Oeoniella polysthachys

Various Orchid Cultures

     The names of the various orchids that appear on this page are in the order in which they appear.  The latest orchid culture added will be the first name on the list.  The first being at the top of the page.  Any questions regarding any of the orchids that are listed here can be directed to me via the Comments Section at the bottom of this page.

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Pendant Dendrobium Culture; Catasetum Genus; Dendrobium oligophyllum

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Pendant Dendrobium Culture      by Craig Morell

     I would like to thank Craig Morell, the Horticulturalist at Pincrest Gardens (formerly Parrot Jungle) for contributing this article on pendant type dendrobiums.  One of the reasons is that I myself have many of the Dendrobiums he talks about and I have had a lot of luck in growing them.  For those of you in not so tropical or sub-tropical regions, you will most likely need a warm growing greenhouse with ample space for the pendant type plants to grow.  Craig can be reached via the link "Pinecrest Plant Guy" in the Favorite Places section on this page.  Enjoy the post.

Dendrobium superbum (anosum)
Different Color Forms
 
     Quite a lot of people have read the blog (Pincrest Plant Guy) about pendant Dendrobiums, so I decided to expand on the culture of the group.  In most cases, these plants are grown in baskets or on mounts made of tree fern fiber or cork with a thick pad of sphagnum moss attached to it.  The canes can hang down on some species from the mount as much as 9 feet, so give the canes plenty of room to grow!
     As these pictures illustrate, the plants grow mounted, and not potted.  This mandates a regular watering and fertilizing schedule while the plants are in active growth.  The very best flowering I've seen on this group of plants has been with plants watered daily and fertilized every week or even more often.  In this group of plants, if the roots never get dry and the plants have an abundant supply of fertilizer, the canes will grow to their maximum dimensions.
 
Dendrobium pierardii
 
     Once the canes have matured, indicated by the cessation of new leaf growth, (usually in November - December) then STOP WATERING the plant and STOP FERTILIZING the plant.  Water the plants enough to keep the canes from shriveling.  If you water this group of plants while they try to go dormant, then they'll start growing again and you will loose most of the flowers.  This is a natural cycle for the plant; since so many of them come from monsoon - drought climates.  The plants are used to being soaked by heavy tropical rains every day for several hours, week after week.  When the monsoon end, there is little rain for weeks on end; sometimes no rain at all for months.  The plants use this rest period to build flower buds, which burst forth in mid-spring to summer to attract pollinators when the rains arrive anew.  While the plants have a fairly short flower life, they are usually quite flashy and often have heavenly fragrances.  One of my personal favorites is Dendrobium parishii, a petite species that would spend its life in an 8 inch basket.  It has a rich fragrance with a hint of cloves.
 
Dendrobium parishii 
 
     Many species can be accommodated in wood or plastic baskets in a potting mix of fir bark or coconut chunks plus an inorganic material such as fired ceramic pellets, lava rock or coarse perlite.  The mix should hold water but still drain well.  Although the plants can be mounted on trees, make sure the tree can withstand the care you give the orchid!  Some trees, such as citrus and many fruit trees don't like copious fertilizing and watering the orchids may require.  In most cases, a well-fertilized orchid plant allowed to rest in winter will flower well the following spring.  Some growers use a higher nitrogen fertilizer when the plant is actively growing; then switch to a higher phosphorous fertilizer in early fall to promote flowers and "slow" the plant down for winter rest.
 
Dendrobium fimbriatum var. oculatum
A Hefty Grower With Canes to 8 Feet Or More
 
     Given some extra attention to watering and fertilizing in the summer, then extra care in neglecting the plant in the winter, these plants flower.  There are species in every size range and for almost every climate.  The plants are easily available through mail order nurseries, as well as local orchid shows.  Do a bit of research on the plants you choose and you'll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful and crystalline flowers in the orchid world.
 
Dendrobium wardianum
A Himalayan species


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Catasetum Genus (about a 149 species in the Catasetum Genus)

     I'm going to set aside the traditional culture information for a moment to talk about Catasetums, Cycnoches and Mormodes (the example images are Ctsm. Penang).  This is another genus that I have become somewhat passionate about.  They are plants that grow at a very rapid pace and then come to a screeching halt.  As long as the plant received it's requirements, it will bombard you with an amazing show of flowers and depending on the amount of light and moisture it receives; the flowers will be either female or male.  There is always the possibility that it will produce female and male flowers together.  Whether on separate inflorescence or on the same.  Then there is always the chance that hermaphrodites will be produced; possessing both female and male sex organs; although only one set of the sexual organs will work.
     The Catasitinae Alliance of orchids originate in tropical South America.  They range from Mexico, through Central America into tropical South America; with a large variety found in Brazil.  Each plant has a pseudobulb that is cigar shaped, some being rather thick and will vary in height from a couple of inches (5cm) to well over twelve inches (30cm).  Leaves, some of which are over 14 inches (35cm) in length will arch up to some degree and give a fan like shape.  They are very active growing plants during their growing period and then seem to just exist until they start to bloom.  Catasetum inflorescence usually develop at the base or close to the base of the pseudobulb.  The inflorescence can be somewhat pendulous and hang lower than the base or be arching slightly up.
     The orchids from the Catasitinae Alliance that I grow are in clay pots with a sphagnum moss media.  The moss holds moisture and the nutrients from the fertilizers very well; both of which help the plant thrive.  Once a plant has bloomed and dropped its leaves; it is removed from the pot, the root system and the media that it was in is cut away and discarded.  The pseudobulbs are placed in a pan on their side until the growing cycle begins again.  This dormant stage can last as little as a few days on up to a few months.  When a new pseudobulb starts growing and the roots are at least two inches (5cm) long, the plant is placed into a new pot with sphagnum moss up to the base of the latest pseudobulb.  I do use a pot clip to give the plant stability until it is established.  I mix a tablespoon of a time release fertilizer into the new sphagnum moss as well as fertilize every seven days.  I keep the moss damp, never letting it dry out.
     The first year I had the plant from its beginning growth cycle, it was placed in an area of my arbor that received bright light all day but no direct sunlight.  As shown below in Image 1, the flowers developed with some degree of both female and males organs, neither one though being prevalent.  The plant was watered just about every other day to keep the media moist/damp.

Image 1 - Catasetum Penang (June 4, 2008)
 
     The following year, the plant was placed in an area that received direct sunlight in the morning, 25 - 30% spackled sunlight throughout the afternoon hours and then about an hour of sunlight prior to the sun setting.  I used sphagnum moss (with a tablespoon of time release fertilizer) as the medium; it was watered every three days not letting it dry out completely and fertilized every seven days.  As you can see in Image 2, the flowers were all female on the inflorescence.
 
Image 2 - Catasetum Penang (July 4, 2009)
 
     The third full year that I had the plant was a very wet one; even for South Florida's rainy season.  The plant was place in an area that was strictly bright shade.  There was absolutely no bright sunlight spackled or otherwise available at all.  It was grown in a clay pot with sphagnum moss with a tablespoon of time release fertilizer and watered every three days.  The medium was always damp and it was fertilized once a week as the previous two years.  As you can see in Image 3, a little more than half of the flowers were strictly female while the remainder were not quite developed male flowers.
 
Image 3 - Catasetum Penang (July 13, 2010)
 
     After four years of growing Catasetum Penang, this was the first year that the plant produced fully developed male flowers.  Everything was identical as far as the pot, medium, time release fertilizer and regular fertilizing treatments.  However, the plant was placed in an area that was solely considered medium shade only.  It was watered every three days to keep the medium moist.  It also received a fair amount of indirect rain water (rain it was exposed to due to the stronger than normal breezes) because of the extremely wet spring and summer we had.  Image 4 shows developed male flowers.
 
Image 4 - Catasetum Penang (June 14, 2011)
 
     I wanted to share this visual documentation with you to show that light has a profound effect on orchids from the Catasitinae Alliance.  The Catasetum Penang hybrid that was grown here is a cross between Ctsm. Susan Fuchs x Ctsm. pileatum.
     One last visual example regarding this issue can be seen in Image 5.  Catasetum callosum was grown in bright to medium shade in 2010.  A clay pot was used with sphagnum moss as the medium.  One tablespoon of a time release fertilizer was mixed into the medium and the plant received the same weekly fertilizer treatments as the rest of my collection.  It was watered every three days and also received indirect rain water.  The plant developed two inflorescence and bloomed about one month apart; with very different results.  The first bloomed with fully developed male flowers while a month later; both female and almost fully developed male flowers bloomed.
 
Image 5 - Catasetum callosum
(July 13, 2010)                          (August 21, 2010)
 
     The examples that I have shown here are just two plants that I moved around in my growing area over the span of four years.  The results I obtained were for my own gratification and experimentation.  I knew that light can have an effect on the Catasitinae Alliance of orchids and must admit that the first year of growing Catasetum Penang was not set out to grow a female or male group of flowers on purpose.  However, after seeing the results that light had on this individual plant, I did set out to change the lighting conditions to see what the results would be.  The above is the visual account. 
     For anyone that is interested in learning more about Catasitinae Alliance of orchids, there are several excellent articles available through the American Orchid Society website.  There is an article that is part of the Beginner Series called "Catasetums and Cycnoches - Part 2, Catasetums with Unisexual Flowers" written by Stephen R. Batchelor.  
 
    
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Dendrobium oligophyllum

     Several years ago, my idea of a dendrobium was an orchid with tall canes and long sprigs of flowers.  As my experience grew, I started forgetting about the genera altogether.  I saw it as an orchid that was for beginners and I eventually started giving all of my dendrobiums away. 
     Over a period of just two years, I've made a complete about face.  I am growing a number of dendrobium species and a couple of hybrids that have impressed me to no end.  So the first orchid culture I'm going to post other than an Angraecum, is Dendrobium oligophyllum.  A petite species from Vietnam and areas west to South Eastern Thailand.
     Den. oligophyllum is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to the dendrobiums I was accustomed to in my early years of growing orchids.  It is more of a compact plant rather than miniature; but is often referred to as either.  Depending on whom you're talking to.  It is known to bloom quite often while still in the flask.  As you will see in the images below, new growths barely 5/8 inch (1.5cm) long will start to put out blooms.
     This individual plant was given to me as a gift about 6 weeks ago (mid September, 2012) and had several buds on the longer cane.  The two original growths on this plant had each put out several blooms as seen by the dried pedicels on the canes.  Within two weeks, there were buds on all of the new growth.  It came in a 2 inch (5cm) plastic pot with tree fern material and a small amount of moss mixed in with it to hold moisture.

Dendrobium oligophyllum
 
     It originates in an area that never sees daytime temperatures below 82 degrees F.  Night time temperatures very seldom drop below the low 60s F.  The diurnal range throughout the year is 15 - 25 degrees F (a range that is ideal for so many orchid genera's).  It should do very well in South Florida's sub-tropical weather.  It should be given bight light and can do well in early morning sunlight but slightly shaded from the hot afternoon sun (3000-3500 fc). 
     I wanted to keep it in a potting mix that will drain yet keep the roots damp (not letting the plant dry out).  I placed it in a tree fern container no wider than the plastic pot it was in.  I did add a bit more tree fern material and moss to help give the plant a stable center.  I also elevated the plant slightly to give any knew growth some clearance from the edge of the container.
 
Dendrobium oligophyllum in a tree fern container
 
     Like most dendrobiums, Den. oligophyllum grows in an area that gets monsoon type water 7 1/2 - 8 months a year.  It gets little if any water from late fall (November) into late winter (March).  My suggestion is to water any plant that is in a container every other day to every three days during the wet season (mid March - early November) and everyday day if the plant is mounted; misting the plant when temperatures are above 90 degrees F.  I fertilize this plant with the normal fertilizer (even numbers across the board) every 7 days.  I use a systemic fungicide every 3 - 4 weeks and a topical if needed (DO NOT USE ANY FUNGICIDE THAT CONTAINS COPPER, it will kill the plant quickly).
     A mature plant will seldom have canes in excess of 4 inches (10cm); averaging about 3 - 3 1/2 inches (8-9cm) in length.  The pseudo bulbs are about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 inches (3-4cm) long with a cylindrical cane coming from that.  the ends of the canes are usually leafy with leaves about 1 inch (2.5cm) long.
 
Dendrobium oligophyllum with flowers on new growth
 
     As I stated earlier, new growth will bloom before the cane comes close to maturing.  Very often when the new growth is only 5/8 of an inch (1.5cm) long.  You should see flowers on the plant throughout the year with a heavier abundance of blooms in the spring.  Not soon after the plants drier period.  The flowers do have a slight fragrance of sweet honey to them and you should be able to smell the fragrance when you are in the area of a blooming plant.
 
Dendrobium oligophyllum flowers
 
     Flowers from Den. oligophyllum are about 5/8 - 3/4 of an inch (1.5-1.8cm) wide.  When fully open, the three sepals and two petals are in a fan shape and are usually a soft white to a yellowish-green tinted white.  The lip is white with green and dark green stripes running into the throat.
     Dendrobium oligophyllum, although a very compact plant will become a beautiful specimen in just a few short years. 

      

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