Hello Orchid Growers November 2019
November Orchid Growers Group was enthusiastically attended. The main topic of the day was learning about deflasking orchids and care of small plants. Over the years we have deflasked hundreds of thousands of flasks of many various types and genera of orchids. Following is information on the practice we use here at the nursery.
Start with good quality flasks
There are many flasks sold from so many different sources (some of whom are brokers with no knowledge of orchids – it is just a commodity to sell). Unfortunately, there is wide variance of the quality of plants and flasks. If you start with poor material you will end up with a poor result. Plants should look strong and healthy and have well developed roots with actively growing tips. The media should still be present and moist in appearance. Not all Orchids are easy to propagate. It can be normal for sometimes there to be dead leaves present as the small plants have developed. Some varieties may shed leaves upon transport from the laboratory but the bulbs and roots should still appear healthy. Do not deflask varieties of orchids which are showing signs of dormancy or approaching their dormant season.
Removing plants from flasks
“Whiskey” bottle types are a challenge with many different ways of breaking the bottle. We have observed methods such as removing the stopper and tapping the end of the flask with welding rods to tying a piece of strong soaked with lighter fluid around the end of the flask and lighting it. We currently wrap the flask in multiple layers of newspaper and tap the base with a hammer (use safety glasses and welding gloves). The flask is unwrapped and tipped into a large plastic container of clean water. The glass sinks to the bottom and plants are rotated in the water to ensure any small pieces also fall. The plants (which float to the top) are removed to another smaller container of clean water and all media washed off (the media sinks to the bottom).
Plants in flasks with screw tops or similar can have the top removed. Plants can then be removed by shaking them out of the flask or using long tweezers or a piece of wire with a bend on the bottom. The media is then washed off in the smaller container of clean water.
Hardening and settling down deflasked plants
We generally do not treat the newly deflasked orchids with any fungicide or fertilizer. If the plants are healthy and the flasks sterile and uncontaminated then I do not see any need for such. The orchids are then laid out in plastic trays on a single sheet of folded newspaper. They stay like this for about a week until you can feel that the leaves and roots have “hardened off”. Watering is once a day in the morning so that the plants are not wet overnight. After a week or two the plants should feel a lot firmer and we grade the sizes and try to place them so that they are as upright as possible. Within a couple of weeks you will observe fresh nice green root tips staring and then we transplant generally into flats or community pots. Some people prefer potting to individual pots depending on the size and health of the orchids. Place the newly deflasked orchids in a more shaded, sheltered and humid area.
If orchids are of poor quality and / or from contaminated flasks then treatment with fungicide will be necessary. You will not achieve as much success, in any case. Weak fertilizer solutions may also be of benefit.
Planting in bark type mix
We generally plant the hardened and now actively growing little orchids in a fine mix ( 1 part mini bark / 1 part small bark / 1 part small charcoal and 1 part perlite). The orchids are planted in rows in plastic trays. You can either make a ledge about 1cm high and then cover the roots with a layer of mix. Repeat for next row or use a small stick to push the roots down into the mix. It is very important no to bury the base of the orchid into the mix or the orchid will damp off. Watering is when the mix has dried out and again the orchid foliage will be dry overnight. Still keep in a more shaded, sheltered and humid area.
Planting in sphagnum mix
The process is similar to the bark type mix. Do not use the cheaper low-quality sphagnum moss often sold to growers for this purpose. Best results will always be achieved with the higher quality sphagnum moss. Make a ledge of approximately 1cm then place the plants in rows. Cover the exposed roots with another row of sphagnum moss and push in firm to keep the level of mix even. Again, it is very important that the base of the deflasked orchids are level with the top of the mix so that they do not damp off. Watering is usually less frequently required compared to bark mixes and ensure that the sphagnum moss does not totally dry out (it can then be hard to rewet). Newly deflasked orchids should have dry foliage overnight. Keep in a more shaded, sheltered and humid area.
Growing on of flats / compots
Once you have observed numerous new roots and foliage growth commenced then the orchids can be moved to your normal growing area. Shown are photos of some of our now hardened deflasked orchids in both bark and sphagnum trays. We now treat them like all the other orchids in the nursery. They are watered when dried out and fertilized the same. These young orchids may benefit from more frequent and higher nitrogen fertilizing.
Next Orchid Growers Group (the last for the year!) will be on Saturday 7th December. To round off a very productive and successful year, the main topic will be the practice and inter relationship between watering, fertilizing and disease problems.
Our Website and Online Catalogue have been updated and there are now additions to our listings.
The past year has certainly been a big learning curve and with our limited resources often a challenge. We are getting “our heads around it” and progressing!
Thank you for your support
Ross and Liz