Hello Orchid Growers May 2019
The May Sale/Open Day earlier this month was a very busy and enthusiastic time. So many local growers braved the inclement weather forecast and participated. There are still plenty of quality plants available over the next month so feel free to visit. We are here working most days, but sometimes we have to be away for periods – simply phone or email to arrange a time convenient for you to visit.
Mother’s Day flowering plant sales again exceeded supply. We have been busy potting on and packing up flowering plant areas. Over the next season there will be many more thousand of plants to flower. From these we have been flowering so many colourful and quality clones. Watch for many more selected Plants to be listed over the coming season.
Our Orchid Growers Group this month discussed all the different orchid growing media and mounts available. Most orchids grow on things, not in things and there are many different components that achieve the same result.
Following are some of the factors to consider for successful orchid growing media.
Availability and Durability
Many components such as bark, charcoal, quincan etc may be readily available and inexpensive in some areas, but due to freight and handling charges far more less available and more expensive in others. There may be other suitable replacements available locally. Suppliers such as Orchidaceous Supplies do participate in may reginal shows and it may be necessary to plan ahead your media requirements. Aim for a potting media that has an effective life of two years without breaking down or having significant pH changes. Cheaper alternatives can be more costly due to more frequent repotting required and les productive due to rapidly breaking down affecting air, water and pH.
Orchid roots need to breath to function effectively and absorb water and nutrients. Different orchids have varying preferences for the amount of air required. A very simple way to check how porous and the air capacity of a mix is by watering with a watering can and observing the rate of flow draining from the pot. The faster is more porous, the slower less porous.
Water Holing Capacity
Various types of orchids have different preferences to how much and how long they are wet. The vast majority of orchids need to dry out between watering intervals. A simple way to gauge how much water is retained is to pick up a pot after watering and drained and feel the weight. Also learn to pick up the same plant when totally dry and feel the weight. Good old-time advice has been “If you think my orchids need watering today, then DO NOT – water tomorrow”
pH is a measurement of acidity or alkalinity. The vast majority of orchids prefer a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5 (which is slightly acidic). Various orchid media components can have widely different pH. From the orchid’s perspective the orchid growing media, watering and fertilizer practice all combine to determine the pH that the orchid is effectively experiencing. Simple ways of assessing if pH is suitable are by observing the nature of the roots. Healthy orchid roots are usually white in colour, full surrounding velamen with green root tips. If the roots are healthy in appearance when outside the media instead of inside indicates pH problems. Root tips burning off and roots with a reddish orange colouration indicate same. If there is white salt build up around the bottoms of the pots you will have had a change in pH.
Evaluating a Good Growing Media
The best start is by observing and following advice from a successful local grower and/or nursery of quality healthy plants. Looking at the internet and Orchid Forums will result in a very “mixed bag” of both quality and worthless advice. The most valuable and honest information to use is from observing and listening to the orchid itself! Healthy roots lead to healthy plants. There are many different orchid growing media and combinations that achieve the same successful result in your area. The common factor is Porosity, water holding capacity and pH for the particular type of orchid.
Next Orchid Growers Group will be on Saturday 1st June. The main topic of the day will be flowering in orchids. We will be looking at what are orchid flowers, how they form, why they do or do not flower and how to set them up for best results. Again, we look forward to our enthusiastic and productive gathering.
Thank you for your support
Ross and Liz