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.
Our temperature range is from 1 degree Celsius minimum in winter and we will have maximum summer temperatures of high 40s. Sarcochilus grow naturally where the temperatures go below freezing, but only for a short while. When we have excessive high temperatures, we mist the environment to help the plants cope. Sarcochilus need to have at least 6 weeks of nightly minimum bellow 13 degrees Celsius to initiate spikes. Once this initiation period is over you can heat them to get flowers out early. But this can have an affect of the longevity of the blooms. We prefer to let the elongate naturally.
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!
This page contains
1. 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.
One of the questions we are asked on a regular basis is "Why didn't my Cymbidium flower?" There are few plants that take as much planning a Cymbidium does to achieve flowering. We have covered the basics to help new growers succeed above.
As recent night temperatures have begun to drop, your Cymbidium has already started preparing for it's 2021 blooming! The overall process for setting spikes has begun and it is a relatively complicated one. Through mistakes, disasters and a lot of experience we have arrived at the following summary of the spike initiation process at our nursery.
1, Start of Autumn. The plant should be in a low nitrogen state. This means that you should use a flower booster (10:30:20) from the beginning of Autumn to the end of the initiation period.
2. Mid Autumn. This is when our night temperatures tend to drop below 13 degrees Celsius. This temperature threshold, which should last a minimum of three months, is crucial for the spike setting of traditional Cymbidiums. The longer the temperature is below 13 degrees each evening, the greater the chances of success. At our location, this is achieved naturally and the temperature requirements continue until mid-October.
3. Mid-Winter. We begin stripping the plants at the conclusion of flowering, as the plant requires higher light levels from post-flowering until summer. We use the stripping method shown on the video page in the grower resource. Remember that leaves on the green-bulbs have as much to do with flowering as the new ones do, and only take off what is needed. It's also important to remember to give multiple plants enough space between each another to allow light into them.
Once the night temperatures rise above 13 degrees, the plant no longer requires the low nitrogen state. It's time to return to a 20-20-20 or even a 27-15-12 for the warmer months.
Each part of the process is important. Remember, low nitrogen, low temperature and good light during initiation are key to a successful flowering.
This brief video shows our deflasking process for Saercochilus.
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.
Zygopetalums are easy to grow, reliable to flower and fragrant, making them one of the best choices for novice growers. On top of these appealing traits, the modern Zygopetalum is often a multi-generic hybrid, bred to be a compact plant with wonderful flower colouring.
We have grown Zygos on and off for a number of years in the same conditions as our cymbidiums. It’s worth noting however that while they enjoy a bright position they should not be placed in full sun, as too much light has a negative impact on their foliage.
Zygo’s do very well in our growing media (rockwool, perlite, styrene and charcoal) producing excellent root growth. Trials have shown they will also grow very well in straight styrene (See pictures below of the comparison).
This plant was deflasked in to our media of rockwool and perlite, as we would do for Cymbidiums and Sarcochilus. This media holds a little moisture all the time. As you can see the difference is clear, getting the moisture level right for a plant is crucial for maximum root growth and plant development. The roots on this plant are lush and totally active, this is how we want roots to look.
This plant was deflasked in to just styrene.This media suits the Epiphytes such as Cattleya or Epidendrum. This plant was one of the best plants in the batch, but it doesn't have the root development of those in our rockwool based media. Interestingly, all the plants in this media made bulbs quickly like this plant. Although the plants in the rockwool media that did make bulbs, made bigger bulbs than the best in styrene.
Watering plants is driven by the extent to which moisture is held in the media. Our media dries rapidly, so more frequent watering is required than when using organic-based mixes.
Like all orchids, Zygos like regular feeding. We use our own liquid fertiliser (although any good quality fertiliser will do) applied at low concentrations to allow maximum uptake for the plant. Our young plants in tubes are watered and fertilized each day in summer and every second day in the cooler months.
At our nursery, we have selected to grow a range of beautiful hybrids from Stephen Monkhouse, as Stephen's philosophy on hybridising fits well with ours on ease of growth and flower production.
We hope you enjoy growing and flowering these plants as much as we do.
We love Cattleyas! And despite the name changes, the modern Cattleyas offer a wonderful range of colours and sizes to suit everyone. We are certainly not experts in breeding these beauties and instead of creating our own we have opted to source plants from breeders in other countries. These include Dennis Kao (Ching Hua Orchids, Taiwan), Fred Clarke (Sunset Valley Orchids, USA) and Ken and Amy Jacobsen (USA). We have been fortunate to work with these guys as they demonstrate an understanding of the important traits we look for in a plant, good growing, fast to flower and bright colours.
Growing Cattleyas the Barrita way
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, Cattleyas 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. The closest commercial blend to our recipe is Growth Technology’s Orchid Focus.
As our plants grow up and need potting on, we choose a pot slightly larger than the root mass and move them into a coarser styrene to allow faster drying, this is very important to the successful culture of Cattleyas. Even in our high-watering environment, fine styrene holds too much moisture for a mature epiphytic plant. Cattleyas must never be over potted. In the last year we have trialled the addition of a little coarse bark to assist in the availability of fertilizer.
We like to give our plants maximum light, as light equals flowers, and Catts love light. The leaf colour and condition is a great indication of the light level. I would prefer to have hard, light olive coloured leaves on our plants with flowers than have over lush, dark green ones without flowers. We achieve this by using clear plastic in winter and sixty five percent shade in summer.
To see what we have available at the moment click here
Seedling orchids in flasks are great way to buy plants. You get a look at an unfiltered, unpicked batch of plants. As all the plants are individuals, you will have something that is absolutely, uniquely yours. It is also the cheapest way to buy plants. Even a relatively expensive flask will be cheaper per plant than when potted out. The downside is that deflasking is also the most challenging part of growing orchids for those that have not been through the process.
Getting the plants out. Flasks come in many shapes and sizes. They may be glass or plastic. We use a 500ml jar as our final replate and use a glass cutter to break into the plants. It is possible to hook the plants out, but at this stage plants can be quite brittle and may break if pulled incorrectly and you don’t want to lose any that way. Depending on the age of the flask and size of the plants, the roots may be very well developed and intwined. While we rinse the culture media off in water, we also separate the plants from each other. Again, care in needed as we get them apart. We’re not obsessed with getting all the media off and some left on is ok. After rinsing and separating we keep the plants in water until planting to stop them dehydrating while waiting to be potted up.
Media. We use two different media for our deflasking. The first is for epiphytes, such as Cattleya, Dendrobium, Vanda, some Sarcochilus and Oncidium we use granulated styrene topped with charcoal. This media dries fast and requires regular watering. The addition of charcoal aids in the retention of nutrients and helps the plants settle into the media.
The second is for terrestrials, such as Cymbidium, Sarcochilus and Zygopetalum. We use Rockwool, perlite, styrene and charcoal. These plants like to have moisture around their roots all the time. It should be noted that some Cymbidiums and Sarcochilus are epiphytic and reference to parentage is important. Both of these media are inorganic which makes the potting on process much less stressful to the plant, as once there the media does not need freshening or replacing.
Why we use two medias. Our watering is automated and the entire seedling house is watered as one section. This means plants that do not like to have their roots over wet need a media that dries very fast, whereas plants that like wetter roots can use our standard media.
Potting. When I started growing orchids, we planted the freshly deflasked plants into a seedling tray, a plastic tray 30cm x 30cm wide and 4cm deep. The plants were placed into furrows and back filled. When the tray was filled and watered the tray was placed on a “hot bed”. A hot bed is a bench of sand with resistance heat cables buried below the surface. The hot bead was in a small glass house with high humidity and was watered often. The plants stayed in this house for a hardening period of up to 6 months, depending on what else was going on in the nursery. Trays and other styles of community pots have the advantage of staying moist longer. Moisture is good for young plants as they have not developed storage reserves. The danger is that if one plant gets a fungal or bacterial infection, it can spread quickly to the others. And on a hot bed, with no airflow under the trays, these fungal infections can be a real problem. We encountered this in the early 1990’s and as a result moved to deflasking into single 50mm pots, often referred to as tubes or thumb pots. We also stopped using the hot bed at the same time. Placing plants into a wire tray and placing them onto benches, allowing much better drainage and air flow around the bottom of the pots.
We still use this method today and have tweaked process to fit the requirements of the different genera we grow and our conditions.
Growing Environment. The flask environment has very high humidity and the plants have access to both moisture and nutrients in the media. Often, the light supplied is artificial and of a lower intensity than in the greenhouse. It is very important that this information is understood. The plants do not experience a dry time in the flask. After deflasking, these conditions need to be replicated. Our seedling house is watered every day. We use water soluble fertiliser at low concentration. Using fertiliser at low strength helps uptake by the plant. This high watering regime is tied to our media choices and high air movement environment. I mentioned the lower intensity light that flasks are often grown under. With this in mind we shade the seedling house at 65-70%, an additional 30% to the level of our mature plants. This eases them into the real world with a softer start.
Conclusion. Like any new process deflasking for the first time can be challenging. I purchased a couple of Oncidium flasks early in my career, before we had automated watering. We deflasked them on a Friday into styrene and placed them near a heater. When I came in on Monday more than ¾ of them were dead. They had dried out beyond saving. In the end we were able to save a few plants. It was a costly lesson, but one that I will never forget. Don’t let them dry out. Buying flasks is our preferred way to get new plants and it is very rewarding to see a plant flower that you have raised from such small beginings.