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Posts Tagged ‘Pots and repotting’

Maxillaria tenufolia

Not as many bloomers in the greenhouse this week as in previous weeks. But the ones that are showing their colors are quite lovely…and one has a famous and fabulous scent: Maxillaria tenuifolia. The red flowers on this orchid, with its grass-thin leaves, make the greenhouse smell like a cocktail lounge serving only piña coladas. The sweet coconut scent is very tropical.

Three years ago during winter, I set the plant too close to the furnace and burned half the leaves on one side. It had taken me years to raise such a large plant and for the first time I had more than 30 buds ready to open. The intense heat also destroyed those 30 potential blooms. The maxillaria spent the next two years recovering. It’s still not up to its former glory, but this spring produced about half a dozen flowers.

The second photo from this week is Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana. (See photo page. Note the difference between it and the Phal. bastianii from March 19.) Phal.  lueddemanniana is another plant that has been a long time in producing its first blossom. The plant grows in a mesh pouch filled with loose sphagnum moss — its third home. For years it languished, first in a plastic pot and then on a cork mount. The aerated, always moist pouch seems to work.

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One of the great advantages of attending orchid conferences is learning new and promising growing techniques from experts like Chuck Hanson of Ecuagenera. He raises his Gongora plants in 3/8 inch pumice stone. Among other things, his technique insures that the media is appropriate to the species’ need for a dry season. 

Hanson keeps his Gongora plants dry during the winter and starts watering (lightly) in March,  increasing the amount as the spring/summer progresses.  

I don’t know if this method would work with other members of the Stanhopea subtribe, but it might be worth experimenting. I’ll start by repotting my Gongora tricolor, which is presently languishing in a sphagnum moss and bark mix.

Right now I raise my Cycnoches in aquarium gravel, but think that I’ll switch a couple of them over to the pumice. The gravel has worked fine so far but maybe the pumice could achieve even better results. There’s always something new to learn and try!

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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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As spring approaches, I’m getting ready for the repotting sessions that come with that time of year: stocking up on bark and moss and other potting supplies, and identifying the plants that need repotting.

I’m also sterilizing used pots.

I do this two or three times during the winter and off and on during the rest of the year. The used pots are placed in a large plastic bucket, filled with water and about one cup of chlorine bleach. They will soak for 24 to 48 hours. After the bleach soaking, I’ll dump out the water and refill the bucket with plain water. The following day, I’ll dump rinse water and add fresh rinse water – repeating this a third day. Both my clay and plastic pots are sterilized this way.

I also “sterilize” my used mounts and wooden baskets – but not in bleach. I boil these in plain water on top of the kitchen stove in an old pot that I keep just for this purpose.

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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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