Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Growing new cane on Dendrobium victoria-reginae

3-week old cane

     This picture was taken about three weeks after I first posted about seeing the new cane start.  Back then the new cane was just a barely noticeable green lump. It has since grown quickly, and already has two tiny leaves showing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Heading off to Europe for two weeks

I'm going on a two week trip to visit family tomorrow.  While I have a few updates to post about, I'm not sure when I'll get around to it.  Regardless, expect posts to be scarce for the next two weeks.

My Ctt Jewel Box 'Scheherazade' and my tolumnia Genting Orange will almost certainly start blooming while I'm away.  My boyfriend, (who will be taking care of the orchids when I'm gone) may send me some photos via email if they do bloom.  If I receive those, I may try to do some updates then.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Growing flower buds on Cattlianthe Jewel Box 'Scheherazade'

Flower buds on Ctt Jewel Box 'Scheherazade' 4 months after initial swelling of the flower sheaths

     Four months ago, I wrote a post asking if my Cattlianthe Jewel Box 'Scheherazade' was preparing to flower, when I notice some swelling in the sheaths.  In the last four months, mostly without my notice, the sheaths dried up, and the buds within them grew.  The pseudobulb pictured above looks like it will have two flowers which will bloom successively.  Meanwhile the other pseudobulb (and the one that was the first to show signs of bud growth) is lagging far behind.  There is something growing in there, but it is still small and hard to see.  It's possible that bulb will flower later, or it may just as possibly dry up.

Three month old cattlianthe pseudobulb

    The new pseudobulb has made some impressive growth in the past month.  When I wrote about the growth just a month ago, it was barely half an inch long.  The little droplets on the growth aren't water, but actually sap (called honeydew).  It's a sign of healthy, rapid growth, and possibly a response to the bright light.

Pseudobulb growth at 1 and 2 months

     Here's an image I posted a month ago, to show just how much the pseudobulb has grown since then.  It's interesting how conventional wisdom seems to be that cattleyas do not like being repotted (hence the recommendation to wait 2 years between repotting, or even to avoid it altogether by growing the plants on mounts or in baskets).  I guess that most of the advice refers to species cattleyas, which can be more finicky.  Regardless, whether due to hybrid vigor or because I happened to catch the proper timing, my cattlianthe has thrived since I've last repotted it, producing vigorous leaf, bud and pseudobulb growth over the past few months.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Leaves darken on Phal Memoria Audrey Meldman 'Mendenhall' from high light

Leaf color change on phalaenopsis after 3 weeks in bright light

     My Phal Memoria Audrey Meldman 'Mendenhall' has adjusted to the intense light conditions by developing a reddish-brown hue on its leaves. It's growing about a foot away from a CFL growlight, which is rather more light than typically recommended for growing phalaenopsis orchids. (Interestingly, my smaller noid phal hasn't seen any color changes at all, even though its leaves are even more directly exposed to the light.) 

     There is one white spot on the leaf from direct sunburn (picture on right), but it appeared early on, and there has not been any subsequent damage.  Another leaf has acquired some faint spotting near the tip, which I also think is due to the light, but it's barely visible. 

     This new color is not as attractive as the initial bright green (picture on left), but I am still hoping that brighter light might help my phal bloom a deeper red, instead of the purple flowers it arrived with.

Phal spike remains green after flowers fall

     The phal stayed in bloom for me for 2 weeks, and dropped its last flower a week ago.  It's possible that the phal was already near the end of it's bloom cycle when it shipped to me, or perhaps the stress of transport shortened the flowers' lifespan.  The tip of the phal spike is still green and shows no sign of drying yet, so I am hopeful that it may grow more buds from the tip.

     In the meantime, it's growing a new leaf.  I'll be interested to see how large the leaf gets.  The plant is currently quite compact (the largest leaf is only 5" long), but I'm not sure if the small size is due to the phal being young, or if this hybrid doesn't ever grow much bigger.  

     There is also quite a bit of root growth going on that I can see through the sides of the clear pot, and the media dries out surprisingly quickly, compared to some of my other similarly-potted orchids.  

     All in all, the Phal Memoria Audrey Meldman 'Mendehall' seems to be happily growing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fungus growing in psychopsis media

Mold growing in orchid media

     I noticed fungus growing all over my psychopsis media, which is a sign that the media had been spending too much time moist and with insufficient air circulation.  I needed to immediately treat the orchid roots with some fungicide and repot into better conditions.
     The orchid had very poor root health when I first bought it.  The month since then has not improved the conditions.  When I removed the orchid from its pot, most of the roots were clearly rotten, and I aggressively trimmed off all but a very few still-firm roots.  I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't bring more decaying root material into the new pot.

Few roots left on Psychopsis Mariposa after trimming off rotten roots

    Next I wanted to treat the plant with some sort of fungicide.  I did not have any commercial chemicals on hand, so I looked online for various home recipes.  One very helpful page I found was Rays' Home Remedies, which among other things, recommended using cinnamon for its antifungal properties.  I took about a teaspoon's worth of cinnamon, mixed it with water and microwaved the mixture until near boiling.  The result was a thick mucous orange liquid, which I diluted with some more water to cool it down.  I let my orchids roots soak in that for 20-30 minutes.

Orchid soaking in cinnamon water

     After the soak, I potted the orchid into the smallest pot which would fit its roots.  In this case it was the 3" clay pot which until recently housed my soph cernua.  I used fresh coarse bark as the media.  The small pot and the coarse media mean that the roots dry out daily now, which should be a lot healthier for the orchid. 

Psychopsis Mariposa 'Mountain' growing spike in 3" pot

     Will the orchid be able to successfully flower despite the poor root health?  I hope so.  The pseudobulbs are still plump, so the plant itself is not yet dehydrated from lack of roots.  I really have no experience with the psychopsis growth habit to be able to guess how much 'reserve' it has to tide it over until new roots grow.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Three new growths on Tolumnia Pink Panther

New growth on Tolumnia Pink Panther

     Over the past couple weeks I've noticed several new growths appearing on my Tolumnia Pink Panther, as well as prolific root growth, and some new leaves growing from the established growths.  I've counted 3 new growths so far.  Added to the 10 established fans, this little tolumnia is growing into quite the specimen.  
     I can't wait to see what kind of show it will put on next blooming season.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mounting Sophronitis Cernua

Sophronitis cernua mounted on a clam shell

     Many culture guides for sophronitis cernua recommend growing it mounted.  The little orchid likes regular watering, and needs to dry out between them.  At first I wanted to keep my soph in a pot; I did not want yet another orchid that needed daily watering.  However, my soph was drying out daily in its little 3" clay pot.  Since I was watering daily anyway, I decided to go ahead and mount it.

two bare-root sophronitis cernuas

     This time I was more thorough at removing all the old media that had stuck to the roots (unlike last time, when I mostly left the old media attached).  In the process, I realized that I had two separate plants.  Presumably they had once been connected by an old psuedobulb which died.

     I didn't have any wood chunks on hand, but I did have a big clam shell, which I decided to use as an impromptu mount.  I used wire to attach the two little orchids to the shell, among some loosely packed live sphagnum moss.  I'm pleased with how the final result looks.

Quick note on fertilizer and other updates

latest orchid arrangement
Just some quick notes that don't deserve a post individually.
     I have cut down my fertilizer to less than a quarter recommended dosage, which I use at every watering.  I've also purchased a small bottle of Superthrive, a plant growth booster.  I'm adding a single drop into about a gallon of filtered water (in addition to the fertilizer).
     I think I've finally got a good placement of my orchids in relation to the lights.  I've moved my paphs to the lower shelf, and my big noid phal onto the white cabinet. 
(Edit 5/17: Looks like I am still not done with rearranging my plants in relation to the light.  I've now moved my den victoria-reginae to the lower shelf, where it hangs just under the T5 lamps.  I've moved my paph sanderianum to the far right edge of the top shelf, and I've also moved my psychopsis mariposa to the middle of the top shelf.) 
     My Wilsonara Pacific Perspective is now out of bloom (I cut the spike off today).  The flowers had lasted for about 6 weeks.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Repotting my oncidiums into proper media

Removing a rotten backbulb

    I said at the end of last month, that I would wait until my Wilsonara (Oncostele) Pacific Perspective was out of bloom, before repotting and removing the rotting backbulb.  Well, last week my new oncidium media arrived from, and the oldest two blooms on the flower spike wilted.  So I decided it was about time to do some plant surgery.
     I used some big scissors to cut off the rotten bulb, and sprinkled cinnamon over the cut (to help prevent rot or infection spreading through the cut site).  The remaining bulbs are firm and healthy.

Short roots bristling with growth indicate a problem with the potting condition fungal infection

     The state of the roots showed that this orchid was not happy in its old potting media.  Although many of the roots from my december update are still alive, all remain very short, as if they did not want to grow any further into the pot.  The blackened tips on roots that are less than 5 months old (see above) likewise indicate unwelcome conditions.

Wilsonara in oncidium orchid mix and clear 4" pot

     I repotted my wilsonara into a clear 4" pot, which is slightly narrower and deeper than the previous pot.  Now that I have one bulb fewer, I can fit the orchid into a smaller container.  Since the plant is still extremely  top-heavy (and fell out of the new pot as I was moving it around), I also placed the plastic pot inside a slightly larger ceramic pot for extra stability.

Oncidium root deterioration after 4 months in unfit media of untreated fungal infection
     Since my wilsonara wasn't doing too well, I decided to also repot my oncidium noid into the new media. I am glad I did, because the oncidium noid's condition was much worse than the wilsonara's.  The few roots that had grown in January, were now almost completely rotten.

oncidium root buds that failed to grow
After trimming dead roots: a nearly rootless oncidium remains

     I'll admit I was pretty brutal in trimming off the dead root material.  In part, I did it because I didn't want any rotting dead plant matter to corrupt the newest growing root tips. 

     But a greater part of my aggressiveness in the trimming came from the fact that I really don't care about the fate of this orchid.  It's a noid that I bought on the cheap, and have never seen in bloom.  I don't know if I will like its colors, or even how long it will take to recover enough to bloom for me.  It's a large, sick orchid, with pretty green foliage... but that large green foliage is also a pain when it's taking up valuable space under the grow light.  (And after the repotting, I moved the orchid to a windowsill for that reason).

New root tips budding from new growth on oncidium

     Still, even this sad rescue is putting forth a vigorous effort at growing new roots, with both of the newest growths bristling with little root tips.

     My conclusion from this experience is that 'paph&phrag' media does not make a good substitue for other fine-rooted orchid types.  Just as my dendrobium victoria-reginae suffered until I moved it out of the paph&phrag media and onto a mount with moss, so did my two oncidiums struggle to grow healthy roots while potted into that media.  

     As my paphs are growing happily in it, I don't think the media mix itself is bad, but I do think it's clearly not compatible with other orchid genera.  The new oncidium mix is much more solid, and provides a greater stability to the potted plant. If I'm right, and the mix was the problem, then I can hope to see healthy long roots on both my oncidiums by the end of summer.

EDIT (11/4): I'm now convinced that the root problems on my oncidiums were the result of fungal issues, rather than improper media.  I've since treated my orchids with systemic fungicide, and am finally seeing good progress in root health.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Orchid: Phal Memoria Audrey Meldman 'Mendenhall'

Phal Memoria Audrey Meldman 'Mendenhall' 

     The name is quite a mouthful.  This lovely hybrid arrived for me a couple days ago, and provided two surprises.  One: I was not expecting the orchid to be in bloom.  Plants I order online usually do not arrive with buds or spikes... much less fully formed flowers.  Luckily the blooms seem to have fared well in the shipping, and have shown no sign of wilting in the few days since I received the orchid.

     The second surprise was less satisfying: I had been hoping for red flowers, but the blooms I received clearly were not.  The pictures I had been able to find online of this cross all indicated a brightly scarlet flower: mine are a pinkish purple

Picture on left taken by user, 'NiNiDazzle' on the Big Leaf Orchids forum: source

     I'm not quite sure why there was such a distinct difference in color.  The lovely photographs by 'NiNiDazzle' appear to be taken using natural light.  So I expect that the difference in color really does reflect the orchid flowers themselves, rather than any color distortions via camera or flash.  (I've posted before about how drastically different some orchid flowers can appear in photos depending on the lighting)

     My orchid's lack of redness may either reflect the genetics of this particular plant, or the growth conditions.  Since I can do nothing to change the plant's genetics, I will set that theory aside until I see how future bloomings turn out.  

     With respect to growth conditions, it is frequently mentioned that red cattleya orchids will flower with darker, more intense reds if the blooms develop under brighter, cooler conditions. I don't know if this holds true for phalaenopsis orchids. However, I'll be growing this orchid under the brightest conditions its leaves can handle, and will hopefully see if any future blooms develop with a different shade.

Repotting young phalaenopsis with healthy roots

     As I do with all my new orchids, I repotted the phal so that I could examine the state of its roots.  Underneath the potting medium, the plant looked beautifully healthy. 

soil and perlite: an odd combination for phal orchid media

      I did find it strange that the original potting media seemed to be a 50:50 mix of perlite and common potting soil  This isn't a mix I am familiar with, or comfortable growing orchids in, so I repotted into the coarse bark media that I've been using on my other phals.

Using milk to clean and add shine to orchid leaves

     The leaves of the phal had some staining from hard water, and I used a method that I had read about here to clean them off.  I wiped the leaves with milk, waited a few minutes to let the milk set in, and then wiped it all off using a dry paper towel.  This natural method effectively wipes off water stains, and also adds a very mild shine to the leaves.

    And that's the end of a rather long-winded introduction to my new Phal Memoria Audrey Meldman 'Mendenhall'.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lighting Upgrade: adding a T5 fixture to my growth area

     Up until now, my top shelves were lit by a $40 sunlamp from Amazon.  After a while, I started suspecting that the lamp wasn't providing enough light.  My two phals had dark green folliage and the paph sanderianum seemed darker than when I had first purchased it.  Also, the entire contraption looked (deservedly) ad hoc, and the sunlamp's base was taking up valuable shelf space which could be holding more orchids.

     I wanted an upgrade, and I was ready to replace the sunlamp with a more appropriate fixture.  I purchased my 2 foot T5 fluorescent fixture off Amazon, and it arrived yesterday.  Over a rather frustrating couple of hours, I disassembled most of the growth shelves, and reassembled everything as in the picture above.  The top lamp is held up by thick ropes, while the bottom lamp is attached to the shelf via the same 12 gauge craft wire I've been using to mount my orchids.

     My challenge now, is figuring out where to place my orchids for appropriate light intensity.  I really really wish I had access to a photometer, but these instruments seem to cost over a $100 at a minimum.  

     For example, which of my two lights is brighter?  The CFL lamp at the top shelf feels brighter, but the T5 lamps are more painful to stare at directly.  I may be able to find some clues online, but for now I am left with guesswork and trial&error.  

     My phals, which are now on the top shelf close to the CFL lamp, are likely getting more light than they should.  Meanwhile, I'm not sure if the top of the plastic cabinets where the oncidium noid now rests gets enough light at all for orchids.  I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of adjusting and repositioning over the next few weeks, and hopefully not end up burning any of my leaves.  At least my original problem of insufficient lighting is now solved.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Orchid: Sophronitis cernua

Root detail on new Sophronitis cernua orchid

     I am participating in an orchid growing project at the Orchid Board, where members vote on a project plant, and then all try their hand at growing the orchid.  The species selected for the Spring 2012 project is the lovely miniature: Sophronitis cernua.  This cattleya-alliance orchid is a native of Brazil and blooms with red-orange 1" flowers.  I look forward to learning how to grow the plant; with the healthy orchid I received today from J&L Orchids, I think I am off to a good start!

so small

     This blooming size orchid has 11 old pseudobulbs, and 2 new growths.  The leaves are just under 1" long.  The roots had attached to the old growing media such that I could not pry the old bark pieces off without doing considerable damage to the plant.  

Sophronitis cernua in new pot

     As a result, I kept most of the old media, and replanted into a slightly larger 3" clay pot. I added some fresh bark chips along the sides and bottom. I've read that root rot is a big concern with growing Soph cernua in pots, so everything is loosely packed and airy to allow for quick drying.

pot hanging 5" away from CFL light source

     I used some craft wire to hang the pot off the side of the shelf.  This way it's about 5 inches away from the light source.  I'll keep watch on the leaf color and be ready to move it further away if I see any signs of burn.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dendrobium Victoria-reginae progress in recovery

Mounted dendrobium victoria-reginae down to one leaf

     My dendrobium has lost another leaf recently, but I am actually optimistic about the orchid's progress.  I am convinced that the best indicator of an orchid's health is in its roots, and the the dendrobium's roots have been growing splendidly.  

After watering, the roots turn a deep green (left).  Wait to water again until the color turns back to white (on right)

     The orchid is mounted in live moss, so that I am able to water it daily and still have it dry out fast enough that root rot cannot set in.  The roots change color from green to silvery as they dry out, giving a clear visual indicator for when it's time to water again.  It's a little demanding since I have to water almost every day, but the roots have thrived as a result.

     I've circled where the roots have grown through several inches of moss and are now peeking out on the other side.  They've grown longer and healthier on this mount than they ever did while I had the dendrobium potted.

Start of a new cane: hard to see--harder to photograph

     With the orchid's roots now well established on the mount, it's also started growing a new cane.  The new growth is hidden behind the two older stems, so I actually didn't even notice it until today.  I think the dendrobium victoria-reginae is generally a fast growing species, so I hope to see fast progress on that growth.  I'm not sure how long the last remaining leaf on the old cane will last, but I really hope to have new leaves develop before it falls. 

     Note: the bud-like growth I had noticed in early February, has developed a purplish tinge and completely dried up.  I am fairly certain now that it had been the start of a flower bud, which blasted because the orchid was under so much stress.  I am not much disappointed, since I am much more excited by the promising growth as the orchid returns to health.