How to care for orchids

Phalaenopsis orchid

Not sure how to care for an orchid? Then follow our practical advice.

Orchids are a beautiful addition to your home. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are the most common type – they  thrive in centrally heated homes and flower over a long period. They’re available in an increasingly wide range of flower colours.

Watch Alan Titchmarsh give advice on caring for a moth orchid.

The popularity of moth orchids has led to other types of orchids becoming more readily available in garden centres, including Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum, Oncidium, Vanda and Cambria hybrids. These are all easy to grow in most homes, producing dramatic displays of exotic blooms.

Follow our care tips and your orchids will not only flower regularly, but will live for many years.

The popularity of moth orchids has led to other types of orchids becoming more readily available in garden centres.

How to water

Overwatering is the most common way to kill orchids. To avoid giving your plant too much water, always lift the pot first to check if it feels heavy – water only when it feels light. If your moth orchid is in a transparent pot, look at the roots. Don’t water if these are green – wait until they look silvery. Feed with orchid fertiliser from spring until autumn.

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Get the light right

Stand orchids where they’ll receive bright but indirect light. An east- or west-facing windowsill is perfect. Too much light can scorch the leaves, causing damage that will last for many years. If your orchid gets scorched, don’t detach the damaged leaves unless the plant has several additional healthy leaves.

scorched-leaf-of-a-moth-orchid-2

Boost humidity

Most indoor orchids come from humid, tropical regions, so these plants appreciate a humid atmosphere. In most centrally heated homes the air is dry, so mist the foliage every two to three days using tepid water, but avoid spraying the flowers, as the petals can get marked by water. Alternatively, stand the pot on a tray of damp gravel.

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Encourage flowering

With moth orchids, once all the flowers have fallen, cut off the stem just above a visible joint (node). This may stimulate the production of another flower stem, which you should clip to a support. If no shoot appears and original stem turns straw-coloured, then remove it at the base. Most other orchids won’t flower twice on the same stem, so cut off spent stems immediately.

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Potting on

Unlike most other pot plants, orchids don’t need regular re-potting and often thrive when root-bound. However, after two or three years it’s worth taking them out of their pots and removing as much of the compost as possible. Replant in the same pot with fresh orchid compost or choose a slightly larger pot if the plant won’t fit. Read more about repotting a moth orchid.

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Treat pests

The most common orchid pests are scale insects and mealybugs. Signs of infestation include stickiness on the leaves or nearby surfaces, or black sooty mould. Scale insects can be found on the leaf surfaces (above and below) and flower stalks, while mealybugs prefer new leaves. It’s easy to remove pests by hand, using a soapy sponge to clean the leaves. Alternatively, spray with an insecticide.

mealybugs-on-orchid-foliage-2

Check the label

Always keep the plant label, as different types of orchid need slightly different care. For example, showy Vanda orchids – which are often grown in glass vases without compost – require a specific watering regime. Fill the vase with water daily in summer, then empty it after half an hour. Vandas also need direct sun, which would scorch a moth orchid.

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Cut Back the Orchid Flower Spike

After the flowers drop from the orchid you have three choices: leave the flower spike (or stem) intact, cut it back to a node, or remove it entirely.

Orchid Rebloom

Remove the flower spike entirely by clipping it off at the base of the plant. This is definitely the route to take if the existing stem starts to turn brown or yellow. Withered stems won’t produce flowers. Removing the stem will direct the +plant’s energy toward root development, which makes for a healthier plant and increased chances for new bloom spikes.

Caring for Orchids at Home

Although orchid care requirements vary from species to species, there are 7 care aspects that pertain to all orchids. This post is intended as an overall guide, but is not specific to any specific variety of orchid. Knowing these 7 tips will help you care for your orchids at home.

Discover: Caring for orchids at home

Control the Temperature and Air Circulation

Two orchid care tips that go hand in hand are temperature and air circulation. My first recommendation is to choose orchids that thrive, like you and me, in the 70s (F).

The trick is that many orchids like temperature drops in the evening. My suggestion is to crack a window, if it’s not too cold outside.

Air circulation is very important. Not only does it help to prevent disease, but it also helps to regulate the temperature. Orchids near a window can get too hot or too cold. Thankfully, a fan will help to moderate the temperature.

I wish I had a ceiling fan, but I don’t. Instead, I use  this small and quiet Chill Out fan. I set the fan to it’s lowest setting and give my orchids a nice gentle breeze and they feel like they’re in paradise.

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Know How Water Your Orchid

Most orchids die because they’ve been over-watered. Learning to properly water is an especially important when caring for orchids indoors.

Although water requirements vary, generally thin leafed orchids need water more often than thick leaved orchids. Also, dormant orchids need less frequent watering.

You will know if your orchid is dormant because you won’t notice any leaf or root growth, or any flowers. The orchid is simply resting, gearing up for the next growth and flowering cycle.

This is how I water: first, I check the potting media of each orchid before watering it. If the media is still damp, I don’t water. This is especially true for orchids planted in sphagnum moss because moss really retains water. If your orchid has a plastic inner pot, examine the pot for condensation.

After a while you will get into a watering rhythm. Here are a few tips that will help you while finding your orchids watering sweet spot:

  • Orchids do not like to sit in water. This is especially true for dendrobiums.
  • By the same token, miltoniopsis (pansy orchid) and paphiopedilum (lady slipper) do not like to dry out.
  • Don’t water because it’s watering day, first check the potting medium. If it’s still wet, wait.
  • More orchids are killed by overwatering than by underwatering.
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Provide Some Humidity

I understand that you are likely caring for your orchids at home, not in a greenhouse. That’s me too. While providing adequate humidity is important, it is even more important not to over humidify.

We want to grow orchids, not mold. I have had the most success using a humidifier and a fan. The humidifier provides the humidity and fan helps prevent disease and mold.

Sad to say, but I have tried humidity trays without any results. I know they are popular, but I would be lying if I said they have raised the humidity levels around my orchids.

I use a humidistat to track my humidity levels. For all my orchids, I try to keep my humidity levels at 50%. That’s on the high end for what is recommended for a home, and the low end  for what is recommend for orchids. It’s not perfect, it’s a compromise.

Most of my orchids are VERY happy. The exception are my cattleyas. They really would like higher humidity levels. If you live in an area where humidity levels are naturally high, give cattleyas a try and email me. I would love to hear how they are doing.

orchids thrive with high humidity - learn how to care for an orchid

Fertilize Your Orchid Sparingly

Next, when it comes to fertilizing and orchids, less is more. Salt build up, the carrier for the minerals found in fertilizer, is really bad for orchids. The common refrain for fertilizing orchids is weekly weakly. One week in four, or even 2 weeks in 4 do not use any fertilizer. This will help to flush out the salts in the potting media. Be sure to dilute the recommended dosage by 1/2 to 1/4 strength.

Decoding Fertilizer Labels

  •  1st number refers to nitrogen.
    • Promotes healthy leaves.
    • Use when you see new leaves begin to grow.
    • Recommendation:  9-3-6
  • 2nd number is for phosphorous.
    • Encourages flowers.
    • Use before the flower buds appear. For example, if I wanted to fertilize for flowers in a winter blooming cymbidium, I would begin fertilizing at the end of fall before the flower spike had begun to grow.
    •  Recommendation:  3-12-6.
    • Note: once the orchid is prepared to bloom, return to a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
  • 3 number stands for potassium.
    •  Supports a strong root system, including the overall well-being of your orchids.  Potassium also helps to fight pests and disease and bounce back from unfavorable conditions such as cold and drought conditions.
    • Use when roots are forming.
    • Recommendation: 0-0-3.

fertilizing orchids - caring for orchids indoors

RePotting Is Important

Finally, when caring for orchids at home, many people wonder if they need to re-pot. They do! I have a full post about when to repot orchids and how to repot orchids.

To get you started, here is a simple overview to let you know if the time is right.

Do Pot:

  • When the flowers have all died.
  • Before the soil breaks down. A good quality soil should last 1-2 years.
  • If you have purchased a new orchid and you want to check out the root  system.
  • If you see new roots growing.
  • If your orchid is growing in sphagnum moss and you’d like to switch to a better potting medium

Don’t Pot:

  • If your orchid is still flowering.
  • A Dendrobium. Only repot a Dendrobium if you absolutely have to. They do not like their roots to be disturbed.

Learning to pot an orchid is important when caring for orchids at home

Amount of water required

A common myth regarding plants is that they should be watered regularly. Well, in case of orchids it’s not entirely true.

The watering amount will depend on the variety of orchid you are growing. Make sure you ask your florist about the seed breed.

For varieties such as Cymbidium, Miltonia and Papheopedilum, the plants should be kept wet and soggy all the time. For Ascocenda and Venda, keep the plant dry between two consecutive watering.

Orchids are widely sold as wholesale flowers for weddings, decorations and other occasions. You can easily sell them or use the blooms for other purposes. Therefore, proper growth of the bloom is important.

  • Poke a ginger into the soil near the orchid. This way you can find out if it needs to be watered. The soil should never feel dry.
  • Cut the stem of the oldest bloom. This is the best thing you can do if the plant has stopped growing. This will give scope for the newest blooms to grow.
  • If blooming takes too much time, the most common reason is not enough light. This problem is most common when the plant is grown indoors. Orchids are fairly easy to grow, once their basic needs are met. Simply move the plant to a place with brighter natural light.

Remember that the growth of orchid plants is naturally slow and so you will have to be patient while checking its growth.

Common pests to be aware of

If you grow orchids through organic seeds, the probability of pests attacking is comparatively lower. However, prevention is always better than cure! Therefore, you should use pesticides to get rid of the pests. Some of the common pests that can hinder the plant growth include:

  • scale insects;
  • mealy bugs;
  • aphids;
  • thrips.

These bugs easily attack the tender leaves and steps that inhibit the growth of blooming buds. Consult with the local florist about the usage of pesticides according to the variety of orchid and the bugs that are attacking.

Growing medium

The growing medium differs according to the breed you are growing. We would recommend to plant only one category of orchids as the caring mechanism is breed specific and you can easily get them at a reasonable cost as wholesale flower seeds.

For instance, terrestrial orchids require a moisture rich soil as medium whereas epiphytes require an open medium.

When should I re-pot the plant?

You should re-pot the plant after two to three years of interval.

What will cause my plant to crinkle?

Lack of water will make the plant crinkle.

What does black blotches on the leaves mean?

It means the plant was exposed to too much sunlight.

We would recommend that you stick to only one or two species of orchids for your convenience in terms of both cost and maintenance of the plant. The growth of the plant is slow compared to other blooms and you need to be patient with the plant to get the desired blooms.

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Growing Orchids As Houseplants

Like bromeliads, orchids are epiphytic plants. That means that in their natural habitat they don’t grow in the dirt, they grow on other plants. Don’t worry they don’t feed on other plants, they just use them as a growing support.

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There are tons of different varieties of orchids, and many of them can be grown as houseplants – though some are fussier than others.

Phalaenopsis orchids are the most commonly sold variety because they aren’t that much harder to grow than your average houseplants (though they do require extra care if you want them to bloom).

Once you get the hang of caring for your orchids, and learn the tricks to get them to rebloom, they make excellent flowering houseplants.

Orchids make excellent flowering houseplants

Orchids make excellent flowering houseplants

How Much Water Do Orchids Need?

Orchids like to be watered consistently, but don’t like soggy feet. Allow the medium to dry out slightly between waterings, but not to the point where the plant starts to shrivel.

Water thoroughly until the water comes out the bottom of the pot. Allow the water to drain fully, and never allow the pot to sit in water.

It’s especially important to use room temperature water on orchids, they are very sensitive to temperature extremes.

White phalaenopsis orchid flowers

White phalaenopsis orchid flowers

Humidity Requirements For Growing Orchids

Because they are a tropical indoor plant, high humidity is important for orchids. Set the plant on a pebble tray to increase humidity, or mist your plants on a regular basis.

If you mist your orchids, make sure to do it in the morning so the leaves are dry by the evening to prevent disease or fungus issues.

To increase the humidity levels for your orchid house plant, you could grow it in a sunny bathroom or near the kitchen sink, or add a humidifier in the room for your plants.

Plant care orchids houseplant

Beautiful white and purple orchids

How Much Light Do Orchids Need?

The phalaenopsis orchid likes bright, indirect light. Never put your orchid house plant in full sun or it could burn the tender leaves of the plant, and the plant will suffer with too much sun.

Indirect light from a south facing window, or filtered light in an west or east facing window are the best choices.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have the right amount of natural light in your house for growing orchids, you can buy a plant grow light and set it on a timer to give them the perfect amount of light.

Beautiful orchid as houseplant

Beautiful orchid houseplant

Can Orchids Be Planted In Soil?

No. Do not use regular potting soil for orchids. Since orchids are epiphytes, they get their nutrients and moisture from the air and not the soil.

Orchids grow on the bark of trees in their natural habitat, so a potting medium made from bark (specifically made for orchids) would be the best, rather than planting orchids in soil. This is the stuff that I use… orchid potting medium.

Do not plant orchids in potting soil

Do not plant orchids in regular potting soil

Do Orchids Need Fertilizer?

Yes, phalaenopsis orchids will perform their best if you feed them properly. Generally speaking, it’s best to feed orchids using a weak half dose of plant fertilizer every time you water during their active growing season (May-September).

Don’t fertilize orchids during the winter, or while they are flowering. I recommend you buy a fertilizer specially made for orchids (rather than just a general houseplant fertilizer) and follow the directions on the package.

Orchids are winter blooming plants

Orchids are winter blooming plants

When Do Orchids Bloom?

In most cases phalaenopsis orchids are winter blooming plants, making them a popular plant sold at garden centers and big box stores around the holidays.

Phalaenopsis orchid blooms last for several months, and will usually last all the way through spring. Some types of orchids can even bloom year round!

Once they’re done blooming, the flowers will naturally drop off in the spring, which is normal.

How to care for orchids after blooming

Caring for orchids after blooming

Will My Orchid Rebloom On It’s Own?

Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the easiest orchids to get to rebloom… but they don’t usually rebloom on their own, so you’ll have to help them out a bit.

The trick to getting phalaenopsis orchids to bloom is cooler evening temperatures.

It would be best to have it at least 10F degrees cooler at night than during the day (but not below 55F) for at least a week. This is easy for those of us who live in cold climates.

Roots or buds? Here's how to tell

How can you tell if those are roots or flower buds?

When you’re anxiously waiting to see if your orchid will rebloom, it can be hard to tell if the new growth is a flower spike, or just more roots. There is a subtle difference, so look closely.

The roots have smooth and slightly pointed edges (like the ones in the photo above). Bloom spikes will have folds at the tips, and they look kinda like a tiny mitten.

If you’ve been religiously following all of these orchid plant care instructions but your orchid still won’t bloom, that’s a sign that it needs to be repotted.

Orchid Houseplant Pests

Healthy orchids are usually pretty resistant to houseplant pests, but mealybugs, aphids and houseplant scale can be problems.

Organic neem oil is a natural insecticide that is very effective at getting rid of these nasty orchid pests. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill mealybugs and houseplant scale on contact, or use an insecticidal soap.

Never use chemical pesticides on houseplant pests though because they can build up a resistance to chemicals, only making the pest problems worse.

Gorgeous orchid house plant with spotted flowers

Gorgeous orchid house plant with spotted flowers

If you’re thinking about trying your hand at growing an orchid (or maybe you got one as a gift!), then follow these simple orchid plant care instructions, and you’ll enjoy your orchid for years to come (heck, you’ll probably have a whole collection of orchids soon!).

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Orchid Varieties

There are more than 1200 orchid varieties that are cultivated worldwide for its fragrant flowers in commercial applications. All these orchid Varieties have unique growing conditions, soil, flowering time and maturity.  Here is the table that completely gives you an idea about orchid varieties, origin, and its specification.

S. No Variety Origin Specification
1 Phalaenopsis orchid China Pink flowers, moth-shaped flowers
2 Cymbidium orchid Asia Maroon flowers
3 Brassavola orchid Mexico White flowers
4 Catasetum Orchid Central America Yellow flowers, thick cigar shape bulbs
5 Cattleya Orchid Argentina Purple flowers, cylindrical rhizomes
a Cycnoches Orchid South America Small white bulbs
7 Dendrobium Orchid Japan Light pink color flowers
8 Encyclia Orchid Florida Onion shape, drought-resistant leaves
9 Angraceum orchid Tropical regions Fleshy leaves, long-lasting flowers
10 Trigonidium orchid Brazil Red color flowers
11 Arundina  orchid India Linear leaves, purple-white flowers
12 Asoscentrum orchid Srilanka Orange, purple, red, pink color flowers
13 Coryanthes South America Bucket shaped flowers
14 Cypripedium orchid Europe Hairy leaves with pink flowers
15 Dendrophylax orchid Cuba Cord-like green roots, white flowers
16 Dracula orchid Colombia Thin plicate dark green leaves
17 Gonogra orchid Central America Very thin aerial roots
18 Maxillaria orchid West indies Lanceolate leaves, small flower stalks
19 Miltonia orchid Argentina Waxy, non spurred flowers
20 Oncidium orchid South america Yellow flowers, green pseudobulbs
21 Phragmipedium orchid Mexico Elliptical narrow leaves, white flowers
22 Pleione orchid Nepal Purplish white flowers with 5 petals
23 Restrepia orchid Venezeula Thick leathery leaf in elliptic oval shape
24 Acianthus orchid Australia Heart-shaped leaves
25 Acorchis orchid Indonesia Long, dark green leaves
26 Aganisia orchid Trinidad Sweet scent flowers
27 Aerides orchid New guinea Fragrant pink or purple flowers
28 Anguloa orchid Colombia Long plicate leaves
29 Aorchis orchid Asia Long leaves, white- purple flowers
30 Barkeria orchid Mexico Pink flowers
31 Beloglottis orchid Bolivia Fleshy roots, flowers upside down
32 Bletilla orchid Vietnam White with purple flowers, claw tubers
33 Bulbophyllum orchid Africa Cane-like stems, thin leathery leaves
34 Calanthe orchid Madagascar Reddish-purple color flowers
35 Calypso orchid Russia Pink, purple, red, white color flowers
36 Coelogyne orchid Indonesia White flowers with yellow centers
37 Disa orchid Arabian peninsula Fleshy tuberous roots, dark red flowers
38 Epidendrum orchid America Small to medium size flowers
39 Eulophia orchid Africa Pleated leaves, longitudinal leaves
40 Grammatophyllum orchid Phillipines Olive-green waxy flowers, purple-red
41 Habeneria orchid Antarctica Flat leaves, white, yellow, green flowers
42 Ionopsis orchid West indies Purplish-white flowers
43 Lycaste orchid America Egg-shape pseudobulbs, plicate leaves
44 Masdevallia orchid Mexico Creeping rhizomes, fleshy lanceolate leaf
45 Meliorchis orchid Vietnam Appears like wing of stingless bee
46 Mormodes orchid Central America Reddish-orange flowers
47 Orchis Tibet Root tubers, erect stem, cylindrical spikes
48 Paphiopedilum orchid Southeast Asia Thick, fleshy succulent leaves
49 Pholidata orchid Malaysia Flowers appear upside down
50 Promenaea orchid Rio d generio Pseudobulbs, sweet-scented flowers
51 Rhynchostylis orchid Phillipines Very broad green leaves, purple flowers
52 Satyrium orchid Srilanka Helmet shaped flowers
53 Sophronitis orchid Costa rica Cylindrical rhizomes, noodle like roots
54 Stanhopea orchid Central America Elegant horns, twisted flower petals
55 Stelis orchid West indies Narrow leaves, creeping stems
56 Trias orchid Andaman nicobar Red spots on broad flower petals
57 Tolumnia orchid French Colorful, showy flowers
58 Vandas orchid Singapore Long-lasting, yellow-brown flowers
59 Trichoglottis orchid Indonesia 1-2 fragrant flowers per shoot
60 Vanilla orchid Central America Greenish-yellow flowers
61 Yoania orchid Japan Thick stems, white-red color flowers
62 Zeuxine orchid Madagascar Flowers with 2 stigma & granular pollinia
63 Zygopetalum orchid Brazil Glossy, strap-like leaves, green or purple
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Orchid plant care|  How to take Care of Orchids

  • Provide sunlight for a minimum of 6-8 hours a day for the orchid plants to thrive.
  • Choose the best orchid variety i.e.phalaenopsis orchid to grow at both indoors and outdoors.
  • Water the plant regularly in small amounts when you start growing from seeds or baby plant.
  • Pruning is done only when you find the dead or diseased leaves, stems to encourage new growth.
  • Re-pot the orchid plants to bigger pots every year when the roots grow bigger and emerge out of the pot.
  • To improve the fertility and soil moisture levels, add mulches (dead leaves, stems) at the base of the plant.
  • Before planting the seeds, test the nature or ph of the soil and if necessary fertilize the orchid plant.

Orchid  Plant Benefits

Orchid plant is listed as the air-purifying plants that you can grow easily at home indoors. It helps to sleep better by improving the quality of air in your bedroom. These are low-maintenance plants and requires much care to thrive in right growing conditions.

Here in this section we shared some possible benefits of orchids that helps you to live happily.

Air quality

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, placing orchid plants(Dendrobium-a non-toxic variety) around your home can encourage deep breathing by absorbing carbon dioxide (also eliminates toxic xylene compounds) from the surrounding environment and releases oxygen into the air. It can also help you to sleep better when you place it in your bedroom.

For weight loss

Orchids are a great source to reduce the weight. For this take some orchid roots and add a cup of water into it. Now boil the roots that are added with water until it becomes half of a cup. Drink the orchid extract juice regularly and you will see a drastic change in your body weight. Within 3 months your body weight will be reduced to some extent and makes you look slim and fit.

Like Rose, Jasmine and Lily orchid fragrant flowers are also used in beauty products. Oils, shampoos, lotions, conditioners and many other products are made with orchid plant extracts that are used in the formulation of skin and hair. This lotion is best suited to apply on damp skin after bathing as a daily moisturizer. Sulfate-free hair products are designed to slow color from fading and have a lovely floral scent.

The orchids extract used in medicine to boost the respiratory system but can also cure allergies, asthma and wounds.

Improves overall health

The orchid plant is famous for its beautiful colors and fragrant flowers. Keeping indoor houseplants such as phalaenopsis orchid variety have unexpected benefits that improve your overall health.

Orchid is considered as a TCM (Traditional China Medicine) in China for healing diabetes, fever, kidney stones and lungs. Roots taken with curd eliminates the worms in the stomach, cure infections, diarrhea and blood clots.  leaves are the best medicine for knee pains, arthritis and muscle cramps.

Food Ingredient

Orchid is the simple and traditional medicinal plant that you can grow in the backyard. All parts of the orchids namely leaves, stems, flowers and roots are loaded with medicinal properties.

They are also consumed in the form of teas. For making tea, orchid leaves are collected first, dried and sealed before making an herbal tea. It is a very safe medicine that helps to treat common cold, fever and body pains.

Herbal medicine   

Beautiful orchid flowering plants are sold as potted plants or as cut flowers. It is considered as a symbol of beauty, love and luxury. Decorating your homes with orchid plants will help you to relax, reduce stress and boosts your mood.

In the past centuries, orchids have an important role in using it as a natural herbal medicine from plants. It also has the ability to minimize the chances of cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illness.

Growing Orchids - How to Care Orchid Plant Indoors and Outdoors

It’s fun to grow and enjoy beautiful orchid flowers starting from seeds or stem cuttings in your garden space that spreads fragrances and makes your garden surrounding look beautiful. If you have wonderful ideas about growing orchid plants, please share your experience with us in the comment section given below.

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