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 Post subject: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:38 pm 
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Hi everyone. I'm a fairly recent Phal convert and I'm trying to hone my culture a bit. I grow almost exclusively in bark after several failed attempts at making sphag work in my conditions. I know that some would do so much better if I could grow them in sphag, and I won't force plants that are growing well to change. I just want to grow them better if I am able.

So, I got some premium NZ Sphag and I'm ready to go. Any tips or advice will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:55 pm 
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Here are some tips that work for me to rescue plants that have little or no root.

1. Always soak your moss the night before you use it. Squeeze out as much water as you can before use. This will make the moss moist - but not soggy/wet. If you don't want to squeeze moss with your hand, you can line dry the moss until it is moist but not bone dry.

2. Use the smallest pot you can find to accomodate the root ball. If you need a pot that is smaller than 2.25 inch pot - use 1/2 styrofoam at the bottom.

3. Initially only mist the moss on the top to keep it moist - do not water it. Keep the plant in shade, avoid too much light or too much air movement that will dry out the pot too fast.

In weeks you should see new root tips emerging from the plan. Continue to mist the moss only with water until you have at least 2 or 3 new root - each should be at least 2-3 inches in length. You could use a little bit of Superthrieve to encourage the plant to develop root, but this is not required.

Additional tips on growing phalaenopsis in moss
1. Only fertilize plants (assume these are established plants, not newly potted or plants that are under intensive care described above) when there are new green root tips.

2. If pot is dry, and there is no evidence of new growth (i.e. green root tip and new leaves), do not fertilize. Over fertilize in moss will cause moss to break down faster, ph will be lower and be toxic to roots.

3. Group your plants according to potting mix. Besides group by pot size, also group by bark mix, bark+ moss mix, etc

4. Before watering - group your plants in 3 categories. If pots are still moist or wet, keep them together in a spot - do not water them. 2nd group should be ones that are dry and show no evidence of new root tips, growth - these you just water them. 3rd group are ones that are dry and show evidence of new root tips - these you can water then fertilize.

5. It's not necessarily to water before you fertilize orchids. Do so only to plants where pot is very dry. In this case water before fertilize will help avoid roots from getting too much fertilizer.

I hope this makes sense.

Generally speaking - I use 100% moss up to 4 inches pot size. Anything larger I will use a bark mix with moss. I do have some comlex hybrids growing in 100% moss, and 6 inch pot. They do well because these clones are bred and selected for growing vigorously. I would not do this with a species that is growing slowly to develop roots. Just remember there are always exception. What works well for one plant may not be for the other, especially when it comes to species, hybrid, and complex hybrid. Generally hybrids are more forgiving

But just about all sick, rootless phals can be rescued with moss and small pot. Once you have a plant with new roots, adapted to your growing environment - you can grow it in just about any type of potting mix. I like moss because it is cleanner - doesn't break down as quickly as bark, and hold water/fertilizer longer than just 100% bark.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:20 pm 
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Wow, Peter. That is a lot of great info! Exactly the kind of tips I was looking for.

How tight do you pack the moss into the pot? I know everyone does it differently, but I know also know it's important. I imagine this would also dictate how I would water?


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:42 pm 
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Royal wrote:
Wow, Peter. That is a lot of great info! Exactly the kind of tips I was looking for.

How tight do you pack the moss into the pot? I know everyone does it differently, but I know also know it's important. I imagine this would also dictate how I would water?


You are welcome. Moss should be pack tight, this has the advantage of giving the plant the secure feel. If moss is lose, plant is not secured. Remember that tight moss is not what kills the plant. It is over-watering on a plant that is not yet established. Imagine that the moss is tight - but moist. Because pot is small, so moss doesn't stay wet to rot the root.

Once the plant is established in moss, you can resume regular watering. Because roots grow into the tight moss, these root are adapted to it. Roots are only rotted when moss stay wet from over watering. In a 4 inch pot that is packed very tight with moss - you may only need to water once every 3 weeks depending on humidity, amount of light, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:32 pm 
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Good info Peter. One other thing I do is I add Physan fungicide to the water when I soak the moss. This helps to prevent algae and fungi from getting established too quickly and can prevent some root loss from the shock of re-potting. Algae growth is a real problem for me growing indoors and this seems to really help-at least for a while :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:12 am 
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That's some really good information. I'm just slowly starting to switch over to moss from s/h myself (had problems with rot and salt buildup). Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:48 am 
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Peter really summed it all up nicely, and Jims comment is also a good one. I can't add much to this. Less watering of nice, firmly packed moss (I don't particularly care to pack mine too tight) and more mistings, especially in the early half of the day has proven effective for me. Good luck. I might also add it's nice to find big bales of NZS moss at a reduced price, sometimes it's great when you have it on hand when needed in a pinch.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:15 am 
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I will add that our biggest challenge is going to be in the winter months. Weather will be cooler, less light. Growers must exercise caution on watering. Like what Mike said, more misting than watering. Most of us don't heat our growing area like tropicals 80s F in the winter time. Over watering, and/or fertilizing during this month can be fatal to plant's root.

If you repot the plants during the warm growing months - then the plants will be established in moss and will do well over the winter.

I like growing in moss - it is clean, doesn't break down, less watering to do. Established plants usually do well and stay in flower for several months indoor. Tight moss keep waters at roots - and help phalaenopsis adjust to lower humidity in a home.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:37 pm 
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Location: Texas
Good stuff, everyone. Thanks.

With the understanding that we all have different conditions, I do have one more question. All things being equal, is there a group of plants that should respond especially well to growing in sphag? How about plants that should never be potted in sphag? I'd love to hear which ones like it and which ones don't.


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:33 pm 
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Neofinetia falcata have been grown in NSM by the Japanese for some 500 years. I don't think Paphs. would do well in spag.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:41 pm 
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Thank you all for this thread. Its so helpful to get detailed tips on potting. This one answered many of my questions.


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:22 pm 
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Alright, a question for you sphag growing pros (or semi-pros :D)....

I've observed that sometimes the new roots emerging from the base of the plant do not immediately dig into the moss. Instead they may grow 1/4" across the surface of the moss and then try to "dig in". When this happens, sometimes the green root tip dies (turns black). I can only assume this is from too much moisture. Occasionally, a new green shoot will emerge from the tip that died-off. Otherwise, the phal is healthy and happy with big fat juicy roots that have long been embedded in the sphag.

Has anyone else encountered this scenario? What can I do to prevent this from happening?


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:02 pm 
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I don't know what's causing the root tips to die but i can categorically say the problem is not too much moisture. A new, growing root tip should survive well even in a glass of water.

What it could be is some bacterial or fungal infection, but dead tips usually mean an environment with high salt concentration.. sometimes if you over-fertilise moss, the surface can get a lot of accumulated salts - usually accompanied by rampant, green algae growth on the surface.

But moisture itself, not a problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:43 am 
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Maybe damage from fungus gnat larvae. Got any gnats flying around the top of the mix?


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 Post subject: Re: Learning to grow in Sphagnum Moss
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:17 pm 
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Nick wrote:
I don't know what's causing the root tips to die but i can categorically say the problem is not too much moisture. A new, growing root tip should survive well even in a glass of water.

What it could be is some bacterial or fungal infection, but dead tips usually mean an environment with high salt concentration.. sometimes if you over-fertilise moss, the surface can get a lot of accumulated salts - usually accompanied by rampant, green algae growth on the surface.

But moisture itself, not a problem.



I think that you may have hit on something. My moss develops this aqua-marine (almost blue), thick algae pretty quickly after potting-up. I do not understand why this happens as fast as it does. I use the MSU fertilizer for tap water at a concentration of one teaspoon per gallon everytime I water. Admitedly, I do on occasion load-up on the ferts at a greater concentration.

I am going to repot all of phals that are growing in this aqua-marine, algae covered moss AND cut my fertilizer regimen in half. Maybe even go no fert for a month. See if that helps. Oh, I will also soak the sphag in Physan 20 to hopeful reduce any algae that thinks about growing.

Regarding the fungus gnats...I did have a minor buildup of these bastards several months ago. I managed to severely thin that population by interspersing some Drosera Spatulata amongst my orchids. Now, I only have the odd one or two fungus gnats.


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