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Old 04-21-2007, 08:25 AM
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A Note on Cultural Advice

A Note on Cultural Advice

When taking growing tips from an international forum such as this one, it is quite important to keep in mind that cultural advice (the kind of mixes we use, how often we all water, how much light we give our plants, etc., etc.) is heavily dependant on our geography, where we grow our orchids (in a green house, shade house, on a porch, in a sun room, on out kitchen windowsill, etc., etc.), and what our growing habits are. What may work brilliantly for one person may be a complete disaster for another. For example someone could say "Leave your Paphs outdoors all year round." but what they didn't say was that they live in Florida where they have warm winters and lots of humidity. Here in Melbourne Australia that would spell disaster for the warm growing multi-florals. A Cattleya (for example) needs to be watered heavily then allowed to dry out. This is true regardless of where it is grown. the trick is to find out how you can give the plant what it needs in your conditions.

Happy Growing!
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Old 04-26-2007, 11:29 AM
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Far from being an expert on the subject and having killed my share of orchids, mainly due to the impossible weather conditions I have provided them by moving from region to region within Australia, I'll share my 2 bits worth.
This is the stuff that a lot of the old experienced growers won't tell you....the sort of info that takes years to weasil out of people.....the info that you can learn fairly quickly by doing visits to orchid nurseries and other club members orchid houses who have a climate similar to yours and by looking in this forum. Take note of the equipment they use to regulate the temps, ask them what the minimum temp is that they run that part of the house at, check the light and humidity and which species is placed where. Also what they use as growing media. Regarding watering and fertilising, well, you are just going to have to suck it and see, this can only be learnt by over-watering, starving, rotting and generally painfully killing a few of the most expensive orchids in your collection. After all, why should you be any different to any one else! You can however get a pretty good idea of a plants requirements by searching for info on habitat for the particular species on the net, or reading (yes, that was r e a d i n g) up on them. Some plants like a break from watering in winter, some like to dry out before being watered again. Whatever the plant, you're not going to get it right every time, we are but humans (well, some of us anyway!).


From observations and experience taken over the last decade I have formulated the 'Big Four' commandments of orchid culture, listing them in my order of importance:

A) Temperature Gradient. The system that I use is the tried and trusted classification of plant temperature gradients. These are:

1. Cool Growing. Meaning plants that can handle a cool winter depending on the species. For example there are plants that I'll grow down to 0*C, some will even go down to -2*C, (but I don't like to trust my luck) that are classed as cool growers like some Cymbidiums and some Aussie Dendrobiums. Then there are plants that just don't like zero on a continued basis like native Sarcochilus and some of the Oncidinae alliance that I place as cool growers also, so for all the cool growers I currently grow them at 3*C under polyethylene film, then for summer I'll try to keep them at below the low 30's and take some of the film off the house.

2. Intermediate Growing. Meaning plants that can't take temperatures much below say 10-12*C, like a lot of Oncidiums, Aussie Dendrobiums that are hybridised with warm growing types and some Aussie dendrobium species and even some Sarcochilus species and their hybrids. For summer I try to keep these below 35*C.

3. Warm Growing. Sometimes referred to as 'hot'. Plants that can't handle much below 18*C. Summer not much above 40*C. I am still experimenting with this group as I only want to go up to 'Intermediate' in my hot-house due to the cost of heating. (Ambient temps from a winter low of -5*C to a summer high of about 32*C here, a 6 month winter due to sun's low angle of incidence and a three month summer, you can figure the other seasons for yourselves.).

Some orchid nurseries will give these temp gradients of the stock in their catalogues with the letter C, I,or W after the name of each entry. For a sample go to this link:
http://www.speciesorchids.com/plist_a.html

OK, so we have the temperature thingy out of the road, the first of the 'Big Four'.

B) Light. Or alternately, lack thereof. Both sections of my orchid house have a dark section that I keep the shy ones in, things like Sarcochilus and Bulbophylums, then at the other end of the light spectrum, the bright light lovers such as Den bigibbum. A lot of the time you can tell the plant is recieving too much light from the pale colour of the leaves, of course not to mistake this colour for a plant that is going to kark it. Again, read up on the particular species and it's native habitat.

C) Humidity. This depends to a great degree on your climatic location. Those that live by the sea need to induce less humidity, but those that live inland apart from tropical climes need some form of a humidity 'sink' that is to say, maybe a wet floor, a tray with pebbles and water that you sit your windowsill orchid on, an overhead misting system for the dryer areas. You'll get the hang of it....just notice the humidity difference when you visit someone else's orchid house, if the thing is running 'on song' then you will notice when you step thru the door.

D) Media. This is a hard one, as there are so many different types and combinations for all occasions. Take note of what the nurseries / other growers are / have grown the species in. Again, check species habitat. If the thing grows out in full sun, on trees, you can bet it'll curl up its tootsies at the sight of a pot of sphagnum, conversely, if it grows in the mosses beside a waterfall, it'll fall in love with the pot 'o' sphag, so don't go sticking it onto a dry old mount. Personally, I use three ingredients, pine bark, coco chunks (about half inch) and graded river quartz in varing ratios depending on the species and its stage of growth (seedling, adult etc'). Also like cork bark for mounting. I don't use sphagnum moss as I tend to over-water it and turn it to goop if I over fertilise. I am also starting to veer away from using too much coco chunk in the mix, as it grows great moss on top which starts to exclude airflow from the pot.

There are a myriad more 'Little' commandments to growing good orchids, but hey, I have to go to bed sometime.
Hope some of this rant helps someone. I sure could have used this info when I was starting the insecurity and uncertainty of being a newbie to orchids.
Good growing!
Attached Thumbnails
cool-end.jpg   intermediate-end.jpg  
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If at first you don't suceed, Try, Try, Try
..............a different species!!


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Old 04-25-2008, 09:49 PM
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OOOOOOOH....I love your green house. This newbie wants one of those!
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Old 04-26-2008, 02:03 AM
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I want one too!!! It's like a little piece of Heaven!
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Old 06-15-2008, 09:50 AM
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i love that green house!!!!!! can i borrow that hehehehe
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Old 06-15-2008, 07:50 PM
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Hi. Very good advice from both of you.
When I seriously started growing Paphs years ago I tryied to visit every grower I knew who grew Paphiopedilums.

While I got a fair amount of advice there always seem something missing. "The real Advice, Top secret stuff no one tells you about".
Searched the internett site of many nursurys I also found very good info there.
One day I was asked to do a talk at a club night on How I grow Paphiopedilums.
After a lot of thinking I decieded to talk on how to kill your Paphiopedilums.
Reason; Once they know how to kill them they then can learn the "PROPER" way to grow them.
Worked, as a lot of them changed their way from killing every plant they bought to learning how to grow every plant properly.
So the point I woiuld like to add to growing culture is tell people how also to kill Orchids.

So interesting ways I found. Plant you orchids in spag and keep in a try of water to keep moist. Yes it works for some of the swamp or realy wet growing orchids but let them know some speciers Love to grow dryer.

Never fertiliser as no one fertiliser them in the wild Etc.

BUT keep up the good information to them (the new growers at least)
My 1/2 penny worth
Ron
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Old 10-10-2008, 01:26 PM
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All good advice. If I may add one more, always keep notes and a complete record of everything you do with your orchids. I only have a modest orchid collection numbering and photographing every plant. I have compiled a scrap book, every few pages devoted to just one of my orchids in turn. Starting with the photograph, I then record the name, when and where the orchid came from. When to water, a flowering record and any cultural problems. Although I only have 18 orchids so far, my scrapbook makes for very interesting reading, especially during the long winter evenings when I can remember back to them flowering in the summer.

LadyV.
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Old 10-10-2008, 01:40 PM
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As kmarch says, pay attention to geography. In many places of the country the light is so bright that a sheer curtain is necessary to prevent plants from burning. But here in the light-starved northeast, plants must be right up against the glass or near the glass to absorb all the light they can get.

Also, different mediums work better in different parts of the country. Try to ascertain what mediums growers are using in your own area.

Last edited by 11Orchid126; 10-10-2008 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 10-10-2008, 05:24 PM
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Hi all.
Just a quick word to the updates.
Very good info in the above letters. some off the top shelf advice (the secret lot).
On potting mixes, new growers ask me and I also ask a lot.
What is the advantage in different mixes.

To my way of thinking, potting mixes are just a inert medium to hold and stabilize the plant, so as to allow a strong root system to grow.
To hold to a certain degree water for a limited period of time,that is basically all it does.
Unlike the plants that grow garden type soil situation.
"What do others think"
Cheerio
Ron
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Old 10-10-2008, 06:24 PM
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I'm with you Ron except that I'd add that the mix (depending on its contents) can also provide nutrients, for example I use a paph mix that has a lot of organics in it and rarely if ever fertilize. I've occasionally said people can grow an orchid in an old boot as long as they give it the environment/culture/conditions it expects.
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Old 10-10-2008, 07:06 PM
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Hi Kevin.
I go along with that,
Quote:
grow an orchid in an old boot as long as they give it the environment/culture/conditions it expects.
.

Cymbidiums for example, I seen them grow in pure sand, in garden beds with lots of Clay type soil. In hollow logs with gravel in them.
In the same pot for many years were the bulbs have built up about 3 story's high. still flower but not as good as TLC plant.
Interest aspect if the above quote of Kevins is taken in context, they can and will grow in nearly any type of "potting mix" conditions.
Good growing
Ron
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Old 10-10-2008, 11:06 PM
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Kevin,

I think this should have always been each persons philosophy and I've noticed a number of forums highlighting what you say above. Of course it's very important to grow according to your local conditions and that comes with practice and talking to people who grow locally. We can give general advice but the finer points of growing them has to be learned from your conditions and area you grow them in.

;-)
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Old 10-11-2008, 02:21 AM
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When you say, "grow according to your local conditions" do you mean select plants that do well in the conditions you already have?
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Old 10-11-2008, 02:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmarch View Post
When you say, "grow according to your local conditions" do you mean select plants that do well in the conditions you already have?
Yes, sorry I should have been clearer.

Obviously if you can emulate foreign conditions then that is different but I meant that if I am providing advice on growing outside then it would be different than for someone growing outside in Florida for example.
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Old 10-11-2008, 02:59 AM
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That's what I thought you meant, thanks for clarifying that. I raised that point because (for example) a Phal needs what a phal needs regardless of whether you're in the US, Australia or Europe so of course the needs of the plant don't change with the geography though the techniques used to meet those needs will certainly vary in different parts of the world. Certainly the path of least resistance (and arguably greatest success) is to just get plants that will thrive in the conditions one already has.

Cheers!
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