‘Suffers quickly’: The ‘first step’ to saving a dying orchid – how to avoid root rot

Orchids: Importance of drainage discussed by plant expert

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Orchids are ornamental plants that are famous for their colourful and fragrant blooms. However, caring for orchids can be a challenge, especially for those who are a gardening amateur. Gardening experts at Orchid Friends have shared how to save these dying houseplants in a few simple steps.

They said: “Depending on the issue, an orchid can be saved by re-potting, trimming off all the dead roots, cutting out leaves with spreading bacterial infection, relocating the plant or by stimulating growth.

“To save your dying orchid the first step is to diagnose what’s killing it.”

One of the “most common” problems with orchids is root rot.

The experts explained: “This is mainly caused by overwatering the plant.

“Maybe it was left standing in water for long periods of time, which is a sure way to kill an orchid.”

Root rot can also be caused by decomposing media as it turns acidic and therefore, starts to damage the roots.

The way to diagnose root rot is merely by “pulling out the plant from its pot”, according to plant experts.

They noted: “If they look mushy and dark in colour, the diagnosis is indeed root rot.”

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All bad roots need removing. This can be done by pruning them with scissors that are sprayed with hydrogen peroxide.

From here on gardeners need to ensure they are not overwatering their orchids, which can be done by using a mister.

Another problem with orchids is “underwatering”.

The experts said: “Even though orchids need to dry out in between watering, the plant doesn’t like to be dry for many days in a row – it will start to suffer quickly.

“Therefore, you should never neglect your orchid for long periods of time.”

During the summer especially, soil will dry out faster.

Depending on the climate you live in, the type of potting media used, the water needs to vary “drastically”.

Alternatively, perhaps gardeners have watered enough, but the methods of watering were not sufficient, causing the roots to dry out slowly.

Often, new orchids can show signs of dehydration.

Immediate visible signs of dehydration are wrinkly floppy leaves and very dry potting mix.

If the pot is clear, owners can detect dry roots even before taking the plant out of its pot.

To deal with orchid dehydration, after removing the old mix, soak the roots in water or rinse under the tap – always use lukewarm water and don’t get the plant itself wet.

Moistening the roots will help see which roots are still alive and salvageable, and which to cut off.

With sterilised scissors or pruners, cut off all the dead-looking roots.

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