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Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid Root and Crown Rot

Posted in Houseplant Advice on April 04, 2019

Sick Orchid? 

Is your Phalaenopsis moth orchid wilting and leaves going yellow even though it is well watered? It may have root or crown rot.


Symptoms of root and crown rot include wilted or yellowing leaves. This occurs when the orchid roots are already dying, and the infected roots are not able to absorb water; the plant will look as though it needs watering even though it may be in damp media.

Gently and carefully pull the orchid from the pot and check the appearance of the roots. Healthy roots are firm and greenish-white, but infected roots will be brown and rotting.

Orchid with Rotting Air Roots

How to Save Your Phalaenopsis Orchids


  • Clean cutting implements with meths or dilute bleach.
  • Carefully remove the orchid from its pot and shake off the old potting media.
  • Soak the plant for 10 minutes in a dilution of 1 teaspoon of SORTED Moss & Mould per litre of water.
  • Cut off the dying roots and soak the healthy roots for 10 minutes in the SORTED Moss & Mould solution. You can also soak the potting media for 10 minutes and spray the new container with the solution. Let them all drain after soaking.
  • Place the healthy roots in the new pot (with a drainage hole) and add the new potting media up to 1 cm from the rim of the pot.
  • Clean cutting implements with meths or dilute bleach after use.
  • Keep infected orchids well away from other orchids until they are healthy again.

See also How to Re-Pot Orchids.

Watering Your Moth Orchids

Let the soil dry slightly, but do not let it dry out completely before watering. Over-watered orchid potting mix and wet foliage promote root and crown rot disease. The top half of the media should feel dry to the touch.

Water your moth orchid once every week, and up to three times a week in hot or dry conditions. Water the plant with room-temperature water in the morning and keep air gently circulating around the orchids.

Orchid Potting Media

Check the potting media in the pot. Moth orchids need well-draining potting media that contains coarse materials such as bark, sphagnum moss and/or perlite. Bark can break down and retain too much water. If your orchid has root rot or if the bark in the media is breaking down, re-pot the plant in a new container with new orchid media.

This advice should help you rescue affected orchids and prevent disease spread.

David Brittain

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