This page contains information developed by Barrita Orchids. It is built around our observations of our plants over a long period of time. We hope you enjoy this resource and make use of the content.
Welcome to the Barrita Resource page
A Sarcochilus plant consists of basically leaves and roots. As such, it has very little water storage in comparison other orchid plants, such as a Cymbidium, which can store enough water/moisture to survive for many months of dry or drought conditions. This tells us straight away that the plant is expecting a consistent or regular supply of moisture. I say moisture as this encompasses more than just water. In the natural/wild growing conditions of monopodial orchids, it is often high humidity that hydrates the plant more so than rain.
We chose to use inert media for all our orchids. Perlite mixed with Horticultural Rockwool and styrene in rough thirds, has proven over many years to give excellent results for us. Choosing a media for your conditions and the intensity of your activity or connection with your plants is very important. This media dries quickly and so requires regular watering, every day or two in small pots, to prevent it drying out. Media proportions may be varied to hold moisture for a longer period to suit individual needs. The reason we choose this inorganic media is the stability. This media will never change, no decomposition, no reduction of air spaces in the pot and most importantly of all no need to remove the media at repot time. Sarcochilus can be sulkers after repotting. The less disruption caused to the roots, the happier the plant will be. If you chose to move it to another media, look for one that will retain moisture while not breaking down to rapidly.
Water and fertilizer
As I said in the opening paragraph, Sarcochilus plants have very little water storage, so providing moist media is crucial to success. Our media has a very high, air-filled porosity and consequently dries very fast. This leads us to irrigate frequently. A Sarco should never dry out completely. To dry out will stop the growth of a plant and once it stops a period of “sulking” will follow. We only use liquid fertilizer, provided as often as possible is best. A good quality balanced fertilizer is important, and we prefer our fertilizer slightly lower in nitrogen than the other macronutrients. A 10:15:15 balance is quite acceptable for the winter period and 15:10:15 for the summer time. The most important part of fertilizing is to keep the concentration low.
Light equals flowers. Traditionally Sarcos have been grown in low-light conditions, an interpretation from viewing wild plants growing in shaded locations. However, shady growing has the effect of limiting flower production. The plant reacts to the light it is given. Leaves are the plants light collectors, how the plant feeds itself. Plants change leaf angle andarrangement to catch as much light as possible or needed for growth. Example. A plant grown in low light will elongate in the stem and orientate it’s leaves to face the light. In a Sarco, the plant will go almost vine like in growth habit. The growth will lay down flat and arrange it’s leaves in a fan pattern. A plant growing in maximum light will have shortened stems and a compact leaf arrangement. In Sarcos we see an upright growth habit with leaves tucked into the rosette. The plant grown in shady conditions will have a lush and luxurious appearance. But, will not produce the flower spikes of the tougher high-light plant. The presentation of the flower spike will always be pendant in low light.
To see what we have in Sarcochilus plants, click here
Growing Vandas, the Barrita way
We have been growing Vanda since 2001, but it wasn’t until we moved to Kulnura that we really got in to them. We chose to grow hybrids derived from V. coerulea, as this species comes from higher elevations and don’t mind the cooler winter temperatures.
If you look at how Vanda’s are grown best in Thailand, they are often grown without media of any sort, or even a pot! As we are growing them as “pot plants” for us the pot is quite relevant. If you are going to grow in the Thai way, you need to be able to keep the roots moist in the warmer weather. If you have them in a pot (the obvious way to keep a plant’s roots moist), you will not get the root development that you get with higher air access to the roots. Our solution to this is a basket pot of styrene, the same shape as a pot but with much better air penetration. This media holds a little moisture and allows excellent root growth without the need to repot, as Vanda’s hate being repotted.
Our plants are located at the northern end of the greenhouse to maximize light, as Vanda’s love bright light. In Summer they are watered at two-day intervals, which is extended to three to four days in Winter. In our experience Vanda’s enjoy weak liquid fertilizing as often as possible.
Our plants have been sourced from Thailand in flask, as this is our preferred method for buying plants. We believe you get a better feel for a plant when you grow it from flask. This also means that our plants are acclimatised for our customers to grow on.
To view our Vanda clones and seedlings click here.
Getting the most from your excess packaging.
One of the ongoing topics orchid grower’s dwell on is the contents of the pot, or more correctly “media components”. You can grow an orchid in any media, as long as you know how often to water it. This aspect is driven by the plant’s requirements, based on pot size and environmental conditions (such as temperature and air movement), and the amount of time the person tending to the orchids has available or wants to spend with their plants.
At Barrita we love to water our plants. It freshens the air in the rootzone and adds humidity to the environment. For these reasons we chose media with low moisture retention. We also have large watering zones (automated sprinkler valves) where pot size and genera can be mixed. It is important to match the rate media dries and the plants requirements to balance all the factors above.
Over the many years of growing orchids, we have tried many mixes. Organic-based mixes such as bark give good results. But it is the longevity of these mixes that is our issue. Orchids are a long-term project. Most experienced growers recognise that a plant takes time to recover from repotting and, in particular, division. This can be as long as two years, with the best flowering occurring in the third season after dividing a plant. The use of organic media can make getting a plant to its best a difficult job, as much of this form of media will break down before the plant has reached its best. We choose inorganic, non-biodegradable materials to give the plant root stability of air supply. This is crucial as the that plants take up the vast majority of its air through the roots. Without a healthy root system in an unchanging media, you are simply not seeing your plant reach its potential.
We use two variations in media: rockwool, perlite and styrene mix for Cymbidiums and Sarcochilus, and for epiphytic genera that prefer a drier root zone we only use styrene. We deflask epiphytes such as Phalaenopsis, Vanda, Cattleya, Dendrobium, Epidendrum and the very finicky Varicosum-type Oncidiums into fine styrene as it holds a little extra moisture which all young plants like, while more mature plants enjoy the openness of styrene chunks. It is interesting that as the plants mature the water/moisture requirements reduce in most epiphytes and they prefer the drier roots. This tends to happen around a year from flask.
Please note that on our “Packing and shipping” page, we are using a standard box for most orders. This will mean that there is some styrene packing around the plants. This is not rubbish! It is growing media for your plants!
Basics to growing Cymbidium
Cymbidiums are a wonderful plant. The ability to regenerate each year and give endless reward should not be underestimated. We have plants of Cym. Dr Lloyd Hawkinson ‘Piedmont’ in our nursery that have been in production for over 30 years.
Here are a few simple pointers to getting the best from your cymbidium.
- 1. Give it lots of light.
- Cymbidiums like as much light as you can give them without burning the leaves. At our previous location we grew under 30% shade cloth. The leaves would get sunburned in summer, but every plant flowered. Getting a location with more light rather than less will help a great deal in initiating flower spikes.
- 2.Keep it moist.
- Traditional Cymbidiums originated from species collected from the Himalayan region. This is a monsoon climate, with a rainy season and a dry. The plants have evolved to store moisture in the pseudo bulbs. They also have their roots inside the tree in the rotten centre. This is a very important aspect to their happiness.
- 3.Leave it alone.
- A cymbidium plants works as a whole, with the backbulbs supporting the green bulb and the new growing lead. It is very important to keep this clump connected. Division or breaking up is not in the best interests of re-flowering your cymbidium. Where possible, pot on rather than dividing your plant. Our inert media helps with this process as it does not break down.
This is the basics of Cymbidium culture to get you started.
Most Aussies are very familiar with the common orange Epidendrum O’Brienianum. This rambling plant can be so aggressive in its spreading that it has been declared noxious in some local government areas. The modern Epidendrum that we offer is a far cry from O’Brienianum. We have sourced some wonderful plants from the home of Epidendrums in California, Cal-Orchid. James and Lauris Rose have made amazing advancements in this genus and have been honoured by the American Orchid Society for their contribution to the orchid community. After seeing their plants and the exceptionally bright colours, I could not resist having a go at growing them. The plants were selected for their size of bloom and, most importantly, to give us a nice range of colours. So far, these plants have shown to be exceptional in their desire to grow fast and produce flowers. With most having flowered from their first growth (cane) at around twelve months from flask.
Here at Barrita…
We like to grow in an inorganic way. This is most obvious in our choice of media. From flask we use only fine grade styrene and a little charcoal. Like most epiphytic orchids, Epidendrum benefit from exceptional air movement in the root zone. Having a media that dries quickly allows us to water often. As water is applied from above it drags fresh air down into the pot giving the plant a good freshen up. Each time we water we fertilise at a very low concentration. Lower concentrations are more readily available to your plant than stronger amounts of fertilizer. We have developed our own blend of fertiliser over many years which contains an excellent ration of the essential nutrients. As our plants grow up and need potting on, we move them into a coarser styrene to allow faster drying. Even in our high-watering environment, even fine styrene holds to much moisture for a mature epiphytic plant. In the last year we have trailed the addition of a little coarse bark to assist in the availability of our fertilizer.
We like to give our plants maximum light, after all light equals flowers, and it seems to us that Epis love light. This equates to clear plastic in winter and fifty percent shade in summer. I would prefer to have hard, light olive coloured leaves on our plants than have dark green ones.
We don’t heat our plants, although at Cal-Orchid they do. It is interesting to observe the way some of the plants increase anthocyanin (which reddens the leaves) as the temperature starts to drop in Autumn. While this doesn’t seem to have a long-term effect on the plant, it may be that some cultivars are less suited to cooler climates. Even in the same cross we see one plant with red leaves and its sibling beside it not showing any change in colour. The addition of heat is of benefit when you want to speed up flowering.
Tips for growing your Epis at home…
Based on our own experiences in the nursery, here’s some tips we believe will help you get the best from our Epidendrums.
- If you choose to grow it in a pot, use an open media. Our plants are not as “wild” as the garden variety Epi and are not recommended for ground growing. We use very open styrene and a little bark.
- Give them protection from extreme cold. Temperatures under 1 degree Celsius should be avoided.
- Plant will benefit from bright light, as much as possible without burning the leaves.
- All plant benefit from a regular application of fertilizer and Epies are no different. We recommend a balanced fertilizer, which is lower on nitrogen.