Comparing the Results of Fertilizing the Phalaenopsis Orchid


Using four similar mini-Phalaenopsis, each with a feeding (fertilizing routine) that is different, I will compare the results over a year's time.  Every effort will be used to keep all environmental conditions the same, humidity, light, temperatures, frequency of watering.  The only difference from other growers will be my preferred use of clay pellets as a potting medium, and drainage holes about 1/2 inch above the bottom of the clear, plastic glass.  I will document the orchid as I re-pot it and will only know the condition of the roots as they make themself known when they appear along the sides of the pot.  At the very bottom will be a reservoir of water measuring 1/2-inch deep.  I have not yet decided if I cut back the spike or just document via text and images as it blooms out, gets cut back the standard way and then forms a new bud branch and blooms.  They will vary in color to some degree.


24 June 2019 - Let the Feeding Begin


I will identify these using the children of the Stark Family from 'Game of Thrones', Sansa, Arya, Bran, Robb and Rickon.



A. no fertilizer "Sansa" Yellow / Green
B. time release pellets only ( 14 - 14 - 14 )
"Bran" Red  
C. Pellets and fertilizing routine "Arya" Pink
D. fertilizing routine, no pellets "Rickon" Pink  
E. Pellets and fertilizing routine "Robb" Red




The original 2-inch clay pots with no drainage whole was set aside for another use or to be gifted.  As you can tell by looking at the above images (click picture for larger view), they all seem root-bound.  Phals like to be in the center of a pot (monopodal, so they grow up) and snug roots.


After exposing the roots and trimming off the dead and weakened roots, I potted up in a 4-inch across, almost 5-inch clear plastic pot known as an 18oz cup.  I made three rows of holes (4 each) opposite each other, the lower layer of holes staggered from the row above.  The bottom holes are about a half inch up from the bottom.  A small amout of water will collect at the bottom of these cups, but can easily be drained.  The water that collects can wick up the clay pellets providing moisture to the roots, yet allow exchange of air and the roots to dry.


I am using semi-hydroponic clay pellets that are small, less than an inch in diameter, but the diameter can vary.  I use a clay pellet medium over organic due to my need to water more than just once a day.  That extra wateing can increase the rate of decay of organic bark.  A benefit of organic medium is that it can absorb fertilizers, where as clay cannot.  This be beneficial to the orchid.  To compensate for this, I have established a small reservoir at the bottom of the clear, plastic cups to retain water that can be wicked up to the roots. 




I employ make use of the dunk and drown method.  I place the cup containing the orchid into another cup (without holes), slowly fill with water till the water flows over the edge.  After about 5 minutes, I add more water if necessary.  After waiting 10-15 minutes, slowly remove the orchid cup from the water cup allow to drain well and then return to it's growing area.


I try to water these every other day before noon.  However, in the condition of a heat wave (temperature above 95-degrees), I may do a second but faster watering around 4:00pm mostly to cool down the clay pellets so as to not cook the roots.




Mini-Phals. prefer bright shade (no direct sunlight).  They grow easily in a bright window, with little or no sun. An east window is ideal in the home; shaded south or west windows are acceptable. In overcast, northern winter climates, a full south exposure may be needed. In a greenhouse, shade must be given; 70 to 85 percent shade, or between 1,000 and 1,500 foot-candles, is recommended. No shadow should be seen if you hold your hand one foot above a plant's leaves.




For the phalaenopsis should usually be above 60 F at night, and range between 75 and 85 F or more during the day. Although higher temperatures force faster vegetative growth, higher humidity and air movement must accompany higher temperatures, the recommended maximum being 90 to 95 F. Night temperatures to 55 F are desirable for several weeks in the autumn to initiate flower spikes. Fluctuating temperatures can cause bud drop on plants with buds ready to open. 


Plant Charachteristics


Mini-Phals are much smaller than the standard Phalaenopsis. Leaf spread (tip to tip) may reach at most 5 inches in length.  It is possible for more than one spike at a time.  Bloom size is about the same as the standard Phalaenopsis.  A spike might manage between 8 and 12 blooms each but under ideal conditions can be more.  After blooming, trim the spike back as you would a standard Phal.  Count back to just above the next node and cut.  That node should soon start developing buds for blooming.The plant itself might never get very tall, it just depends on the leaves on a monopodial orchid.



29 June 2019 - Week 1


For the past week I have been focussed on watering these mini-Phals frequently so they get accustomed to the clay pellets, heat, lack of humidity that is Sacramento.  So far, so good, nobody has keeled over yet.  I left the spikes and have not cut them back.  Eventually the current blooms will fade and need to be removed.


When watering, and they are being "drowned" I would tap the side of the glass to shift and settle the clay pellets so they surround and secure the roots as much as possible.  I would also tweak the mini-Plal for a better position on the clay pellets so the base of the stem is just below the surface.


In my growing area, they are carefully positioned so as to never be in direct light.


On Saturday, 29 June 2019,  "Arya" and "Robb" received a dunking of ironite, fish and kelp juice and SUPERthirve (this combination promotes healthy roots and green leaves).  The healthier and greener the leaves, the more photosynthesis can take place even in shade conditions.  "Arya", "Bran" and "Robb", also received a scattering of Osmocote (14-14-14) time-release pellets.  I placed about 6 to 8 pellets on the surface so they could dissolve feeding the roots.  I will replace these pellets end of August.


Next update be on 6 July 2019 after "Arya" and "Robb" get a taste of Miracle-Gro basic fertilizer at 30-nitrogen 10-phosphate 10-potasium.  Keep in mind that for "Arya", "Bran" and "Robb"this be on top of the (14-14-14) from the Osmocote so the additional fertilizer be diluted even more as to not burn or cause shock to the mini-Phals.


In the meantime they will be watered as required and the reservoir will be flushed as well removing the previous feeding material.


Stay tuned....


2 July 2019

Call me a "ninny" if you want, but the last few days I have been paying close attention to humidity and in general it is not meeting the minimum requirements for Phals.  I had to solve this problem and a quick trip to a retail home improvement center did just the trick. I purchased a 12-inch deep translucent  plastic container and a second container half as deep.  The Phals go in the deep container, add water for humidity, place the shallow container on top but not securly, as I want to leave room to allow for ventilation.  The container is on my balcony in shade, never in direct light.  It is two early to tell how this is working but in theory it should solve the humidity issue by allowing the level of humidity to increase to a point well above the minimum 60-percent  that Phals. prefer. 




Prior to this home-made remedy, one Phal suffered  some leaf damage.  "Sansa" seems to have a drop of water on a leaf, and it did not fully evaporate right away and as night time temperatures dipped, that water damaged the leaf leaving what can only be described as a "chicken pox scar".  This is why orchids with fleshy leaves should be dry before the sun sets.  Itt looks as if the "scar" got a little bigger in diameter.  This was one of the reasons I wanted to resolve my lack of humidity issue.  All other leaves look in the best possible condition. 


Also appears to be some yellowing on the leaf tips. 
















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