Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bulbs Propagation

Many bulbs readily multiply by producing offsets without any help from the gardener. But as well as taking advantage of this, it is quite simple to grow more of your favorite bulbs using just a few other techniques, including scaling, bulbils, seed and division
Quick facts
Suitable for Most bulbs
Timing Variable
Difficulty Easy to moderate
Suitable for…
Bulbs can be easily and effectively propagated using a variety of techniques, but always use disease-free material. Try lilies, snowdrops, daffodils, tulips and alliums.
How to propagate bulbs
Seed
This is probably the easiest method, although cultivars may not come true to type:
-Collect fresh seed from the spent flowers once they have dried out. Separate from the chaff
-Sow seed thinly on the surface of seed compost
-Cover the seed with sifted compost and top off with a layer of fine grit
-Place pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse over winter and ensure the compost is always kept just moist
-Some seed will germinate straight away, sending up a shoot (these bulbs are referred to as epigeal), but some plants, like lilies, will germinate growing roots first, with leaves only emerging the following spring after a cold spell (these bulbs are referred to as hypogeal)
-The seedlings can usually be potted up in their second year, but they can take a number of years to develop to flowering size; for example, tulips may take up to seven years to flower
Some bulbs naturally propagate themselves by seed. To aid bulbs spreading, allow seed capsules to develop on Crocus, winter aconite (Eranthis), snowdrop and bulbous iris plants, and be careful not to weed out their grass-like young shoots.
Division
Some bulbs naturally produce offsets (baby bulbs) next to the parent bulb. Offsets can be removed when bulbs are lifted for storage. They will be identical in type to the parent bulb, making offsets a suitable method of propagation for cultivars as well as species bulbs:
-Detach the offsets and pot up
-Smaller bulbs may take two to four years to flower from offsets, but larger bulbs (Cardiocrinum giganteum, for example) may take five to seven years
-Larger, hardy offsets can be replanted in the ground immediately. Small or tender offsets benefit from growing on in pots until they have reached a larger size
-To encourage offset production, shallow-plant a stock bulb, or notch the basal plate of the stock bulb to promote offset formation
Bulbils
Bulbils can be found in the leaf axils of some lilies including Lilium bulbiferum, L. leichtlinii and L. sargentiae. When ripe, these detach easily and can be pressed into the surface of a pan of compost. Cover with 13mm (½in) of coarse sand or fine grit.
Keep frost-free over winter and plant out the entire pan as a clump the following autumn.
Scales
This is a good method for propagating lilies:
-Lift and clean a mature, virus-free lily bulb in late summer or early autumn
-Discard any damaged outer scales
-Snap off a few scales from the bulb as close as possible to the base
-Place in a plastic bag with a 50:50 mix of slightly damp peat-substitute and perlite
-Shake the bag and fill with air before sealing and labelling
-Place in a warm (21°C/70°F), dark place for six weeks
-Some lilies, such as Lilium martagon, need a further six weeks at 5°C (41°F)
-When bulblets appear at the base of the scales, pot them on individually, covered with their own depth of compost
-If the scales have gone soft, remove them from the bulblets before potting on. If the scales are still firm, or have roots coming from their base, leave them attached to the bulblets
Chipping
This method works well for daffodils, Hippeastrum, Allium, Fritillaria, Iris and hyacinths.
-Lift and clean a mature, virus-free bulb while it is leafless and dormant
-Remove any papery outer skin and trim back the roots with a sharp knife
-Remove the growing tip and ‘nose’ of the bulb
-Hold the bulb with the basal plate uppermost and cut it into 8-16 sections (chips), each of a similar size, depending upon the size of the bulb. Make sure each chip has a portion of basal plate
-Leave the chips to drain on a rack for 12 hours
-Place the chips in a clear plastic bag containing ten parts fine vermiculite to one part water. Blow up the bag with air and then seal and label it
-Keep the bag in a dark place at 20ºC (68ºF) for about 12 weeks, checking occasionally to remove any rotting chips
-During storage, the scales (layers) of each chip will separate out and bulblets should form between the scales, just above the basal plate
-Pot the chips up individually in 8cm (3in) pots of free-drainng loam based compost such as John Innes No.2. Insert the chips with the basal plate downwards and the bulblets covered by about 1cm (½in) of compost. Leave the scales exposed – they will slowly rot away as the bulblets develop
-Grow on the developing bulbs in conditions appropriate to the species
How to divide snowdrops ‘in the green’
This is similar to division of offsets, except it is carried out after flowering while the leaves (the green) are intact.
This method is often used for snowdrops (Galanthus) and snowflakes (Leucojum) as they do not re-establish well when planted as dry bulbs. The corms of hardy cyclamen and the rhizomes of wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) may also fail to establish when planted in a dry state, as may the bulbs of the bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta.
-Lift the bulbs with their leaves on when the soil is moist, using a border or hand fork
-Carefully tease the clumps of bulbs apart by hand, trying to avoid damaging the roots
-Ideally, replant singly, spacing them at least two bulb widths’ apart
-Where large clumps include small seedlings, replant the bulbs in small clusters
-Plant to the same depth as before, indicated by a change in stem colour from green to white
-Water in thoroughly to settle the roots
Problems
There aren’t many problems to watch out for, but the following pests and diseases can be troublesome at times aphids, narcissus bulb fly, slugs, snails, squirrels (particularly with tulips and crocus), damping off of seedlings.
Lily beetle is a problem of lilies and fritillaria.


Friday, March 27, 2015

How To Get Rid Of Black Spot Roses

A common rose disease is known as black spot (Diplocarpon rosae). The name is very appropriate, as this fungal disease forms black spots all over the foliage of rose bushes. If left unchecked, it can cause a rose bush to totally defoliate. Let’s look at what causes black spots on rose bush leaves and steps for treating black spot roses.

What Causes Black Spots on Rose Bush Leaves?

Many frustrated gardeners wonder, “What causes black spots on rose bush leaves?” Black spot and roses usually go hand in hand. In fact, many roses get a little black spot, which can even be tolerated to some degree without any harm to plants. However, heavy infections can seriously defoliate plants.
Rose black spot is caused by fungus. Dark-brown to black leaf spots develop on the upper leaves, which eventually become yellow and drop. Black spot can be distinguished from other leaf spot diseases by its fringed edges and dark black color. Raised, reddish-purple spots may also appear on rose canes. Warm, humid conditions favor its germination and growth.

How to Control Black Spot on Roses

Once your rose bush gets attacked by the black spot fungus, its markings are there to stay until the marked leaves fall off and a new leaf is generated. The fungus that causes the black spots can be killed and not do any further damage to the foliage but the marks will remain for some time. In my rose beds, a rose named Angel Face (floribunda) was a black spot magnet! If I did not spray her when her leaves first started to form in early spring, she would most certainly get the black spot.
My fungicidal spraying program for the last several years to prevent black spot in roses has been as follows:
In the early spring when the leaf buds on the rose bushes first start to push out the little leaves, I spray all the rose bushes with a black spot treatment fungicide called Banner Maxx or a product called Honor Guard (a generic form of Banner Maxx). After three weeks and then at three week intervals, all rose bushes are sprayed with a product called Green Cure until the last spraying of the season. The last spraying of the season is done with Banner Maxx or Honor Guard again.
Should the dreaded roses black spot get ahead of you in the rose beds, a product called Mancozeb fungicide will stop black spot on rose bushes in its tracks. I found out about this great product a few years ago when rose black spot got ahead of me and the rose Angel Face was well under attack. The Mancozeb does leave a yellowish powder on all of the foliage, but that is part of how it works. This product is applied every 7 to 10 days for three sprayings. After the third spraying, the normal spraying program may continue. The black spot fungus should be dead, but remember the black spots on the rose leaves will not disappear.
The Mancozeb product may be mixed with another fungicide called Immunox and then applied to the rose bushes to lessen the amount of yellowish powder left on the foliage. Both are added to the spray tank as if they were the only product in the tank mix. I have personally used both of these application methods and both worked very well.

Preventing Black Spot on Rose Bushes

Treating black spot roses begins with prevention. Black spot rose disease control includes adequate planting sites, the use of resistant cultivars, and pruning. Roses should be planted in areas with plenty of sunlight and good circulation.
Good garden hygiene is important for treating black spot roses. During the growing season, overhead watering should be avoided. Removal of leaf litter and pruning of diseased canes (back to healthy wood) is also important. Keeping the rose bushes thinned well at pruning and deadheading times will help the airflow through the bush, thus also helping to prevent black spot on roses and other fungal disease outbreaks.
With any of the fungal diseases, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound or more of cure! Either having a routine spraying program or keeping a close eye on your rose bushes is a priority. The sooner roses black spot treatment starts, the easier it is to gain control of it. I like to use the Green Cure as my main fungicidal spraying product, as it is earth friendly and does the job it needs to do. Neem oil can also be used, which helps control many rose pests as well.
Some people also use baking soda, which helps change the pH level on leaf surfaces, making it more difficult for black spot to infect plants. To make this organic solution, mix a couple tablespoons of baking soda with a gallon of water. Adding a drop or two of bleach free dish soap will help keep the baking soda on the leaf. Spray both sides of the foliage. Reapply weekly and repeat after any rain.



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ficus dammaropsis

Taxonomy:
Ficus dammaropsis (Moraceae)
Alternative Botanical Name: Dammaropsis kingiana
Common Names:
Dinner Plate Fig
Highland Breadfruit
Description:
Ficus dammaropsis is an unusual fig with very large leaves that can grow 3 feet long and 2 feet wide.
Like all the species of this genus, Diner Plate Fig produces a multiple fruit call a syconium. Inside the syconium there are fleshy cavities that contain unisexual male and female flowers. The male flower produce pollen and the female flowers produce seeds. The female flowers of this species are pollinated only by the wasp Ceratosolen abnormis.
Geographic Distribution:
Ficus dammaropsisthe is a native of the rain forests of New Guinea.
Food Uses:
The fruit and young leaves of which are eaten in the Papua New Guinea highlands. Indigenous people of New Guinea use the large leaves for wrapping pork meat and for lining the cooking ovens.
The bark is used in making string and head coverings.
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Tips On How To Grow Oriental Poppy

Scientific Name: Papaver somniferum L.
Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)
Oriental poppy plants (Papaver orientale) have remained a garden favorite ever since. Once planted, they require no special care and will last for many years. Their original vibrant red-orange color is still the most popular for growing, though oriental poppies come in a variety of colors that will match or blend any garden’s color scheme.
How to Care for Oriental Poppies
When asked how to care for oriental poppies, the rules are few. Careful placement is essential. Once planted, these beauties don’t like to move.
Don’t plant them in soggy ground. They hate wet feet.
Do fertilize them, but only once a year.
Do plant them with favorites whose growth habits will cover the garden bald spots when your poppies go dormant in the heat. Oriental poppies relish the cool temperatures of early spring and fall. Their bright blossoms open just as most spring bulbs are finished and before the summer flowers begin.
How to care for oriental poppies includes allowing them to die back. So many novice gardeners have killed their oriental poppy plants through misdirected concern. In the heat of summer, they water, water, water, in an effort to save their dying plant. In the end, the excess water is what kills them.
When is the Best Time to Plant Oriental Poppies?
Before we talk about when is the best time to plant oriental poppies, let’s talk a bit about their life cycle. New growth begins in the fall when temperatures are cool and getting colder; new shoots sprout from the sleeping roots. Foliage unfurls until it forms a mound. This mound of green will stay there through the winter. It won’t grow much, but it won’t die, either.
In spring, the growth begins again and the clump sends up long stems of bright flowers. By July and August, the heat is too much for the delicate foliage. Oriental poppies are supposed to go dormant in midsummer. In fall, when the weather cools, they come back stronger than before. The clumps will become larger each year, but will never be invasive.
So, based on their growth habits, spring and fall answers the question of when is the best time to plant oriental poppies and the rule of green-thumb is spring where the winters are cold and fall where the winters are warm.
Planting Instructions
Plant in spring, spacing plants 2 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.
Care
Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. During the summer months, when plants are dormant, watering is needed only during periods of drought. In autumn, poppies will resume foliage growth until frost, and these green leaves will remain over winter. After soil has frozen, apply a 4- to 6-inch layer of protective mulch to prevent heaving during periods of temperature fluctuation. When the weather warms up in spring, gradually remove the winter mulch. Plants can be divided in early spring or summer.
Growing Oriental Poppies
When talking about how to grow oriental poppy, we should begin with propagation. Nurseries rarely carry potted oriental poppy plants because they are difficult to transplant. Once sown, they do not like to be disturbed. Therefore, the easiest method for how to grow oriental poppies is to sow the seeds directly into the ground.
Select a site that gets plenty of sun – at least six hours a day – and turn over the top inch or two of soil. Poppies aren’t particular about their soil, but they are fussy about drainage. If the drainage is poor, amend the soil with a couple of inches of compost before you plant.
Sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil. Do not cover them. Oriental poppies need light to germinate. Water the area regularly, keeping it moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate, which should take about two weeks. When the seedlings are about one inch tall, thin them to six inches apart.
Tips on How to Grow Oriental Poppy Indoors
How to grow oriental poppy indoors is much the same with a few slight alterations. As stated before, these plants do not transplant well. Therefore, to successfully sow your seeds indoors, you must use biodegradable pots that will go into the ground along with the plant.
Fill your pots with planting medium to about a half inch below the rim. Water the pots well before you plant. Sprinkle only a few seeds in each pot to leave the new seedling roots plenty of room for growing. Oriental poppies have tiny seeds. To make sowing easier, try sprinkling your seed on a sheet of white paper and use a damp finger to pick up a few at a time.
Once seeded, cover the pots with plastic to retain moisture and place them in a sunny window. Your seedlings should germinate in 7 to 14 days. Reduce the number of seedlings to one per pot when they are about one inch tall. Do this by pinching off the unwanted plants so the roots of your new oriental poppy plants remain undisturbed.
When is the best time to plant oriental poppies grown indoors? A cloudy, windless day is ideal for transplanting. Remove the top half inch of each pot before setting it in the ground. The plant’s crown should be at ground level.
Growing oriental poppies in your home garden is a decision you’ll never regret. Their easy care, long life, and beautiful flowers make them a gardener’s delight.
Oriental Poppy 1 Oriental Poppy 2 Oriental Poppy 3 Oriental Poppy 4 Oriental Poppy 5 Oriental Poppy 7 Oriental Poppy 8 Oriental Poppy 9 Oriental Poppy 10

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Common Names: needle palm, porcupine palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Description
The needle palm is a terribly talented plant that is beautiful, rugged, extremely cold hardy, fast growing and one of my landscape favorites. Rhapidophyllum hystrix is a small shrubby fan palm that grows to about 6 ft (1.8 m) in height. It produces suckers freely, these multiple stems creating an ever widening rounded clump of indeterminate width. Over time the tightly packed stems will form an impenetrable thicket. The needle palm doesn’t form a trunk but instead has a slowly lengthening crown that may grow to about 4 ft (1.2 m) long and about 7 in (17.8 cm) in diameter. The stems are composed of old leaf bases, fiber and long slender spines. They are usually erect but in older clumps they may lean or grow prostrate along the ground as they compete for light and space. As each stem matures, more slender spines grow from from between the leaf attachments. These “needles” are dark brown or black, very slender and sharp and grow from 4-10 in (10-25 cm) long.
Each stem carries about 12 erectly held leaves that are about 4 ft (1.2 m) long. The foliage is glossy deep green on top with a dull silvery white underside. The slender petioles (leaf stems) are smooth and are 2-2.5 ft (0.6-0.8 m) long and 30-36 in (76-91 cm) wide. The fan-shaped leaves are deeply indented with each leaflet 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide and 15-20 in (38-51 cm) long. The tip of each leaflet is bluntly squared off and notched as if trimmed with a pinking shears.
The needle palm has a tightly compact inflorescence (flower structure) that is about 6-12 in (15-30 cm) long and held close to the stem, barely peeping above the leaf bases. Obscured by foliage and fiber and protected by the sharp needles it is often not visible without serious effort. Tiny yellow to purplish-brown flowers are held on the inflorescence with male and female flowers borne on separate plants (although hermaphroditic individuals are also reported). This palm flowers irregularly with blooms typically appearing in spring and early summer.
I have observed (and grow) two forms of needle palm that have slight differences in form and foliage. One form is shrubbier, suckers more and has leaves with smaller leaflets that are in greater number. The other tends to sucker less, has larger crowns, with fewer leaves that have fewer, but wider leaflets. I’ve observed the shrubbier form in North Florida growing on hillsides while the other form seems to be more common in Central Florida where I’ve observed it growing on flat, moist forest floors.
Needle palm seeds are red to brown and roughly spherical. They are about an 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter and have a fuzzy fleshy covering. They are protected by the sharp needles and are difficult to access – since animals can’t get to them and most die in place.
Location
This palm is native to the southeastern United States. Populations can be found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. Needle palm grows on shady wooded slopes as well as in moist bottomlands along streams.
Culture
Needle palm prefers fairly moist, well drained soils with lots of organic matter but is very adaptable to less than ideal conditions. Light applications of fertilizer a couple of times a year in spring and summer will reward with faster growth rate.
Light: Full to partial shade.
Moisture: Moist, well drained but tolerant of dry conditions.
Propagation: By seed or by division of clumps. Although it takes a lot of effort to dig and separate a large needle palm it is relatively easy to successfully transplant the suckers. Seeds germinate in about 6 to 12 months. I regularly scan beneath my needle palms for the occasional seedling. I dig these, pamper them in a pot for about a year before planting them in landscape.
Usage
The needle palm is a perfect, low maintenance plant that makes an excellent specimen plant for small spaces near the patio or entryways. In the shade garden the needle palm provides a rich green backdrop of flowering plants and it blends beautifully with azaleas and camellias in the filtered light under a high canopy of pine.
Mass plantings of needle palm can also serve as security hedges. The thick growth and lethal needle form and impenetrable barrier that will deter most creatures, especially human.
Established plants are drought tolerant and are perfect for shady xeriscape plantings. Surprisingly the needle palm is also happy to grow in wet soils and can even survive flooding and standing water. Use near ponds and streams and swampy forests. Needle palm is also useful around swimming pools where it’s clean habit and ability to take continual splashes with chlorinated water make it a good choice although don’t plant too close to walkways so passersby aren’t pricked by the nasty needles.
Being one of (possibly the) most cold hardy palms, gardeners in cooler places can add this pretty palm to their plant palettes. It won’t successfully grow in places where the ground often freezes, but in locations like Atlanta, Georgia; Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia the needle palm can be planted in protected areas to everyone’s evergreen delight!
The needle palm grows happily in containers and although not often seen used as such, it is durable enough to grow indoors if you have the space to accommodate it.
Plantings of needle palm are able to trap and “swallow” fallen leaves and other debris. There’s no raking and this “automulching” further reduces maintenance – I told you this was a talented palm!
Rhapidophyllum hystrix 1 Rhapidophyllum hystrix 3 Rhapidophyllum hystrix 4 DCIM100MEDIA Rhapidophyllum hystrix 6 Rhapidophyllum hystrix 7

Ravenea spp.

Common Names: Majesty (TM) Palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Description
This is a beautiful feather-leafed palm whose symmetrical form and smooth, flared trunk combine to create living sculpture for the landscape. For the same reason Majesty palm has become a popular plant for indoors as well. Smaller specimens are vigorously marketed as houseplants while larger plants are common inhabitants of office and shopping mall interiors. This palm is such an item of commerce that even its common name, Majesty®, is a trademark. Alan Meerow, author of Guide To Landscape Palms reports that there is confusion as to the identity of Majesty palm. Usually identified as R. rivularis, he suspects that this palm is actually R. glauca, a smaller palm growing to less than 20ft (6m) in height whereas R. rivularis grows to about 40ft (12m).
Location
Native to Madagascar where it, like much of the island’s unique plant life, is rapidly disappearing.
Culture
Tolerant of many different soil types but needs sufficient fertilizer to look its best – feed every 3 months or whenever its deep green color begins to fade.
Light: Majesty palm will grow in bright sunny areas but tends to look better in partly shaded areas as an understory plant.
Moisture: Needs moisture, water when dry.
Propagation: By seed – which you will probably not be able to find. The good news is this palm is inexpensive and widely available at most discount garden stores and nurseries.
Usage
Majesty palm does well in containers both indoors and out. Use on patio, deck, or in sun room. If you live in a frost free area plant one of these beauties as a specimen in a partly sunny area where you can admire its shapeliness from the house or deck.
Ravenea 1 Ravenea 2 Ravenea 3 Ravenea 4 Ravenea 5 Ravenea 6 Ravenea 7 Ravenea 8 Ravenea 9 Ravenea 10 Ravenea 11 Ravenea 12

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Grow Orchids

THE beauty, complexity and incredible diversity of orchid flowers are unrivalled in the plant world. These exotic beauties comprise the largest family of flowering plants on earth, with over 30,000 different species, and at least 200,000 hybrids. Orchids can be found in the equatorial tropics, the arctic tundra, and everywhere in between. The reason for this diversity lies in the orchid’s amazing ability to adapt to its given environment. With so many different orchid varieties that thrive in so many different growing conditions, it is relatively easy to find an orchid that is well suited to the conditions that you can provide — whether it is a kitchen window or a full-size greenhouse.
Most cultivated orchids are native to the tropics. In their natural habitat, they attach themselves to the bark of trees, or the surface of other plants. Their thick, white roots are specially adapted to absorb moisture and dissolved nutrients. Because these tropical orchids usually grow high in the trees, rather than on the forest floor, they are accustomed to good air circulation and plenty of light. They prefer a 12-hour day, all year-round, and require a high intensity of light — about the same as midsummer conditions in temperate regions.
Are orchids difficult to grow? Many of them are. In fact, some are almost impossible to keep alive, much less bring into bloom—even for professional growers. But there are dozens of varieties of orchids, and hundreds of hybrids, that are perfectly happy growing on a sunny windowsill or under lights.
For your best crack at success, start by choosing one of the less fussy varieties that is adapted to the type of growing conditions you can provide. Buy the most mature plant you can afford (young plants are much more difficult to please), and, if possible, buy it in bloom, so you’ll know what you’re striving for.
How Orchids Grow
Orchids are usually grouped into two broad categories that characterize their growth habits. Monopodial orchids have a single, upright stem, with leaves arranged opposite each other along the stem. The flower stem appears from the base of the uppermost leaves. Orchids with this growth habit include the phalaenopsis and vandas.
The more common growth habit is sympodial. These orchids grow horizontally, sending out new shoots from the old rhizome. Leaves and flower scapes form at the top of the new shoots. Many sympodial orchids form pseudobulbs, which are swollen shoots that store water and nutrients to help the plant survive periods of prolonged drought. Sympodial orchids include cattleya, cymbidium, oncidium and dendrobium.
Orchids can also be classified by their native habitat, which gives an indication of the temperature, moisture and light levels they prefer. Orchids native to the humid tropics, such as phalaenopsis and paphiopedilum, prefer daytime temperatures of 73° to 85°F, with 80 to 90 percent humidity. They are happiest in an east or southeast window where the light is not too intense.
Warm-climate orchids, including cymbidiums and dendrobiums, are accustomed to an average temperature of 55° to 70°F, a steady supply of moisture, and good air circulation. They are generally happy in a south-facing window, though they may need a little shading during high summer.
Cattleyas and some oncidiums grow where days are dry and relatively cool. They are able to tolerate a long dry season with temperatures of 80° or 90°F, followed by a distinct rainy season. Their need for light is high, so they should be placed in a sunny, south-facing window.
High-altitude orchids, such as masdevallia and epidendrum, grow in the cloud forests where average temperatures are 60° to 70°F, and humidity is very high. These orchids prefer filtered light that is not too intense.
Caring for Orchids
With 30,000 different species of orchids, it is impossible to give general care and cultivation instructions. However, how an orchid looks can provide clues to its preferences for light, water, and growing medium.
If the plant has few leaves, or leathery leaves (like most cattleyas and oncidiums), it’s likely the plant needs a high-light environment. If the leaves are soft and limp (like some phalaenopsis and most paphiopedilum), the plants are probably very light-sensitive, and should not be placed in a sunny south-facing window.
If the orchid has fat pseudobulbs, it should be watered sparingly, and should be grown on coarse chunks of bark or lava rock. If the orchid has no pseudobulbs, it may require more frequent watering, or should be grown in a more moisture-retentive growing medium, such as sphagnum moss.
Light: As a general rule, orchids are light-hungry plants. For best results, they should get 12 to 14 hours of light each day, year-round. In a tropical environment, the duration and intensity of natural light does not vary as it does in temperate climates. For this reason, you may need to move your orchids around, and supplement with artificial light to keep them happy during the winter months.
South- and east-facing windows are usually the best spot for orchids. West windows can be too hot, and northern ones are usually too dark. If you don’t have a good window location for your orchids, they will be perfectly happy growing under artificial lights. Orchids should be positioned no more than 6 to 8 inches away from a set of 4-foot fluorescent bulbs. Opinions vary as to the benefits of cool white, warm white, and grow light bulbs. The new full-spectrum bulbs are probably the best all-around choice. Some orchids with very high light requirements, such as vandas and cymbidiums, may need high-intensity discharge lighting in order to flower. For more information, read Growing Under Lights.
Growing Media: Terrestrial orchids, such as paphiopedilums and some cymbidiums, grow in soil. But most tropical orchids are epiphytes, which means that they grow in the air, rather than in soil. Their fleshy roots are covered with a layer of white cells called velamen, which acts as a sponge to absorb water. The coating also protects the roots from heat and moisture loss.
An orchid growing medium must provide good air circulation and permit water to drain very quickly. It must also give the roots something secure to cling to. Depending on the type of orchid, they can be happy growing in peat moss, fir bark, dried fern roots, sphagnum moss, rock wool, perlite, cork nuggets, stones, coconut fiber, lava rock or a blend that combines several of these materials. Some epiphytic orchids can also be wired onto slabs of tree fern or cork. As a general rule, fir bark nuggets are the most popular growing medium.
Watering: Most orchids can tolerate drought far better than they can tolerate excess moisture. Nothing kills an orchid faster than letting it sit in a water-logged pot. Without adequate air circulation, the plant will suffocate and die.
As a very general rule, orchids should be watered once a week. The growing medium should be allowed to dry out between waterings, and excess water should not come in contact with the roots or the growing medium. After being re-potted, most orchids will not resume active growth for several months. Water very sparingly during this readjustment period.
Humidity: Most tropical orchids prefer humidity levels of 60 to 80 percent. With the winter-time humidity level in most homes hovering closer to 30 percent, orchid growers often use a humidifier, or set their orchids in gravel-filled trays. Some orchids also benefit from being misted.
Fertilizer: Orchid-growing mediums provide very few nutrients, so orchids must be fertilized to sustain healthy growth. Use a liquid fertilizer, and dilute it more than you would for other plants. Fertilizer should only be applied when plants are in active growth. This means that most orchids should not be fertilized in midwinter, or right after they have been re-potted. Many growers use a 30-10-10 fertilizer, though others prefer 10-10-10 or 10-10-30. Misting your orchids with fish emulsion or seaweed extracts will provide micro-nutrients
Potting and re-potting: Orchids are usually happiest in a relatively small pot. Plastic pots are preferred because when it’s time to re-pot, the roots can be more easily detached, or the pots can simply be cut apart. To ensure good drainage, you can fill the bottom inch or two of the pot with Styrofoam “peanuts.” Suspend the orchid over the pot, and gradually fill the pot with fir bark chunks or whatever other growing medium you are using. The crown of the plant should be just a bit below the top of the pot. Sometimes it’s helpful to use a bit of wire to secure the plant until its roots get established.
Some orchids should be re-potted every year. Others may be happy in the same pot for seven or more years. As a general rule, don’t re-pot your orchid unless necessary. Orchids resent being disturbed. Re-pot if the growing medium has started to break down enough to reduce aeration; if the roots are creeping out well beyond the pot; or if new growth has unbalanced the plant.
Propagation: Propagating orchids from seed is quite difficult. Unlike the seeds of other plants, orchid seeds do not contain nutritional storage tissues. To grow, the seed must land where it will find a particular kind of fungi that can penetrate its root system and convert nutrients into a usable form. To overcome the odds, an orchid seed capsule typically disburses millions of microscopic seeds, which can be carried hundreds of miles from the mother plant.
To propagate orchids from seed, you must work in sterile conditions. The seeds must be grown in a gelatinous substance that contains nutrients and growth hormones. You must also be very patient. It takes months for the first leaves to develop, and, even then, they will only be visible with a magnifying glass. Roots appear even later. It will be at least three, and possibly as many as eight years before you see a bloom.
It is far easier to propagate orchids by division. But remember that dividing a plant means forsaking blooms for at least a year. Also, the larger the orchid plant, the more flowers it will produce. Small divisions take many years to mature.
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