Judgment free orchid beginner

I have mentioned it a few times but earlier this year I had some severe impulse control problems with the budget orchids. Frustratingly, I didn’t learn fast enough to save the brutally overwatered mini phal types and only have one clinging to a few leaves with a single root. I also sunburned the leaves really badly for a couple of the den-phal trying to figure out an Eastern exposure off the porch. They were hanging in during the rainy weather we were having and loving it, and then the sun came out and whammy. Now I have the dens under a porch umbrella, and we’ll see how it goes.

I also tried to mount a couple den phals to lose cut wood I had that had some natural grooves. The flatter one actually took really well and is hanging on tight even without the wire holding the moss ball on.

The one I shoved into a hole is less happy and probably not draining as well.

The damage was done a month ago, and even the mistreated orchids are sending up some new psudobulbs from the base, so I have high hopes if I keep them shaded and keep following the orchid dunking advice that’s been working for me they will eventually recover.

The big denodrobium nobile is has put out a few flower spikes!

Any advice besides trying not to do too much and keeping them out of direct sun would be great!


This orchid has been bugging me for a while, because I have been babying it back to health for over a year now. I try not to mess with it too much, but the better I take care of it the more it flops over the pot. It was confusing me, but today I found a Phal Beginner Thread on an orchid forum that explicitly said that it is A GOOD thing that it’s growing exactly right for natural growth. So yay me?

In repotting, I cut a flower spike from a dying mini orchid and just laid it flat across moist medium, in the light, after cutting it in a couple pieces each containing three nodes. I also had a dendrobium bulb break and did the same thing to it, but in a bag to try to protect the leaves it had.

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most orchids can be difficult because they need an almost constant source of moisture and humidity, so the tendency to water backfires, as plenty of water, along with poor drainage results in paradoxical dehydration-- with the specimen dying of thirst despite literally sitting on water.

you seemed to have fixed that problem with your phal by double-potting, with the upper pot having some clearance over the base of the lower pot, but with the lower pot serving as a non-porous basin that could hold some water to maintain fogginess around the roots at all times, yet aerated just as well.

orchids that suffered significant root damage may still be saved by doing the same set-up, and then placing the set-up in a large, transparent-walled container box that can be sealed(ie, a sterilite box or similar), to ensure high humidity, as if growing the orchid in a terrarium. Or a large clear plastic bag just like you did on the the orchid you were trying to save. Would also be good to let the air out every now and then to prevent anaerobic conditions.

the other issue with orchids is that they do need lots of sunlight to bloom, but direct sunlight scorches the foliage and very few of us will have the energy or the means to simulate dappled sunlight typical of rainforests, so we usually end up placing them by the window sill where sunlight’s intensity could be reduced by glass/semi-transparent curtain or netting. This then leads to another problem, especially with phals and vandas, and that would be the tendency to grow in one direction–towards the light resulting in leverage issues. You could fix this by repotting the specimen, and orient it in an upright position then stuff the open spaces with coco fiber or other fillers to hold the specimen in place. You might have to prune the oldest leaves if they are getting in the way. Next thing need to do would be to periodically turn the specimen, say, on a weekly basis, so it won’t have time to keel over to one side too much.

one last input could think of would be to be touchy-feely and googly eyed with the orchid on the day you obtained it. Since most of us will not buy orchids if they are not in bloom, it means that one will have a good baseline of how firm the foliage and how glossy and green the foliage was when the orchid was at its prime(one could conclude that the orchid was at its prime because it was in bloom when obtained). By familiarizing yourself with the foliage’s characteristics when you obtained it, you could then judge whether or not it is craving sunlight-- if subsequent leaf growth maintains the firmness, sheen, and color when you first obtained it. If the foliage seem to be getting radically larger, soft-ish, floppy, and glossy and overtly bright green, then those are fairly reliable signs of being starved of sunlight.


Thanks for all of that! It definitely jives with the information I had been reading. The big tip I got recently that I am hoping will make the difference is this one: just because a place sells a variety of orchid and takes care of a variety of orchid regularly doesn’t mean that they have any clue what to do with other varieties. I bought a bunch of denodrobium on sale after Valentines Day from a place that grows and maintains Phals. and they all came crammed in moss in plastic soft pits. I didn’t repot the discount ones because I was afraid that I would mess them up when they were already struggling, but this week I read a suggestion to repot no matter what into the mix that is comfortable to you. Checking the dying ones and sure enough, there’s a big wet rotted wad of moss in the middle. I repotted them into bark mixes and bagged them, and now I will have to see what happens!

Using bark, Richard’s flood feeding advice, and North Carolina’s humidity has worked well in East and SW windows for me, and moss has been too wet. I’ve got orchids from Vietnam in North Carolina, which I have grown up being told has a very similar environment, so I am hoping that I can find the right out door spot to keep them going.


So this is a compromise position that both is more attractive in my house and gets more light. It’s a west facing window that’s protected on the southern side by trees. It’s got about an hour of direct sun late in the afternoon, so I am going to check out the leaves the next sunny day we get. I may have to put a sheer up.

This was NOT on the bargain rack… My first oncidium! Wife doesn’t know about it yet, but I don’t think she’ll believe it’s for her.

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great you have humidity there, which is good news for your dendrobium orchids. Not sure what species of dendrobium orchids you have, but if you have the types which bear flowers on long stalks(not borne close to pseudobulbs), many of the common ones tolerate direct sunlight if grown in high humidity. The teret-type vandas(those with stiff leaf blades) are at least as tough, and will revel with zero sunscreen as long as there is ambient humidity.

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The one that got me hooked is the dendrobium nobile. It actually seemed to be pretty happy in a couple hours of morning sun until we had a dry spell and I didn’t correct in time. It might do ok with our morning sun if I am more careful.

The others have pseudobulbs and got singed much harder more quickly.


nobile and many of the pendent(not erect) dendrobium species seem to be less tolerant of direct sunlight, but good thing about them is that they are more likely to bloom in low-light conditions.

10 years ago I grew a Dendrobium nobile outdoors full-time in zone 10a (western Rancho Peñasquitos) against a west-facing fence under filtered sunlight from a large Ficus benjamina. The temperatures never went below freezing except a few times a year and then only for a couple hours before sunrise. It was planted in 1/4-inch orchid bark and bloomed about once a year. When I moved to Vista I placed it indoors with our other orchids. It seems much happier now.

I am really trying to figure out how to grow them shaded on the porch but I don’t know if it will work without figuring out a whole shade tent solution.

The bloom just opened up on the impulse plant.


I was messing around with my dendrobium and realized that there was a node that has apparently been breaking off and rooted itself loosely. Seemed like a volunteer to me!

Where the stem(?) weaned itself :

The inadvertent air layer:

I soaked a log of poplar in the waterfall for the mount.

I just put the roots loosely on a jag, covered them with moss, and used a butcher’s truss to hold the moss with waxed cotton.

Soaked my moss in a light mix of this:


Yesterday, I cleaned up the orchids creeping around the kitchen and hallways and set them up with T5s and shelves so they occupy the corner behind me when I teach online. Really looking forward to teaching today in my new “zen” space :blush: