Sunday, 23 June 2019 22:28

Converting the Phalaenopsis to a Hydroponic Environment

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The process of taking an existing healthy Phalaenopsis from a terrestrial (potted) environment or Epiphytic (mounted) and acclimate the roots over time required so that the Phalaenopsis adjusts to it's roots being submerged in water constantly.


The current  Phalaenopsis hybrids grown and sold commercially are perhaps the most vigorous growers under proper care that continue to grow in size and rebloom often and frequently.  These traits make them ideal along with their Epiphytic and terrestrial characteristics.  Orchids are known to adjust to conditions and acclimate from one environment to another is that process.  Old growth roots will not make the transition, but new growth roots can be programmed to acclimate to a hydroponic condition over time (time required for the root to grow).  New roots do not have old habits, but they are more programmable or adaptable to an environment they are presented with.  In this case they desire that they take to growing and thriving surrounded by water.  The length of time on this process depends on root growth, so the Phalaenopsis has to be focused on new root development.  This is simple by prohobiting the Phalaenopsis from focusing energy on what it prefers to do - bloom.  Spikes are removed inhibiting this process forcing the Phalaenopsis to devote all energy on new root growth and perhaps a new leaf or two.


The Phalaenopsis is also Monopodial,  meaning it grows as a single upright “stem” with one leaf following another on opposite sides of the stem. Spikes can develop from a node under a leaf.  Roots can do the same.  This explains why sometimes an mature, thriving Phalaenopsis might have root development above the potting medium.  These roots can be trimmed back if desired no matter what environment the Phalaenopsis is situated in.  The reason for this extra root development might be due to the humid environment the orchid is situated in and it wants to capture that extra humidity.


As each new root taps into the water source, you can cut back 1 or 2 of the older roots.  This will further inspire the Phalaenopsis to replace them with extra new roots and again it grow into the water below.  Once all the old roots are gone, and the new roots take to being submerged, wait for new leaf growth to start if it hasn't already done so.  New leaf growth or a spike developing while new roots are submerged in water indicates that the orchid has been successfully acclimated to the hydroponic environment.


I came across this concept of orchid culture when I was doing a google search on "How to save a Phrag. with no roots".  I was inspired and tried this adventure last fall and failed.  I used a 4-inch hybrid  Phalaenopsis and started the acclimation process but the tips of old roots were submerged in water.  They been accustomed to Terrestrial conditions (watered, allowed to dry, watered - repeat as if potted or mounted).  It was no surprise that the roots started to rot and eventually I tossed the orchid.  Another factor in the failure was starting it in late fall, where water temperature could fall below the minimal tolerance for the Phalaenopsis, again, causing shock and eventually death.  This time I started on the summer solstice and by the time fall temperatures start to cool down, the miniature Phalaenopsis should have at a minimum 4 roots taking to the hydroponic environment, and I will use a heating pad to help keep the water reservoir from getting to cold.  Learning and correcting from these two errors, should increase chances for successful acclimation.


Basic Prerequisites

Minimal exposure to Phalaenopsis culture.

One or more Phalaenopsis to convert (I would not suggest potentially sacrificing your most favorite Phalaenopsis for this unless it has no roots at all, Even then I would just follow to the point new roots developed and then return it to your desired potting medium)

Basic required item for the process (medium, clear, plastic cup. A lid is recommended that the lid fit and seal the cup but optional. Some kitchen skewers).

Patience, because you can do all you can, but the rest is up to the Phalaenopsis to develop and grow new roots and that can take a month or two.



The Phalaenopsis is a versatile orchid.  It can grow in a pot for our convenience or mounted with leaf growth pointed down to prevent crown-rot.  In nature they can be found on the forest floor rooted in decaying leaves or nooks and crannies of trees.


For no obvious reason other than to be different, some Phalaenopsis growers have successfully transitioned these to a hydroponic environment.  The process seems logical and simple enough to follow - just acclimate new roots to being submerged in water constantly.  The end result, a plant as art, where one can enjoy the blooms and the roots.  I am not afraid to admit the idea of an acclimated Phalaenopsis in a large betta-bowl with a male Siamese Fighting Fish is intriguing.   I be the first on the block with such an item.


The Phalaenopsis is not the only orchid that can make this transition.  Others have tried Oncydiums and others as well.  For now I will stick to the Phalaenopsis as it is perhaps the easiest.  Pay no attention to those expert, advanced growers who look at you funny for in their opinion, is mistreating an orchid.


Below is a blog or journal of my process, so follow along, perhaps be inspired to try this yourself.


Read 1385 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 August 2019 19:27
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