Once in a while you come across an orchid that seems to be able to attach itself to anything, especially things you'd rather it didn't. Some actually have a special talent for this. Phalaenopsis schilleriana and philippinensis are two excellent examples. Recently I wanted to photograph a Phal. schilleriana (left) from a tray containing a few plants of each of the mentioned species plus a few other plants. To do this, I had to extract it first.
Most of the plants came out easily, leaving me with a firmly attached handful of plants. The three you see in the image were the worst. Now obviously you can just grab and pull at this stage, but that results in several torn roots. While there are times when there isn't much choice, I like to avoid that if I can, especially on youngsters like the two on the left. So what to do? Well, the first step is to wet the roots. Wet roots are more pliable, less brittle, making it easier for you to manipulate them. (This is also a great trick when repotting!)
Next, simply use your thumbnail or other smooth, flat object to pry the roots loose. Starting at an already loose spot (usually at the end closest to the plant), push your thumb under the root and gently wiggle forward under and along the root.
Pretty soon, you might actually be able to lift your plants! Here are all those roots, now hanging free but still intact.
Root characteristics vary somewhat among phals. These two species have a very particular root type that is flattened with an extra pebbly texture. They can stick to anything, and will do so at every opportunity. Incidentally, this detail make both species, as well as other species and hybrids with similar morphology, excellent candidates for mounted culture as they tend to establish very quickly.