Phals Looking Bad???
Is the plant getting all wrinkly and shriveling up? Do the leaves feel soft to the touch. This is a pretty good sign the plant has no roots left that are active. The cause? Usually the roots have been kept too wet. What can you do about that?
Today’s Mega Phal Growers have found that Phals growing in New Zealand moss, will grown and thrive in the moss only if they just mist the plants regularly. They NEVER water them !! Misting systems are set to go on when the humidity drops or on timers to keep the humidity high. Nutrients can be fed thru the misting system but water must never get the moss saturated. Too much water, shriveled leaves!! So they never mist long enough to make water run down into the roots, that's a no-no. Short mist bursts will grow the biggest plants very fast. When they get flower spikes about six inches long they are shipped to the grower for growing on till they flower.
Those growers now days have found they can sell them in the moss without any kind of directions, and most will die, but it will take a year or so, unless you just mist them the way they have been growing. And that's hard, high mist, high humidity and very warm, push, push, push.
It is difficult for a hobbyist to grow this way. At the first sign of trouble (wilting leaves) I would remove the plant from the mix and use one of the more hobbyist compatible mixes for Phals. Bark is my first choice. Fir bark is easy to get and inexpensive. I have used patio bark for years on phals.
Overtime the bark breaks down and begins to hold water itself. By the time nine months have gone by the bark is beginning to act like a sponge and holds too much water. After a year the roots will be climbing out of the pot for oxygen. Provided the watering is ok for a plant growing like that you may find a Phal with a lot of roots rambling around the pot, and actually not a live root in the pot at all. After all, in nature they grow on tree limbs mostly, some on rocky outcrops, but the roots are above ground and free to travel. A tree limb with moss and other plants is a perfect setting for the phal roots to grow.
You can also us the small coco chips, they will last nearly forever while the bark needs to be replaced about every nine months for the plants sake. This is not so easy to get, and it is expensive, but I found it will last and last without breaking down for maybe four or five years, and the texture for phals is great. It drains quick, does not hold a lot of water and keeps the air circulating amongst the roots better. And no matter what I plant in I use clear see thru pots. Phals were the reason I started having clear see thru pots made. (Also see the article on leaching the plants if you intend to keep the plants in the same mix for five years)
In a six inch pot, the top of the mix can be perfectly dry and the plant looks ready to water. So you give it another shot. In reality the bottom 2/3rd of the pot is still wet, the bottom third maybe even soggy! So when I started using the clear pots I could see that they were still wet. Yes, you can stick you finger down in each pot, or pick it up and see if it's heavy or light, but it's really hard to tell unless you can see the bottom of the pot roots and all and look for moisture.
Every time a customer showed up with a wilted plant, I would simply ask if we could check the roots, even when they told me they did not water too much. They were amazed as we unpotted and found this wet glob on the bottom of the pot. Repotting cures this.
But if the plant has lost nearly all of its roots, and is badly wilted you have a 50/50 chance of losing it. The best chance for recovery is back to the basics. You can use the biggest clear plastic bag you can find, like a turkey roast bag or a large clothes bag. Sit it on a counter, put a bit of damp moss, probably will need a wire or stick to hold the bag up, and put the plant in the bag pot or no pot. Use a a patch of moss perhaps 1" x 4" long, not drippy wet, just damp.
If you unpot one and it has no live roots take the mix off and put it in the bag bare-root. You can put several in the same bag. Close the bag except for perhaps a one to two inch opening at the top. Hang the bag it or sit it somewhere that it does not get direct sun but stays above 65 degrees and leave it alone. The plant should start new roots right away. When the roots get to be 2 or 3 inches long you can repot the plant.
The intense humidity the plant gets in the bag is like it was being raised from a seedling, warm and cozy, no watering just misting. You won't have to mist at all in the bag until you see no condensation inside the bag, then may be a short dip of the moss, squeeze it almost dry and return it to the bag and it will be sufficient. Forget about fertilizing while in the bag, the plant probably has no roots to take up the fertilizer at all. The goal here is to grow new roots, then back to the pot using the types of mix listed above.
Phals will grow in many different mixes. The key is to learn how to water the plants for whatever mix you have chosen so that the roots do not get too wet. It must drain well to let the plant thrive.