flowers didn't look typical of Phalaenopsis. The petals weren't round, and the flower itself was much smaller. However, the rest of the plant looked like a phal, so I wonder if it could be some sort of hybrid (any answers would be appreciated!). Though I found this plant to be unique from the typical phal, it was obvious that something was very wrong with it; on top of the potting soil, I found 17 buds that had dropped off, and its aerial roots were shriveled at the tips. I knew from reading my book that this meant one of two things: underwatering or overwatering. Both plants were also in tiny containers which had no drainage holes or ventilation necessary for orchids. I bought both anyway at $16 each and carefully wrapped the tops with large shopping bags to carry out into the -20 degree weather! I made sure they had plenty of heat for the ride home and took them into the house immediately.

It was then that I began a more thorough inspection. After freeing them from their protective plastic, I examined the roots more closely; definitely something wrong. I felt the top of the bark chips they were planted in and discovered it was totally soaked. Panic! I carried them one by one out to the bathtub to remove them from their containers. As I carefully tilted one of them onto its side to pull it out, water came gushing from the pot. The chips were totally waterlogged, and the larger plant was unbelievably rootbound. I gingerly removed as many of the bark chips as I could before laying both plants out on the table to get a little air. I'm not sure if this would be recommended by a professional, but it seemingly worked for me. I gave them about two hours to dry out a little and get some ventilation. In that time, I went out to buy them proper orchid pots, and I was in luck since Lowe's had only two left. However, I set those pots aside once I got home to give myself an opportunity to paint them, as I love to do. :) Instead, I potted the orchids slighly loosely in normal pots with drainage holes, using standard orchid mix (bark chips). I plan to get them into their more suitable pots soon, but I don't want to keep traumatizing them with transplanting, especially in bloom. I set up a drywell on the table, cleaned their leaves, and gave them a rest for the night. This morning, I spritzed them with a little water and gave them a tiny drink as well. They seem to be doing just fine so far! 

The unique phal I picked up.

Both my phals on the kitchen table.
The roots of the healthiest phal.

Just some of the shriveled roots of the second phal.

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