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Posts Tagged ‘Fertilizing’

A great little species bloomed last week: Bulbophyllum frostii. (See the three blooms on the Photo page.) Blossoms look like tiny elves’ slippers. The only downside is that, like many bulbophyllum, frostii’s blooms are a little stinky – not bad, though, because the flowers are so small. In fact, to get even a slight whiff of the carrion odor, you have to put your nose almost in the shoe.

The photo at the left shows my greenhouse pump spray bottles. They each have a specific use – watering, fertilizing, bug spraying, etc. Sometimes the pumps on these bottles get clogged, especially the one that holds the neem oil solution I use for combatting scale. [See November 18, 2009 post for the ingredients in this effective insecticide solution.]

For a long time, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to unclog the pumps using various techniques like running hot water over the pump and/or inserting needles into the spray hole. Rarely did I have success. Last weekend, I found the solution. Most people have already figured this out, but for those few who haven’t…pump very warm tap water through the bottle. Clears the clog in seconds!

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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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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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