Archive for the ‘Care’ Category

Blc. (Fair Catherine – Love Sound) var. ‘Hakucho’

Two new blooms: Blc. (Fair Catherine – Love Sound) var. ‘Hakucho’ and Phal. bastianii [see Photo page]

A few years ago I attended the Southwest Regional Orchid Growers Association Meeting and Show. William Rogerson, one of the speakers, gave an outstanding presentation on Cattleyas.

 A key element of his talk was repotting. Only repot when new roots (an inch or so long), Rogerson said, are beginning to grow. To anticipate the timing of root growth, you’ll need to know if your plant has a pattern of “Roots-Before-Bloom” or “Roots-After-Bloom.” For the former, you’ll repot as new growths emerge, and for the latter, you’ll repot immediately after blooming. Water thoroughly before repotting for two reasons: roots cling to pots and new roots don’t regenerate from pseudobulbs whose roots are damaged.

 Knowing the parental species of your hybrid Catt can help you learn about its root pattern. Rogerson offered a helpful list of favorite species and their patterns:

1. Roots-After-Bloom-bifoliates: schilleriana (very sensitive to repotting); aclandiae, leopoldii and velutina.

2. Roots-Before-Bloom-bifoliates: Amethystoglossa, aurantianca, and skinneri

3. Roots-Before-Bloom-unifoliates: percivaliana, quadricolor, trianaei and schroderae

4. Roots-After-Bloom-unifoliates: leuddemanniana, warscewiczii, dowiana and aurea


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Last weekend I attended the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City’s exhibit at the KC Lawn and Garden Show. The OSGKC invited several regional societies and national orchid vendors to join our local group for this big event.

Attending a show like this is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best growers in the country. Here are three tips I learned about raising Phragmipediums. The first tip is from Russ Vernon of New Vision Orchids in Indiana and the last two are from Sandy Wells of Hilltop Orchids, also in Indiana.

1. To enhance the brightness of the red blossoms on a besseae phrag, keep the spiking plant cool – around 50 degrees.

2. For more vigorous and blooming phrags, add Epsom Salts once a month when watering: two tablespoons of Epsom Salts per one gallon of water.

3. Also, work a dolomite lime dressing into phrags’ growing medium every four months.

I received a comment on the last post about the damaged phal leaves. A member of the St. Augustine Orchid Society mentions using a regime that calls for Phyton. [Read about Tom Nassar’s suggestions in the SAOS newsletter.]

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Several nice blooms this week. See the Photos page for Laelia anceps, Slc. Livingston Sunset Fire ‘Flame’, Lc. Gold Digger ‘Orglades’ and  Pleur. platystames.

Lc. Drumbeat has been blooming for about two weeks. The larger of the two plants has seven fully opened blossoms and three more inflorescences swelling in their sheaths. The second pot of Drumbeat, a division of the specimen plant, has five blooms.

That’s the oh-joy-oh-rapture news. The bad news, which isn’t really news at all, but a couple of everlasting aggravations in the form of Epi. Parkinsonianum and Bulb. echinolabium, otherwise known collectively as feed-us-water-us-but-we-will-never-bloom plants. A couple of free-loaders.

I’m not talking unhealthy plants. These are two exquisitely robust orchids, full of strong, pest-free leaves. I bought the Epi. parkinsonianum in 2004 and the Bulb. echinolabium in 2005. The Epidendrum toyed with me in 2007, putting out two lovely blossoms and then lapsing into leaf-creating but bloomless mania.

Phal. leaf with problems

On a more serious note…something is attacking a few of my phals. The photo here of an affected leaf shows the type of damage being done. Anyone know what’s happening?

Closing on some upbeat news…Several weeks ago I mentioned that I’d caught one of the long inflorescences of Pychopsis Mendenhall on a wire in the greenhouse, snapping off the bud head. I decided to leave the truncated inflorescence to see what would happen. This post’s second photo shows the newly sprouting branch, with a second bud head – now that’s an aggravation turned to rapture.

New flower stem for broken Psychosis inflorescence

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Slc. Jewel Box 'Dark Waters'

Slc. Jewel Box ‘Dark Waters’ is blooming this week. Despite its miniature size, the heavy blossoms tend to droop unless secured. One of the best, and least damaging, methods I’ve found to lift blooms and hold up psuedobulbs is Velcro tape, which can be purchased as a thin strip on a role.

 I believe the tape, which is strong and reusable, is mainly used by gardeners to tie up tomato vines, and is sold at most complete gardening centers. Home Depot carries the tape. Images of Slc. Jewel Box, with a close up of the secured blooms and of my roll of Velcro tape, appear on the “Photos” page.

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Remounting the Bulb. jersey was on the agenda this weekend.

I bought the plant four years ago as a one-year-old seedling, and when it languished in a plastic pot, almost dying during one winter, I decided to mount it, since I’d had luck by mounting my other bulbophyllum. Although my mounted Bulb. jersey has now grown into a strong adult plant, it has never bloomed.

Remounting the plant consisted of applying a thick layer of sphagnum moss over the bare roots. Images of the process are on the Photos page.

This week’s photos also show Phal. schillariana in bloom. [I have two Phal. schillariana. One is potted, which is blooming, and one is mounted. I bought the latter Phal. two years ago as a young plant in order to see if I could get it to bloom on a mount. It’s still too young to flower, but I’ve included a photo of it to show the netting that I often use to secure moss on a mount. The netting came from a bag of onions. I keep that type of netting on hand to use on mounts and for lining baskets.]

Phal. stuartiana closeup

 The photograph shown here is a closeup of my Phal. stuartiana and its tiny butterfly-shaped callus just below the column. It’s just this type of easily-overlooked flourish that adds such joy to orchid growing.

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Below are three excellent tips from two of Zone 5’s best orchid growers. Susie and Al, recent recipients of the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City’s 2009 Orchidists of the Year, live near Lawrence, Kansas, about 50 miles west of Kansas City. [Click on the Photos page to see recent blooming orchids from Susie and Al’s collection.]

TIP #1: Re-pot newly acquired plants immediately or as soon as possible.  When you get that new plant, you don’t know how old the media is, or what condition the roots are in.  Give it a fresh start, but give it a similar type of media when you re-pot.

TIP #2: Water quality is extremely important.  Provide water with less than 100 ppm of dissolved salts (minerals), and regularly monitor the quality of the water.  You can do a simple test of your water by boiling down some water in a clean pot to see how much residue is left when boiled dry.  If you use a Reverse Osmosis filter system, change the filters often enough to keep the water quality high.  Too much mineral residue in the water can result in blackened root tips and leaf tips, and for sensitve plants can be their demise.

TIP #3: Assess your collection.  Discard or move on plants that are not growing well or that no longer interest you.  Your time is limited, so focus on the plants that you like and that do well for you.  It’s better to have 100 well-cared for plants than 250 plants that don’t get the care they need.

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Five new blooms from this week are posted to the Photos page. One of the blooms is a Cycnoches (Cyc. pentadactylon ‘Galaxy 4N’), one of my favorite orchid genera.

A challenging genus, Cycnoches orchids need a definite rest period, during which the leafless bulb should be watered sparingly. Some Cycnoches growers, who pot their plants in a bark and moss mix, either withhold water entirely during the rest period or remove the plant from the pot and leave the naked bulb alone until new growth appears.

I do neither. I pot my Cycnoches in rocks (small aquatic rocks in small clay pots) and water weekly during the rest period – with no fertilizing and in the driest corner of the greenhouse.

I do this because the first Cycnoches I purchased five years ago at the Missouri Botanical Garden was potted in rocks.  (I still have the plant, a wonderful Cyc. Jean E. Monnier, which was grown by Marilyn LeDoux and had been pulled for judging at the show.)  

Growing Cycnoches in rocks offers a couple of advantages. First, the quick-drying medium reduces the potential for overwatering the plant during its rest period. Second, the heavy medium helps stabilize the top-heavy plant during its blooming period.

Watering a rock-bound Cycnoches? During the rest period, I flush the pot weekly, never fertilize and keep the plant in a light and dry (far from any mister) corner of the greenhouse. When I see about two inches of new growth, I start a weekly, weakly fertilizing regime. Once the new growth reaches four to five inches, I water and fertilize frequently — two, three or more times a week.

Of the nine Cycnoches I’ve purchased during the last five years, I’ve lost two. That’s not bad odds, but even so, my method of growing Cycnoches won’t work in all environments. Certainly, it’s a method to consider if you are trying to raise Cycnoches in high-humidity locations. As with any orchid purchase, however, the first and most important objective is to start with a strong, healthy plant.

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