Angraecum leonis

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maria's Orchids, an Honored Guest

     The following post is from a guest that is currently in a graduate program at Columbia University.  She's been growing orchids a little over a year and a half in an apartment in NYC.  I'll let her pick it up from here.

     I've been interested in growing orchids for a while; but it was only in the last year that I really took the plunge into the hobby.  Before that, I was like many other first-time orchid growers; I;d periodically bring home a blooming orchid from the grocery store, only to watch it subsequently lose its flowers and wither away.

My orchids a few months after moving to NYC.
     About 1.5 years ago I moved to NYC to start graduate school and I wanted to bring a little nature into the big city with me.  Around this time I decided to start indulging my hobby in earnest and I began reading forums such as to learn about how to properly care for these plants.  I moved into my new apartment with three nearly rootless orchids in tow; an Oncidium intergenic, a noid phal I had received as a birthday gift a couple years earlier and a noid paphiopedilum which did not survive the cross country drive.  By the end of the summer, I had picked up two more plants from the somewhat disappointing Garden District around Manhattan's 28th St.  Not long after that, I stumbled upon the world of online shopping for orchids, and I was thoroughly hooked.
My orchid grow area with setup of orchid growlights.
     I originally planned to grow orchids on windowsills, but quickly realized that my apartment was too dark for this to work.  All the windows face against a brick wall, and New York winters can be depressingly dark.  Instead I use growlights so my orchids and I can both benefit from 14 - 16 hours of bright 'daylight' even in the depth of winter.
     The setup includes an ultrasonic humidifier ($40), a plant stand ($90), a CFL growlight ($70), T5 fluorescent grow lights ($95) and a 24 hour timer ($12).  The total cost was right around $300.00, though many of these items seem to be cheaper now then they were a year ago.  It's held together (securely, if not elegantly) by a combination of craft wire, bungee cords and duct tape.  I most recently added a terrarium (photo above), for another $280.00, whose primary purpose is to protect the orchids spikes and flowers from my cat.
     The grow shelves are located next to a window, which is nearly always open.  This helps keep humidity high, since NYC generally seems to have a humidity index above 60% outside and frequently reaches 100%.  In winters, I run a humidifier next to the plants, to try and counteract some of the drying effect from the heating unit (which cannot be turned entirely off).  I suspect that the chill from the open window is what helped induce every single one of my mature phals into spiking this season.
     The setup is relatively simple and has so far worked quite well for my smallish collection of species and hybrids.  Nineteen of my orchids are both mature enough and healthy enough to flower; 13 of them have either flowered in the last year or are currently in spike.  The only serious problem I've come across so far is the summer heat, which periodically reaches the high 90s (and occasionally above 100 degrees F).  It's been too hot for cool-growing Dendrobium victoria-reginae to survive in my care and would likely be an issue for any other non-warmth tolerant species.
     My Angraecum:
Angraecum leonis
     As an amateur orchid grower, I've been interested in a many orchid hybrids and species and have a few plants from most of the popular alliances (I think I'd want to grow ALL the orchids, if only space and money and time allowed).  My one member of the Angraecum Alliance is Angraecum leonis, which was my very first internet purchase.  I've not yet seen this orchid bloom in person, but I was drawn to the description of the white, scented flowers.
     My Angcm. leonis arrived in an extremely dehydrated state, in a pot of rock-hard old sphagnum moss (you can spot it in the topmost photograph of this post).  Its only roots were the aerial ones sticking out of the pot.  I only realized how bad things were when I accidentally jostled the pot and the entire orchid fell out revealing that there hadn't been a single root left alive in the old media.
     Part of my initial motivation in starting my blog actually stemmed from my frustrations during this time.  While I could find culture notes for Angcm. leonis and beautiful photos of the flowers, there was very little information on what the whole plant should look like (Tom's blog wasn't around yet).  Even more difficult was searching for what "healthy roots" look like on any orchids other than phalaenopsis.
     Around that time, I had been reading about how people grow Vanda orchids in vases.  The Angraecum didn't seem too different in growth habit (and the Orchidboard lists Angraecums under the Vandeae Tribe), so I decided to try out the vase method for myself.  My Angcm. leonis grows in the vase with no media; and I soak it in water for 15 - 20 minutes daily.  Initially I watered every 2 - 3 days, but last summer I increased the frequency twice daily (and down to once a day for the winter).
     I can't yet conclude whether this a good alternative method for growing Angcm. leonis, because I started out with an orchid that was in such poor health.  In the past year, the orchid has produced a massive amount of root growth and completed growing one full leaf.  It is now starting on a new leaf.  Fortunately, since starting my orchid blog one year ago, I have a good photographic record of my orchids so that I can track their changes.
     I am still very much a beginner to the world of orchids; but I think I've learned a lot over the past year as I've expanded my orchid collection from 2 to 30 plants.  In particular, writing my blog has encouraged me to be more observant of growth changes, helped me keep a record to track both my mistakes and successes and has connected me to the wonderfully helpful and friendly community of orchid bloggers such as Tom himself.
Happy Holidays!
     All photographs are Copyrighted to Mariasorchids.      

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Angraecum scottianum

     Angraecum scottianum, a species of angraecoid used as a parent to one of the most popular Angraecums sought after by hobbyists to date; Angraecum Longiscott.  Angcm. scottianum is also one of the easiest Angraecums to grow in culture.  I have several of the plants at various stages of growth from a seedling to a few mature plants.  I will concentrate on the development of the seedling in this post to its first bloom.
     Angraecum scottianum originates from Grande Comore Island in the Comoro Islands.  It is found on the western slopes of Mt Karthala at about 1,300 - 1,950 feet (400-600m).  It is an epiphyte that grows on the trunks and lower branches of large trees.  Angcm. scottianum is usually found growing on the west side of the trees being exposed to almost full afternoon sun.  I'll address this in detail for plants in culture a bit later in this post.

Angraecum scottianum
     Angcm. scottianum will grow well either mounted or in a pot/basket.  You will find that growing it in a pot/basket, you'll need to stake it.  The plant becomes very pendulous and wiry.  By mounting it to a tree-fern totem, the aerial roots that develop from the lower quarter of the plant will have an opportunity to attach to the totem.  The tree-fern material will also give good drainage when watering and give the roots the ability to breath and not become stagnant.  During the warm summer months the plant will need to be watered daily and often misted in the later part of the day.  I water my plants everyday for almost ten months; backing off to every other day in December and January (temperatures are averaging low to mid 70s F).  If the temps drop below 70 degrees F (50s - 60s F) I will back off on the water a third day, never more than that.  Angcm. scottianum has a very short rest period, if at all.
     When fertilizing Angcm. scottianum, I do nothing different than I usually do.  Fertilizer is applied every seven days throughout the entire growing season and is only backed off to every 10 - 14 days in December and January.  I use a systemic fungicide every 30 days (Thiomyl).  Keep in mind that you should alternate your fungicides to prevent issues of immunities.  You can check with your local orchid growers about alternates.  I also use Dithane and Clearys.  I also keep Physan 20 on hand in a quart spray bottle (a good topical fungicide) for minor problems that arise between my regular treatments.
     The overall length of Angcm. scottianum's stem will vary between 8 - 16 inches (18-40cm) and will eventually become pendulous in a more mature plant.  Branching will develop at the lower to mid section of the plant.  Plants that have a stem barely 2 inches (5cm) tall can and usually will bloom.
Angcm. scottianum seedling with bud

     The leaves are terete and usually about 4 - 5 inches (10-13cm) long.  Each leaf having a groove running the length on the top side of the leaf.  With the leaves being terete and somewhat thin, the plant will take very bright light, although direct mid-day sun light should be avoided.  Morning and late afternoon sunlight is fine.  With plants that are grown in the upper north, an east or west window will do fine.  The plant can also be placed on a table several feet from the window.  The root system will eventually put out aerial roots, although not much higher than 4 inches (10cm) from the base.
     The inflorescence is 2 - 5 inches (5-13cm) long on mature plants and can put up to 8 flowers each.
Flowers usually open in pairs successively over a period of about 2 months.  In younger plants, the flowers may be borne singularly on a pedicle of about 1 inch (2.5cm).  As the inflorescence developes, multiple sheaths will cover the bud.  As the bud grows, the sheaths will separate as a snake sheds it's skin.  The sheaths protect the developing bud as long as possible.

Angcm. scottianum bud development
     Once the flowers of Angraecum scottianum open, they are 2 - 2.5 inches (5-6.5cm) across.  The petals and the sepals are about 1 inch (2.5cm) long with the petals being slightly narrower than the sepals.  The nectary or spur is usually about 4 - 6 inches (12-15cm) long.  They have a waxy substance and have a faint fragrance of seet honey.  The peetals and sepals open with a yellowish green tint and turn pure white as the lip.
Angcm. scottianum

     The flowers can last up to three weeks if the plants are kept out of the elements.  Here in the northern hemisphere, the blooming period can range from mid February into mid October in the sub-tropical regions .  Heaviest during the warmer months of June through late August in the more temperate areas. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Aeranthes Grandiose

     Aeranthes Grandiose is a hybrid that was registered in September, 1990.  The seed parent is Aeranthes grandiflora while the pollen parent is Aeranthes ramosa; both popular Aeranthes species sought after by hobbyists.

Seed Parent x Pollen Parent = Registered Hybrid
     The seed parent, Aeranthes grandiflora comes from Madagascar's east/southeast coastal rain forests from sea level to about 4,000 feet (1,200m) in the central plateau.  Humidity is high most of the year and rainfall is moderate to heavy.  Aeranthes ramosa is the pollen parent and grows at about 4,500 feet (1,350m) above sea level in Madagascar.  It also is exposed to high humidity and reliable rain throughout most of the year.
     The hybrid, Aeranthes Grandiose is an immediate to warm growing angraecoid that has become extremely popular with hobbyists around the world.  Orchid vendors that carry the plants find that they sell out rather quickly and will try to get more for their customers so there does seem to be a steady supply.
Aeranthes Grandiose (young blooming plant)
     The plant in the image above was growing in a large amount of redwood bark.  It was re potted into a hanging basket in a medium consisting of charcoal, perlite, lava rock and a minimal amount of coconut chunks.  The size of the medium was moderate to large pieces.  Giving the plant quick drainage.  The plant is watered every three days for almost 10 months of the year.  In December and January, watering is cut back to every 5 days and then returns to summer watering in mid February.  I try not to let water set in the leaves against the stem, avoiding stem rot.
     Because the inflorescence is usually long, branched and pendulous and very wiry, it is best to mount the plant to tree fern slabs.  However, these mounted plants require water twice a day during the hot summer months.  Growing them in hanging baskets or shallow pots will require watering every two to three days (although I water mine every three days).  Make sure the potting material is coarse enough to drain quickly and allow the roots to breath.
     The stem of Aeranthes Grandiose is short.  Very seldom reaching beyond four inches (10cm).  There will be 5 to 6 leaves (average total of 12 leaves) alternating from each side arching slightly up into a fan shape.  Each leaf can be up to 12 inches (30cm) long and about one and a half inches (4cm) wide.
     Much like its parents, Aeranthes Grandiose can stress when temperatures reach into 90 plus degrees F.  Make sure that you are giving the plant enough water and that it is in an area that is receiving a steady cross breeze.  By using the coarse medium in hanging baskets or shallow pots will get fresh air to the root system and the plant will cool itself somewhat.  Humidity should be a constant 80 - 85% year round.  A warm green house during the winter months in the colder areas of the northern hemisphere will keep the plant in excellent condition until the warmer spring and summer return.
     I use a well rounded fertilizer throughout most of the year every week and change to a fertilizer that is higher in phosphates in the fall.  Returning to the basic fertilizer in winter.
Aeranthes Grandiose Bud
     The inflorescence can be 24 - 50 inches (60-125cm) long and can branch.  They are bracted throughout the entire length and are extremely wiry.  Flowers will open at the tips and open successively; not unusual that there can be two open at the same time with the flowers lasting 3 - 5 weeks.  The blooming period will last 3 - 6 months.  Each flower will be 3 - 4 inches (7-10cm) wide and 4 - 5 inches (11-13cm) high with a club shaped nectary or spur.  The color of the flowers will be an ice green to a lime green and have a slight yellowish tint.
Aeranthes Grandiose
     A mature Aeranthes Grandiose or specimen plant can have several secondary plants with over a dozen wiry inflorescence containing a couple of dozen open flowers and just as many buds waiting to open.  It is an amazing orchid to add to any collection as long as the plant is given all that is required to thrive.