Stop the shrivel

If you’ve tried to grow an orchid, perhaps you’ve been here: The pseudobulb, which supplies the energy to the plant, is dehydrated and shrivelling faster than a man on a cold day. You’ve tried watering the plant, but now the medium just stays wet, which means the roots are gone and the plant can’t take up the water. If things go on like this, the plant will rot and die completely. What to do?

Here’s OGD’s Steve Topletz to the rescue:

"The pseudobulb may not come back. But the plant will still want energy.

Here is the secret. You need to juice up the plant with energy, not
just water. if you use pure water, you’re stealing energy from the

Create a soak of:
2 parts sugar
1 part drinking alcohol (any kind. my plants enjoy Bombay Sapphire)
7 parts cold water
1 pinch of epsom salt
1 drop superthrive
1 drop dish soap

Submerge the plant for a 2 – 8 hours in the dark

After the soak, wash it off in clean cold water. Make sure none of the original soak is still on any part of the plant or you can get rot."

He goes on to explain why this works:


"Regarding what is happening in the mix:

  • The sugar is a primary energy source for plants. They work to create sugars, so give it to them free.
  • Alcohol is a secondary energy source for plants, they can convert alcohol to sugars I believe, and then sugar to ATP.
  • The epsom salt is to increase uptake of the plant by making the solution electrolytic, and to add the essential nutrient elements of epsom salt.
  • The superthrive is obvious, as it is an auxin and stimulator.
  • Dish soap is to kill minor bacteria, and turn the solution into a surfactant.
  • Cold water because warm water shocks roots.
  • High humidity is always a plus. The higher the better.

However, for stimulating root growth, it may be a better idea to put the plant into a clear plastic bag with spongerock (expanded perlite), because with sphagnum (more commonly used) the roots don’t have to grow very much to find the amount of water they need."

A few OGD members asked what this Superthrive stuff is, and experienced grower Thomas Hillson responded:

"Good Question!

From their label, Superthrive is a mix vitamin B-1 (a common vitamin thiamin essential to the metabolism of carbohydrates), naphthalene acetic acid  (a synthetic auxin found in rooting compound), and some fertilizer. I have never seen a scientific study of the exact properties of Superthrive, but it is shown to stimulate the metabolism and growth of plants. When you have a plant under stress it helps the plant in many cases.

I use a solution similar to Steve Topletz’s for soaking plants showing stress, and then I put them in a high humidity environment. Plants I soak with a solution containing Superthrive or a B-complex vitamin do better than those with out. What is happening I do not know, I am working off a recipe given to me in the 1970’s, it works so I use it and pass it on to others."

2 thoughts on “Stop the shrivel

  1. I think dont need to use alcohol.
    Could you show exactly quantity (in gram, or ml)of each component to make 1 lit solution
    How long it take for orchid in the clear bag?
    Best Regards


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