Question and Answer

 Date sent: Wed, 06 Feb 2002
From: Mai Tran <>
Subject: spike

Dear Phil,

I have no spike!!! I had to cut it because it turned yellow. It has been six months and only leaves and roots. How often should I water it and should I use a fertilizer?

 Hi Mai

Thanks for the message.

It is difficult to give you a definite answer as you do not give the genus of the orchid or mention where you come from. I can therefore only give a general answer.

If a flower spike has not fully developed and has turned yellow and died, I would first suspect the plants root system , as problems there are quickly reflected in the status of the plant.

Root problems are generally the result of either an old and soggy potting mix that holds too much water and not allowing air to reach the plants roots OR over watering i.e watering too frequently not giving too much water at each watering.

If you know what genus the plant is, check the specific cultural pages on this site for general guide-lines. The frequency of watering is one of the more difficult aspects of orchid growing, as the plant, size and type, potting mix and condition, environment, temperature and local humidity all affect the water status of the plant. Generally for most pseudobulbed orchids allow the mix to dry out for the top 25 mm of the mix before watering, then water well.

Plants such as paphiopedilums need more constant moisture supplies as they do not have any water storage organs.

The scriblings notes contains some further comment on watering which you may also like to look at.

Re fertilising, if a plant is not growing well, then do not fertilise; wait till is is back in good health then use any general purpose fertiliser at around half the general dilution, but use frequently, but water the plantwell between fertlsier applications. You can find a specific fertilsier page on this site as well the specific genera pages contain more specific recommendations.

I hope that these comments assist

Good luck and with kind regards


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