• Growing Sarcochilus
  • Growing Vanda
  • Media Choices
  • Growing Cymbidiums

Introduction

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.

Potting mix
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 levels

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.