Angraecum leonis

Unusual/Natural Mounts

        The presentation titled "Unusual and Natural Mounts" came about from an idea that initially would generate an extra income from growing orchids.  My thought was to start mounting them to materials that seemed more realistic to their natural settings or to mount them to materials that seemed the opposite.  My idea was to get them started and after they were established; sell them for a profit.  Problem one: I am not a professional grower so why would I sell plants I've worked so hard with?  Problem two: I would never think of selling my children, so why sell my orchids?  Problem three: once you see what I've accomplished, you'll understand why I haven't sold one.  One last note: not a single plant/mount is for sale; unless the price is totally ridiculous.  Enjoy the following projects.


     This particular project was one I initially wasn't thinking about doing.  After purchasing a rather small Dendrobium rigidum, and talking to the grower regarding the plant's culture; he suggested that I mount it to a piece of lava rock.  The results I started seeing in a short period of time was the inspiration to writing the article which was posted to the main Angraecums Page on this blog ("LAVA ROCK as a potting medium... PROs  & CONs", August 29, 2013).  Den. rigidum is known as a slow grower and prior to mounting this individual plant, I wasn't one to argue that point.  For a detailed list of lava rock's attributes, please read the post.

Dendrobium rigidum

Image 1                     Image 2                    Image 3

     Because of the size of the average Den. rigidum; I wanted to use a piece of lava rock that was about the size of a softball, 4 - 5 inches (10-13cm) wide and about the same size high.  I found a piece of rock that had a natural little pocket in it (Image 1).  I wanted that pocket to be about 1/2 inch (1.3cm) deeper.  Using a hand held Dremel tool (CAUTION: be sure to use protective eye wear while using the Dremel tool or any other tool while grinding or chipping at another material), I ground the pocket deeper and with a slight pitch coming down the front (Image 2).  After getting the depth of the pocket and a slight pitch down, I ground numerous channels in the bed of the pocket to allow for faster drainage (Image 3).  The roots of Den. rigidum prefer to dry out quickly.
     When ready to use lava rock as potting material or mounting to a larger piece, rinse the rock several times to eliminate the dust from the rock.  Once the lava rock piece has been ground to the desired shape and it has been rinsed thoroughly, I spray the rock with a topical fungicide (Physan 20).

Image 4                     Image 5                   Image 6

     After seeing the results of the Den. rigidum being mounted to the lave rock pieces, I decided to mount a couple of extra plants to various shapes of rock.  I purposely looked for pieces with a natural type of pocket or gap in the rock.  Image 4 shows a small gap which is about an inch deep at the center, a little more than a half an inch wide and about two inches long.  A good start for a small developing plant (Image 5).  The plant is laid bare rooted into the gap with roots running through the entire opening (Image 6).  Once the plant is in position, I covered the outside root system with a thin layer of moss to protect them and to hold the moisture just a little longer because of the strong air flow (which would dry out to quickly).

                                Image 7          Image 8           Image 9           Image 10

     The best time to attach or mount a plant is while it is actively growing.  Giving the plant the best chance to survive and adapt to the new mount.  New growths of Den. rigidum will be erect; but will eventually droop and become pendulous as each wiry stem lengthens.  Usually in culture the stem will very seldom grow 6 - 7 inches (15-17.5cm) while in its natural habitat, can reach a length of  16 inches (40cm) long.  Mature specimens become tight clusters of stems with inflorescence coming out from the base of the newer leaves and can have 2 - 8 flowers.  Mature plants will bloom throughout the year; in both the wetter season as well as the dry season.
     During the warm late spring through early fall warm temperatures, the mounted plants are watered every day in the morning.  Giving the plant ample time to dry by nightfall.  Once the drier season sets in, watering is backed off to maybe once every two days.  My experience with Den. rigidum mounted to red lava rock has been nothing short of amazing.  Considered a slow growing plant, its growth has been much faster than expected. 

Dendrobium rigidum 'Tom's Image'  CCM/AOS       
     Being an orchid hobbyist over the last 20+ years, I've fallen for several genera of orchids.  One of the most beautiful displays I've encountered and grown is Dendrobium aggregatum var. majus.  The long sprays of multiple yellow flowers cascading down from the plant itself is eye catching and impressive.  Growing a number of the plants from various sizes of baskets gave me an idea that would be beautiful while in bloom but would also be visually appealing while not in bloom.  Here is another of my mounting projects.
     In January of 2006 I purchased five seedlings of Dendrobium aggregatum var. majus.  I had an idea of mounting them on a piece of hardwood so that when they matured and flowered on a regular basis, the sprays of flowers hanging down would resemble a yellow-gold curtain.  Leaving the seedlings in the pots that they came in for almost a year and a half gave them the chance to grow into  a group of near blooming size plants.
     I used the underside of a piece of cypress root (the grain of the wood would give the roots direction of growth as well as texture to adhere to) measuring 14 inches (35cm) high by 22 inches (55cm) wide.

Dendrobium aggregatum var. majus

     In June of 2007, all five of the plants were wired to the wood.  I used thin plastic coated plant wire which is readily available in most garden centers and through various orchid vendors.  Rather than pre-drill holes for the wire to go thru, I placed a small amount of damp moss between the plant and the wood (giving the root system exposure to moisture until a solid root base developed) then wrapping the wire around the plant itself and the wood.

Wire carefully wrapped and then tightened in the back.

     The root system developed rather quickly; giving the plants the moisture and nutrients required along with securing them to the wood.  They are watered every day into mid fall or early winter.  When evening temperatures start to drop, watering is reduced to every 4 - 6 days.  It is this drier and cooler time that will promote flowering in the spring.

Dendrobium aggregatum's root system

     In April 2009, the first blooms appeared on three of the five plants, giving me an idea of how the mounted plants would look when all would be producing flowers.  Four of the five plants bloomed in April 2010; leaving only the plant on the extreme right hand side yet to bloom.  Being out of town when the plants bloomed in 2011 and 2012 didn't give me the opportunity to photograph the results which to say the least was a bit disappointing.

April, 2009                              April, 2010

     While Dendrobium aggregatum var. majus is being watered every day from mid spring through early fall, it is fertilized every seven days.  Once the cooler and drier rest period comes, it is fertilized every 3 - 4 weeks (mid fall - early spring).  If the plants are not given this rest period, they will very often produce keikis rather than flowers.

Dendrobium aggregatum var. majus (as of December, 2012)

     As I had said earlier in this post, when the plants are not in bloom, I wanted the mount to be impressive and visually appealing without the flowers.  This group of plants has thrived here in the sub-tropical climate of South Florida.  In colder climates, it will do fine as long as it is in a green house.  Keep in mind the overall size; it may be to big to keep in the house whether in a window or under grows lights.

     This project actually started about two years prior to the mounting of the plants.  I found a board floating in a fresh water lake and was intrigued by the way it was worn and aged.  Retrieving it from the lake, I took it home and would wash it down every so often and then let it dry in the sun.  I did this for more than a year.  The board itself was an old 2" x 10" x 8' and had various holes in it with the edges very worn down. 
     I had decided to use a Dendrobium as the plant to mount.  Knowing how the plant grew, my idea was to create a Dendrobium tree, sort of.  It was time to prepare the plant(s) for mounting.

Dendrobium Spring Dream 'Komiko'

     I was going to need about a dozen or so plants for the project.  So I cut several canes that had bloomed the year before.  Most had no leaves on them (in South Florida's winter when temps reach about 40 - 45 degrees for several consecutive nights, the leaves will drop, no problem, it promotes blooming).  As you can see in the images below, I cut those canes into several pieces.  I left at least three to four bracts between each cut.  Once the canes were cut, I placed them in a shallow pan on top of wet moss to promote new plants to grow.

Canes cut from the previous year's growth
The cut down pieces of the canes are placed in a pan on top of wet moss

     The board has been washed down with fresh water and dried in the sun over and over for about a year and a half.  I started treating it with a topical fungicide to avoid problems once I mounted the plants.  I cut about one foot off of the top and the bottom to make the board about 6 feet long.

The board is just about ready for the new plants

     Rather than wrap mounting wire or the green elastic plant tape around a ten inch board (it would stick out like a sore thumb); I drilled thirteen pairs of holes in selected areas of the board so that I could wire the new plants to the board and hide as much of the wire as possible.

Here are a few samples of the various pairs of drilled holes

     The cut canes had been in the pan with wet moss just over three months.  It was time to mount the new plants to the board.  I placed a small amount of moss on the board between the holes, laid the new plant onto the moss and then more moss over the cane (I did not place any moss over the new roots, I did not want to break the roots).  I secured the plants to the board using the thin green wire through the holes and tying it tightly on the back side of the board.  I did this with thirteen new plants between the thirteen pairs of holes.  You can see this in the image below.

New plants are securely mounted to the board

     With South Florida's tempratures already in the 80s in May, the new plants were watered daily and fertilized every 7 days.  This gave the plants enough moisture and nutrients to thrive.  As you can see in the images below, the new plants growth was taking off.  The root system was establishing itself very quickly and additional growth was starting to develop.

Excellent root developement and new plant growth

     In February of the following year, the project bloomed for the first time.  The new canes were barely 4 - 5 inches (10-13cm) tall; but they did bloom.  The image below shows eight consecutive years of blooms.  Each year, the canes become longer with multiple growths.

Eight years of growth and blooms... it only seems to be getting better!

     The winter of 2011/2012 was unusually warm and the leaves did not fall off.  The up and coming canes have already had two sets of growth and do not seem to be as long as in the past year.  However, the plants are very dense and the entire board should be covered in blooms this coming blooming season.  And people ask why I don't sell my plants!

Dendrobium Spring Dream 'Komiko'


  1. Your mounts are beautiful and so much better for the plant than growing in a pot. Great ideas!

  2. Regarding the Dendrobium aggregatum var majus mount, why is the sphagnum moss green immediately after mounting plants? Were you using live sphagnum?

    1. I use the moss from Home Depot or Loews. I have found that they are starting to sell the moss in different grades. I see more green on the moss that is the lower quality. It is a form of algae and intensifies when we start fertilizing the plants (so I am told and it makes sense). It appears quickly. I use so little as a thin bed for the base root systems of mounted plants or to protect the root a thin blanket. I will say I have never had a problem with it at all. Hope it helps.

  3. You are an artist who paints with orchids, I am in awe!

  4. The mount with the 8 years growth is so impressive! So is the dendrobium rigidum on the lava rock and the dendrobium aggregatum. Congratulations. Thanks for sharing your orchid culture. I am learning so much from reading your blog.

  5. Thats a Great. And i heartily Congrats for such a good innovative ideas owener of one specimen.
    Thanks for sharing and writing with pictures. Lread all ur article and learned many things. Now time for get in to real practice and practical.
    Thanks once again for such a informative Blog.
    Pks continue.
    Jatin Patel,

  6. Wow, Tom your plants are looking so pretty, great job, done with the eye of an artist! Not knowing that you are doing such things,I did similar mounts and found that the results were just amazing. A couple of years ago I even gave a class at our local orchid show in Tampa. We called it "artistic orchid mounting". Needless to say, since I am just me the artsy orchid lover, and not a famous grower, that back then the pros were just shaking their heads. I still have the same pasion for creative mounts. I mean I look at an old broken clay or wooden item from a totally different prospective. All difficult plants are going on a mount now and are mostly living happily ever after. I enjoy that now even professionals are picking up on my / your / our idea! Would be fun to see more of your mounts in person!


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