My First Glimpse of these little beauties was at an orchid conference in Sheffield about 25 years ago. They had been brought over from the USA, pre ordered by a customer, so not for sale. They stood about a foot tall and they where a blaze of colour this is what first caught my eye. I immediately set out to search the entire show for more of these plants but i never found one! On making enquires I found out that these plants where few and far between in the UK. So this being the era of the Fax machine, i sent off lots of faxes all over the USA to find some. The only nursery who had a few to spare, and who would ship me some, was 'Khoungs' of California, I think i ended up with 4 Compots that came in with a Phalaenopsis shipment, These where 5 inch dwarf pots packed tightly with sphagnum moss and they looked like they had been grown dry i.e.; no algae on the surface. On further inspection most of the plants where around 30 -50 mm high and the surprising thing was that quite a few had already flowered. I decided to leave them as they where for a couple of months to acclimatize them somewhat. The cultural information that i had read was that they liked good bright conditions a good watering and Must be dry by nightfall,
These little plants come from around the Caribbean islands, growing just about everywhere on twigs, branches, telephone wires etc; bathed in good bright sunlight with good humidity and sea breezes. Now how come these little plants don't get fried out in these conditions! well i think because these plants are grown from seeds sown on the breeze in their millions only a very few actually find the ideally spot and conditions to grow and develop into a plant that can survive. The plants have three cornered leaves of variable lengths that hold a good amount of water when they are plumped up, in the rainy season, see picture . In the dry season, leaves could end up looking flat and withered, through lack of water, see picture . Looking at the plants in the greenhouse or on your window-cill will give you the answer on whether or not to water. If your plant gets to look like picture #2 it wants to be popped into a container, dish, etc; big enough to hold the root area fill it full of good quality water rainwater, distilled, etc; with NO Food! and left to soak for up to 24 hours. As well as plumping up the plants leaves this also cleanses the root system. I try to do this once a month in the summer. Another reason for doing this is these plants hate stale compost or over fertilized compost.( Tell tale signs are white or orange deposits on the compost) I keep my seedling plants standing in pure water in summer to stop them getting water stressed. They love having their Roots misted in the late afternoon i use a very fine mister for this, one that has contained readymade fertilizer, bug killer, or similar. Wash out thoroughly before use. It keeps their root systems from drying out and lets them pick up moisture from the surrounding air quickly after the greenhouse as been damped down, under the benches, for the night. Much like there natural surroundings where plant and roots are refreshed by the morning dew!
How much light is to much!
Well these plants, and others Orchids, develop a Purple pigment on the leaves to help reflect heat and light, quite easy to spot, see picture . This is the plant saying that's it! this is my limit! please move me back out of strong sunlight or i could get fried! Anything below that is okay! Be very vigilant for this in February-August, if you grow this type of plant hanging in your greenhouse pin a strip of 'Garden fleece' (frost protection) to the rafters this will give them added protection See Picture. .
Firstly, composts could be most anything, but it wants to be a good fresh mixture, capable of quick wet and dry cycles for the adult plants in 3" pots. These can then be watered or misted most days, all year round in greenhouse temperatures. All year round ? well yes because i find they dry out nearly as quick with general boiler or fan heat! Only use very weak nutrient feed when the plant is growing, if your root tips go Black your feed is to strong! keep them looking fresh and plump with rainwater in your Mister gun! early mornings and evenings. Once i grew them in 'Wine Corks' chopped up into 1/2" pieces they grew extremely well since the wine with its natural sugar content is a good source of food for them! I have put some pictures here for you to see some methods of potting, note position of plants and that the net pots have been altered in diameter to limit amount of compost used for young plants, as the plant gets bigger, the hanging wire can be pulled out, staples removed, and the pot will return to its original size, re-staple and return hanging wire then top up with fresh compost, all done with no distress to the plant! For smaller plants use in-pot or double pot method with small particle seedling bark/added Perlite/Sphagnum moss/etc; in equal amounts Keep moist!
If the plant seems to be struggling 'Bag it up' for a month or two until it returns to new root growth. See picture below!
Please, double click all pictures for full size viewing!
After losing a few flasks to contamination, I first of all cleaned up and 'Bagged' all the little plants up to stabilize them, compost was New/Zealand moss, kept moist to dry. These little plants where only 15-20mm across. They started to make new roots and knowing that they like mounts rather than pots decided to have ago with these using wine corks Hot glued together, New Zealand moss, and complete with a wire hanger for a few pence each! The plants in the picture's have been on their mounts for 1 month, new roots are now appearing on nearly all. Plants are sprayed daily to keep leaves plump on hot days, a fine spray will suffice in-between spray wetting! Use ONLY good water with a touch of calcium nitrate (about 8-12 granules) and a spoonful of Sugar in 1litre at every spray! Every week or two give them a half day soak in a dish of good water, with no additive, to cleanse the plant, moss and cork!
Mounting is easy, ask the wife for a pair of used ladies tights, cut the legs into 1/2 inch slices across the leg! you will then have a small ring that will stretch like elastic, (see picture) Put a few strands of moss on to the cork, place plant in the middle use a few more strands to cover the roots! Wind the circle of tight around until secure!
Start at the base of the plant and work down to the bottom. Join them together if you need a longer piece! drill a hole through one of the corks to take the hanger wire, add label!!
Warning! Bad water /Tap water/strong fertilized water, will Kill off these young plants you should have good whitish roots, Brown/reddish roots indicate strong fertilizer! Soak plants!! ( After watering check the Green root tips to se if they survived your water and feed and adjust if necessary) tips
Info; Corks on Ebay 100 for £8
Under Construction !