Richmond Orchid Alliance: Growing Tips
ROA's main focus is on continuing orchid education always presented in a down-to-earth commonsense manner. Our program leaders make sure their presentations are easily understood by the new grower and enjoyed by the more seasoned orchidist.
This page will present some of the useful (and sometimes surprising!!) tips brought to us by our special guests. Please always check our monthly bulletin for Dr. Courtney Hackney's helpful column chock-full of great growing information.
We would be delighted to receive your favorite growing tips, Just email them to us.
Carol Allen’s Cultural Notes
When moving plants from lower light to higher light, it takes them about two weeks to acclimate to the change. Either, move the plants to an intermediate location before you move them to their final spot, or use something like cheesecloth to shade them for the first few weeks.
If you have a damaged leaf from some cultural failure, even it it’s unsightly, don’t remove the leaf as long as its 40% green. When it is green, it is functional – it is still nourishing the plant even if it doesn’t look good. Although not sure what causes the freckling on Onc. Sharry Baby, it may be that lower levels of light might help.
When repotting or working with your plants, it is recommended that you use disposable gloves and use a fresh pair with each new plant. To sterilize cutting tools, soak them in 10% Clorox solution for several minutes; this is better than alcohol. Make sure the joint of scissors are immersed when soaking them, and when working with several plants, it is a good idea to have different colored handles to help ensure that the scissors get rotated (which allows you to continue working while the scissors get a chance to soak for several minutes).
January through March is the prime time for spider mites. To get rid of them, spray with Ultra Fine horticultural oil three times, 7-10 days apart. This breaks the birth cycle. Raise the humidity to discourage them and add a fan to blow the air towards the plants. Carol discouraged use of Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower spray. Although it controls brown scale well, the active ingredient acts as an aphrodisiac for mites. For Boisducal scale, it is recommended that they be removed by hand followed by spraying with oil several times 7-10 days apart. Neem Oil ready to use is another alternative to the horticultural oil. Insecticidal soap, though, was not recommended because it dries the plant out.
Notes taken by Carol Hollenbeck
From Jose Exposito - Soroa Orchids, Homestead, Florida
- Crown rot: Pour hydrogen peroxide into crown or you can also sprinkle cinnamon.
- Blister: Crisscross the spot with a razorblade, scoring the skin of the leaf but not cutting too deep, then apply Neosporin to the area.
- Sterilize your cutting instruments: By soaking in milk or use TSP (Trisodium Phosphate). This can be purchased at most home improvement stores, available in powder or liquid form in the janitorial supply section.
- Mites: Rub garlic on the affected leaves and let it sit, then wash off. Only use fresh garlic; prepared garlic has a preservative that will harm your plants. Also, DO NOT LEAVE IT ON THE PLANT, IT WILL BURN.
- Fungicides: Stay away from anything that contains copper.
- Bouquet Garni: Cut a small piece of panty hose then add a small amount of slow release fertilizer (Osmocote) to the center gather and secure with a piece of string, tie in Vanda baskets. They will supply your plants with nourishment each time you water.
Items of interest that Jose recommended that are available at our meeting through our member Joe Mathias
- ProTekt: A silicon solution, supplies higher levels of potassium and silicon to build stronger plant cell walls and provide a protective shield against piercing insects and invading fungi. This product works like commercial "dormant oils" sold for fruit trees, coating the leaf surface without blocking the pores that let in air and nutrients. It will also will make your leaves look shiny and greener.
- SUPERthrive: is a vitamin and hormone solution. Promotes good roots.
- RD 20 is a disinfectant and fungicide. For those with pools, Physan can be used instead –they are nearly identical.
(Editor: Physan 20 seems to be difficult to obtain in the Richmond area. ROA has recently obtained a national list of vendors that carry the product and will make it available upon request.)
Notes by Kathy Walker
Editor’s Caution: Anytime you are trying something new with your orchids, only try it on a few at a time to be certain that it works in your conditions and on your orchids.
From Alan Koch - Gold Country Orchids, Lincoln, California
To cure crown rot in Phals, Alan’s process is to pull out the diseased tissue, pour on a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for 30 seconds, rinse off the bleach, and then pour 3% hydrogen peroxide on the plant once a week for the next 3 weeks. Hydrogen peroxide isn’t an approved fungicide in most areas, so if the agricultural inspector asks, you are using it to stimulate root growth. - Spraying Rootone, Dip-n-Grow, or a similar rooting compound on rootless plants will help prevent the plant from going into a rest period and allows them to keep photosynthesis going until the plant is able to grow new roots. This is particularly critical for plants that only have seasonal root growth.
Some Cattleyas that are grown in excessive light levels will develop red blotches on their leaves. These red blotches are the plant’s defense against high light level; it tries to isolate anthocyanin, the excess chemical, into “sinks” to try to protect the rest of the plant. However, if not moved to lower light levels, the plant will experience anthocyanin toxicity.
Air movement is crucial in the growing area because it prevents stagnant air from surrounding the little pores on the underside of leaves that allow plants to absorb air. This increases gas exchange and also helps the plants dry out faster.
- A pH of around 6 or 7 is necessary to allow uptake of nutrients.
- pH levels above 8 will cause some nutrients to be unavailable because solubility is decreased.
- pH levels below 6 will make some nutrients unavailable and cause others to be absorbed in toxic amounts.
- The harder the water, the longer you should water your plants. In south Florida, Fuchs/Coronado will mist for 45 minutes because of the amount of calcium and magnesium in their well water, where another grower using a reverse osmosis (RO) system only needs to water for 10 minutes to achieve the same level of absorption.
- To help aerate, add non-organic material (perlite, floating pumice, diatomite) to your potting mix that will help aerate it.
- With soft water (water with low levels of calcium, magnesium and other elements) it helps to have 10 to 20% organic material in the potting mix to help buffer the pH of the fertilizer solution.
- Leave an air space in the bottom of the pot to improve drainage.
- Mini-catts are potted with a collar or sphagnum moss around the roots.