Saturday, December 17, 2011

Angraecum Leonis: first internet acquisition

an experiment in vase culture

    As colorful as the NYC flower shops can be, their exorbitant prices inspired me to try out purchasing orchids over the internet.  Online catalogs for the first time exposed me to the wide array of orchid species from which there's no going back.  This angraecum leonis is one of the first plants I ordered.

    The orchid arrived in a small pot of rock-hard sphagnum moss, with what turned out to be the entirety of its remaining living roots out in the air.  I knew it was time to repot, when I accidentally jostled the plant, and it fell completely out of its pot.  I initially repotted into orchid media, but then came across a reference to people growing vandaceous orchids in vases over at the OrchidBoard and decided to try it out for myself.

    At this point I didn't really know how to distinguish living vs dead roots, so I think I ended up trimming away some roots that were still alive.  The trick to making living roots stand out is to soak the plant in water.  Roots that are alive will turn a bright green color, while the dead ones remain a tannish brown.

    With vase culture, the roots of the orchid are more exposed and dry out much quicker.  The benefit is that there is no media to decompose, and the plant never really needs to be repotted (some orchids are very sensitive to their roots being disturbed during repotting and will sulk for a long time afterward).  Orchids like the angraecum are true epiphytes, and will be found with their roots exposed to the open air in nature.  Since New York winters can be very dry due to apartment heating, the vase (and the water at the bottom) helps retain a locallly high humidity level.  

     The orchid's leaves are very wrinkled, indicating dehydration.  However, it has shown enormous root growth (7 new roots in the last 5 months) and has also started growing a new leaf.  I currently water the orchid every 2 or 3 days by filling up the vase with filtered water+fertilizer and letting the roots soak for appx an hour.  While I could water more frequently to help the plant get better hydrated, I want to encourage further growth of the root system to adapt to a less demanding watering regimen.  Since the health of the plant hasn't deteriorated in the past 5 months of vase culture, I am hopeful that it will eventually adapt to less frequent watering.    

I should do something about the algae...

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