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Moth orchid dying before my eyes!

I took over caring for 4 individual moth orchids just over 3 years ago, that belonged to my late sister. Sadly I don’t seem to be doing very well as I’m only left with 2 of the 4, yet I’ve had one of my own for about 8 years and looked after it in the same way and it seems fine.

All plants are in clear pots and planted in the proper orchid potting mix, I’m quite careful with watering which happens maybe once a week with only a small amount of tepid rain water (I used to soak the pots less often and let all the water drain away but swayed away from this method as it didn’t seem very successful). I’ve used a spray orchid feed from time to time but not usually during the winter months. All plants have stayed in the same place since I’ve had them ie light and heat. I use some reindeer moss on the pots for decorative purposes only. Neither plants have any aerial roots to speak of?

I’ve been watching one of the last 2 plants, which only had 2 leaves left, and it’s almost died before my eyes, I could see the change of colour on the pic creeping across the leaf almost daily and today it finally let go of the main stem, leaving only one leaf that looks unwell too.

Am I doing something awful to these plants? I feel like a ‘plant killer’ or is there a slight glimmer of survival, as the other plant seems to have a new albeit very small leaf! Help please 😖
Leaf that dropped off today

One healthy leaf and a very small new leaf 😊



  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 8,845
    What is the climate like inside your house where you keep the plants? Light, heat, humidity, all that stuff.
    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • There’s a large window in the room facing north westerly so although room is quite bright, the plants don’t really get direct sunlight only in summer evenings. During the winter heat is quite constant but humidity could be affected more at this time because of central heating. However, when I water I usually mist the leaves and few roots…they concern me a bit as they look a bit dried out?
    Plants have been in the same situ since I’ve had them??
  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 1,888
    We don't use moss on our orchids but we do have them in trays with gravel for humidity.
    Could the moss be the issue?
    We spray every day in the summer and water once a week. In these days only spraying once a week.
    Our plants are in an non heated garden room
  • Well I’m surprised you have your plants in a non heated room, I always thought they needed a minimum temperature especially during the winter? 

    Maybe the moss is causing a problem but it has been there for a few years. I’m more than happy to remove it and try your set up…maybe the roots need a bit more airflow and light?

    When you say you spray them daily in the summer, do you mean the leaves or the gravel beneath the pots? And roughly how much water do you give them (obviously this will vary for the size of the pot)

    Sorry for asking so many questions but I’ll try anything that may help the plants. 
    Many thanks for all your tips, gladly take any advice from more experienced growers
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,126
    @NannyBeach has loads of orchids of all sorts ... hopefully she'll see this ... 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Fingers crossed she does….thanks for the prompt 👍
  • bédébédé Surrey Hills, acid greensand.Posts: 1,294
    Difficult to say on the information given.  Empty them out, look at the roots, overwatering is statistcally the most likey reason.
    "Have nothing in your garden that you don't know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 1,888
    edited 21 January
    We always use rain water for the orchids.
    Spraying the plants themselves.
    Water in the gravel tray to keep the humidity up even now.
    When watering we water the compost until the water comes through to the gravel.
    Orchids with their aerial roots have them growing out of the pot. They then pick up the humidity from the tray.
    I can't see any aerial roots in your photos. Are they buried in the moss? The moss usually is a greenish colour but your photo shows whitish.
    Sorry about the unheated room point. The orchids we have there are Cymbidiums and not moth orchids. These are in a heated room.
  • Thanks again for your tips and advice 😊 I do have a 3rd orchid with quite a lot of aerial roots (see pic below) but the other 2 don’t have many aerial roots to speak of and they look a little withered. Although, the one with the healthy looking leaves does seem to be showing a couple of new plump roots! 

    You’re right about the moss it is a creamy white colour which is what appealed when I first saw it, sort of set off the leaves in contrast. Having said that I’ve now removed all the moss, I’ve grouped all 3 orchids in a bowl with gravel below the pots and am hoping that with a bit more humidity and careful watering they may recover, fingers crossed 🤞 

    I may be brave enough to take the plants out of their pots to inspect the root system and check whether I’ve been a bit heavy handed with the water for this time of year. I can always replace any potting mix as well if it looks a bit soggy! Best to do this now I assume, while the plants are still dormant….having said that I think mine may have gone into hibernation 🤣

  • bédébédé Surrey Hills, acid greensand.Posts: 1,294
    edited 22 January
    Phalaenopsis rarely go dormant. Careful with the spraying, I have lost some from water lodged in the leaf axils leading to rot.

    You can be reasonably rough with your inspection and any repotting.  This type of orchid likes fresh air and daylight.
    "Have nothing in your garden that you don't know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
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