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Growing Aussie Dendrobiums the Barrita way

Aussie Dendrobiums(Dens) are a beautiful group of orchids that have a reputation for being very hardy. They can make excellent specimens in the garden given the correct conditions. The often-fragrant flowers bloom in winter to spring and come in a range of colours and shades.

The species involved in the hybrids we offer are either lithophytes, epiphytes or in many cases, a combination of both. This has an impact on our recommendations for their culture.

We like to grow in an inorganic way. This is most obvious in our choice of media. From the flask we use only fine-grade styrene and a little charcoal. Like most epiphytic orchids, Dendrobiums benefit from good 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.

Small plants, in 50mm tubes are watered daily. Larger plants, in 75mm and above are watered every second day during the warmer months and twice a week in the cool period. 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 liquid 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. We use the “Grow formula” from October to February and the “Bloom formula” from March to September”. We use a Seaweed concentrate to give our plants a complete nutritional spectrum.

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 Dendrobiums. We have found that fine styrene holds too much moisture for a mature epiphytic plant. Dens must never be overpotted. We now add a little coarse bark as a top dressing to the pot this natural material assists in fertiliser availability.

Note that I haven’t talked about opening the roots or removing old media. As the styrene is not breaking down, it does not need to be removed. This is a massive bonus for the recovery time of the plant. No post-potting sulking.

We like to give our plants maximum light, as light equals flowers, and Dens love strong 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 per cent shade in summer.