Orchid of the Week: Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum in flower

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum in flower

This is Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, a species native to Borneo and found only on remote locations of Mount Kinabalu. This slipper orchid is sometimes called the “King of all orchids”; its large size (up to 1 foot across) and majestic, bold coloration make it a true wonder to behold. There is an interesting story to how this particular species came into cultivation. The story goes that it was originally collected back in 1887 and brought into cultivation in Europe. The original location of where the plants were collected was falsified by the plant collector Sander & Sons, who gave the location of New Guinea in order to keep rival collectors from getting hold of the plant. For the next 60 years the plant’s true location remained a mystery. Then quite by accident a population of this beautiful slipper orchid was found at the base of Mt. Kinabalu. This orchid has been line bred for improved size and color, and a good specimen of this species can easily command thousands of dollars per growth. Although it is not easy or fast to grow the beauty of it when it does flower is well worth the cost and the time. I recommend them to anyone who loves slipper orchids! To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society or your local Orchid Society.

Required Light: In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not midday. Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 16” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 60° F – 70° F. Daytime temperatures should be kept at or below 85°F to avoid problems.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, 1-2 times a week or more under normal conditions. More watering is generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment. Clean water is a must for this orchid so rain water is a great choice or a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be necessary depending on your water quality.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ¼ strength every other week. I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots just starting to emerge from the newest growth(s.) I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Viastone. Also I prefer plastic pots as they will not dry out as fast allowing the roots to stay comfortably moist.

Orchid of the Week: Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum

Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum

This orchid may very well be my favorite of all I grow.  It is Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum; a species native to Peru, Columbia, and Ecuador.  It grows in montane forests on the slopes of the Andes Mountains.  I fell in love with this orchid when I received my first orchid book, where they showed a picture of the red form of this flower.  It was discovered in 1984 and since then has caused quite a stir in the orchid world.  When first introduced it was being sold for thousands of dollars.  To this day an excellent clone of this species can demand a hefty price.  Several years after its discovery, the yellow variety; known as flavum form was found.  The two color forms are integral in modern Phragmipedium breeding due to their ability to impart red or yellow color, as well as a rounder shape and horizontal petal stance.  They are beautiful to see and a pleasure to grow.  I recommend them to anyone who loves slipper orchids!  To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society or your local Orchid Society.

Phragmipedium besseae (red form)

Phragmipedium besseae (red form)

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not midday.  Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 16” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 55° F – 70° F.  Daytime temperatures should be kept at or below 80°F to mimic its natural environment.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, 2-3 times a week or more under normal conditions.  More waterings are generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment.  Clean water is a must for this orchid so rain water is a great choice or a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be necessary depending on your water quality.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ¼ strength every other week.  I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots just starting to emerge from the newest pseudoblulb(s.)  I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Hydroton.  Also I prefer plastic pots as they will not dry out as fast allowing the roots to stay comfortably moist.

Orchid of the Week: Cirrhopetalum Lovely Elizabeth

cirrhopetalum lovely elizabeth

cirrhopetalum lovely elizabeth

When you see this orchid flower you may wonder if it is it real. It certainly doesn’t resemble any flowers you see in your day to day life, but there is something intriguing about it.Maybe it is the bold contrast of pink spotting on the cream background or the tapering slender flow of the flowers, possibly the unusually fimbriation on the top segment of the flower, or the gently bobbing hinged lip. Whatever it is about this flower that attracts or repels you, you certainly must agree it grabs your attention. Cirrhopetalum Lovely Elizabeth is a hybrid of Cirr. Elizabeth Anne crossed with Cirr. rothschildianum. It blooms only once a year, but because it makes several growths each year when grown well, it is capable of putting on quite a show! 

Required Light: In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not Midday.  Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 16” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 65° F – 75° F. Daytime temperatures can easily reach the mid 90’s without causing a problem.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, twice a week or more under normal conditions. More waterings are generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment. Clean water is preferred by this orchid genus of orchids so a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be necessary depending on your water quality.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ¼ strength weekly. I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots just starting to emerge from the newest pseudoblulbs. I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Hydroton. Also I prefer plastic pots as they will not dry out as fast allowing the roots to stay comfortably moist.

To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society or your local Orchid Society.

There’s a Frog in My Phrag…

For many, many years I grew my orchids exclusively under indoor grow lights.  Finally, when my wife and I purchased our first home I decided to build a greenhouse.  My passion for orchids impacts much of my life, and with a collection that now numbers in the thousands it was imperative I minimize the amount of time necessary to care for my budding hobby.  So, for all of my South American slipper orchids in the genus Phragmipedium (which grow mostly on the banks of cool water stream) I built a recirculating flood and drain system (also called an ebb & flow system.)

Using 2″ x 4″ pressure treated lumber I built a table to support the 2′ x 8′ Botanicare flood tray.  A small pond pump delivers water from a hydroponic reservoir to the hydroponic flood tray and my overflow fittings maintain about 1-2″ of water which the plants sit in.  I never turn the pump off so the water is always moving (helps keep the water oxygenated.)  My Phrags (short for Phragmipedium Orchids) are very happy there.  So the other day whilst I was admiring my South American slippers I noticed a friend; who my three-year old aptly named Mr. Froggy; technically a Squirrel Treefrog Hyla squirella.  Apparently flood and drain systems make good homes to not only plants but amphibians as well 😉

Orchid of the Week: Paph. (S Gratrix ‘Scandalous’ HCC/AOS B/CSA x malipoense)

I am very excited about this week’s orchid.  Orchids can take anywhere from 1 to 25 years to bloom depending on the species or hybrids in their background.  I raised this from baby seedling and finally 3 years later it is the first plant from the flask to bloom.  It was worth the wait!!!   The wide petals and striking spots make this one a definite keeper.  Part of the fun with growing orchids is the anticipation of waiting for one to bloom and the excitement when you bloom a high quality flower.  This week I hit both marks and am feeling pretty good.  To learn more about orchids and orchid growing, contact the American Orchid Society.

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not Midday.  Under artificial lights like our T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 8” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 55° F – 65° F.  Daytime temperatures can easily reach the low 90’s without a problem.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, once or twice a week under normal conditions.  More waterings are generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ½ to1/4 strength weekly.  I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots starting to emerge from the base of the newest growth.  I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Hydroton.

Orchid of the Week: Cattleya intermedia

Cattleya intermedia

Probably the most variable of all the bifoliate Cattleya species, C. intermedia has been a long-time favorite of mine for several reasons. Besides the huge variation in terms of color and patterns on the flowers, the species has a fairly compact growth habit.  Flowers are also quite large (4″ to 5″ avg.) in comparison with the size of the plants and are produced in fairly large (2-6 or more) number by inflorescence.  It is native to southernmost parts of Brazil and this means that the plants are subject to extreme cold and warm temperatures throughout the year; because of this the plants are extremely adaptable to warm to cool growing conditions and that basically make the plants very easy to cultivate under varied conditions. To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society.

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not Midday.  Under artificial lights like our T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 8” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 55° F – 65° F.  Daytime temperatures can easily reach the low 90’s without a problem.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, once or twice a week under normal conditions.  More waterings are generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment.  This orchid would prefer never to dry out completely. 

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ½ to1/4 strength weekly.  I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots starting to emerge from the newest pseudoblulb(s.)  I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Hydroton.  Also I like clay pots as they will dry out a bit faster keeping the roots from staying too wet.

Orchid of the Week: Blc. Lawless Walkiire ‘The Ultimate’ AM/AOS

This is one of those orchids that you have to see in person to appreciate.  The richness of color and the contrast of the venation in the lip are just breathtaking!  I was at the judging when this particular cultivar was awarded, & I can tell you it deserved its award.  It is a strong grower and flowers twice per year.  This Cattleya clone is commercially available so anyone with a few dollars in their pocket can have one of their very own.  To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society.

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not Midday.  Under artificial lights like our T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 8” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 55° F – 65° F.  Daytime temperatures can easily reach the low 90’s without a problem.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, once or twice a week under normal conditions.  More waterings are generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ½ to1/4 strength weekly.  I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots starting to emerge from the newest pseudoblulb(s.)  I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Hydroton.  Also I like clay pots as they will dry out a bit faster keeping the roots from staying too wet.

Orchid of the Week: Aerides lawrenceae

This is a orchid species indigenous to the Philippines.  It must be amazing to see in the wild hanging in the forest canopy; perfect the way Mother Nature made it.  I saw this orchid blooming on a bench at an orchid show in Chicago in 2005 and decided I had to have it.  So I carried the orchid back on the plane sitting in my lap.  I purchased it as a blooming size seedling which then took me almost 3 years to bloom.  It has the sweetest grape candy smell which permeates the whole greenhouse every morning.  Best of all it blooms several times a year now!

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and hang this orchid in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but no Midday sun. Under artificial lights such as a 400 watt HPS I recommend it be at least 24” away from the bulb and off to the side by at least a foot.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 70°–75°F.  Daytime temperatures can reach 90°F or more without any problems

Humidity: Best kept at around or over 60% RH.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, but in basket culture I recommend watering every day, possibly twice a day in the hottest parts of summer.  It is very important you keep water out of the growing crown where new leaves emerge from.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ½ to 1/4 strength weekly. I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: I recommend growing this species in a basket to accommodate its rambling root habit as well as to mimic its natural growing conditions.  I would fill the basket with either Viastone or leave the basket empty.

Orchid of the Week: Paphiopedilum Lynleigh Koopowitz

 

This is one of my favorite parvi slipper orchid hybrids.  It is easy to grow, and blooms reliably with flowers that smell faintly of raspberry.  The plant is a primary hybrid between two Chinese species Paph delenatii x Paph malipoense.  The leaves of the plant are also beautifully mottled like a dark snake-skin.

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have this paph in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but no Midday sun. Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 12” underneath a 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 55° F – 65° F.  Daytime temperatures can reach the 90 degrees but no higher. 

Humidity: Best kept at around or over 60% RH.

Required Watering: depending on environmental factors, two or three times a week under normal conditions. More watering is generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment.  It is very important you keep water out of the growing crown where new leaves emerge from.

Fertilizer: should be applied at ½ to 1/4  strength weekly. I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots starting to emerge from the newest growth. I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Viastone.

Interpreting a Water Report: How to Make the Most of the Information You Have.

Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

So you have been reading my blogs and now before you sits a water quality report! Are you asking yourself “now what?”  It says you have a pH of 6.84 and a Alkalinity of 37.3… is that good or bad?  Well read on my friends as we delve deeper into deciphering a water report.

pH: Potential of Hydrogen.  It is the measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+).  pH is measured on a logarithmic scale of 1-14; 1 being most acidic & 14 being most alkaline.

  • Acceptable range is 6.5-8.0
  • <6.0 or >8.0 can cause severe problems
  • pH influences the availability of plant nutrients and other elements.

Alkalinity: Think of this as the ability of water to neutralize acid.  The higher the alkalinity the more acid it will take to lower the pH of the water.  Alkalinity is a measurement that incorporates the amount of bicarbonates, carbonates, and hydroxides joined to calcium, magnesium, & sodium.  Alkalinity is expressed in parts per million (PPM) of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3.)

  • Anything above 120 PPM CaCO3 may cause a gradual increase in the pH of your potting medium.
  • Low Alkalinity water (less than 60 PPM CaCO3) is not able to neutralize sufficient amounts of acid as such the recurrent use of acidic fertilizers may result in a decrease in the pH of your growing medium.

Electrical Conductivity (EC): A measure of the conductivity of a solution.  As the level of mineral salt dissolved in the water increases so does the solution’s conductivity.  EC is often expressed in mhos (reciprocal ohms.)  Most water reports express EC in the smaller unit mmhos/cm or millimhos per centimeter.

  • Acceptable range is 0.5-0.75 mmhos/cm
  • Problematic range is 0.76-3.0 mmhos/cm
  • The severity of the problem will be determined by two factors:
    • What compound is responsible for the elevated EC?
    • How high the EC is.

Sodium Absorption Ratio (SAR): is a measure of the suitability of water for use in agricultural irrigation. It defines the sodium (Na) hazard by comparing the concentration of sodium to the concentration of Calcium and Magnesium.  A High SAR value can cause reduced porosity in soils and create a “salt crust” on the surface which will prevent water from being absorbed by the soil.  Fine soils (i.e. clays) are affected more than large particle soils (i.e. sandy soils.)

  • Acceptable range is <10 mEq/L
  • Problematic range is 10.1 – 18 mEq/L
  • Severe problem range over 18 mEq/L
    • (mEq/l is short for milliequivalents per liter)

Phosphate (PO4-P): Commonly found in groundwater and fertilizers.

  • Acceptable range is <1.2 ppm
  • Problematic range is 1.2 – 2.4 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >2.4 ppm
    • Too much phosphates can cause algal blooms in runoff water followed by significant decrease in dissolved oxygen
    • Manage with reverse osmosis filters or build fertilizer program around the levels in your water supply

Potassium (K+): Originates from dissolved rock, soil, and fertilizer.

  • Acceptable range is <20 ppm
  • Problematic range is 20 – 50 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >50 ppm (can cause foliar damage)
    • High levels can increase levels of Potassium in plant tissue thereby creating nutrient antagonism of Nitrogen or Magnesium
    • Manage with reverse osmosis filters

Calcium (Ca+2): Originates from dissolved rock, limestone, gypsum, soil, or fertilizer.  High levels of calcium form lime deposits when combined with CO3 or HCO3.

  • Acceptable range is <25 ppm for soil and water hazard but <60 ppm for ideal foliar levels
  • Problematic range is 25 – 250 ppm for soil and water hazard but 60 – 100 ppm for problems with foliar injury
  • Severe problem range over >250 ppm for soil and water hazard but >100 ppm for severe foliar injury

Magnesium (Mg+2): Originates from dissolved rock, limestone, dolomite, soils, and fertilizers. High levels of magnesium form lime deposits when combined with CO3 or HCO3.

  • Acceptable range is <20 ppm
  • Problematic range is 20 – 40 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >40 ppm

*When designing a fertilizer program remember the ideal ratio of K:Ca:Mg is 4:2:1

Zinc (Zn):  Occurs naturally in small amounts.

  • Acceptable range is <2.0 ppm
  • Problematic range is >2.0 ppm

Copper (Cu): Occurs naturally in small amounts but may be present due to corroding copper pipes.

  • Acceptable range is <0.2 ppm
  • Problematic range is 0.2 -5.0 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >5.0 ppm
  • Toxicity in some plants has been shown with levels as low as 1.0 ppm.

Manganese (Mn): Dissolved from shale and sandstone, not usually a problem.

  • Acceptable range is <0.2 ppm
  • Problematic range is >0.2 ppm

Iron (Fe+2 or +3):  Iron is the 4th most abundant element in the earth’s crust.  Not easily absorbed by plants unless the pH of the water is less than 5.5.  Iron can mix with bacteria causing slimes which can clog irrigation equipment.

  • Acceptable range is <0.3 ppm
  • Problematic range is 0.3 -5.0 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >5.0 ppm
  • Levels greater than 5.0 ppm can form coatings on leaf surfaces reducing photosynthesis.

Sulfate (SO4-2): Naturally dissolved into water from rock and soil containing gypsum, iron sulfides, and other sulfur compounds. If mixed with calcium scale can form.

  • Acceptable range is <100 ppm
  • Problematic range is 100-200 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >200 ppm
  • Reverse Osmosis filtration is recommended course of action if levels are high.

Boron (B): Naturally occurring from ground water and decaying plant material.  Boron is required in small amounts, when in excess it is highly toxic.

  • Acceptable range is <1 ppm
  • Problematic range is 1.0-2.0 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >2.0 ppm

Sodium (Na+): Naturally occurring from dissolved minerals but also from road-salt & fertilizer.  Levels Greater than 70 ppm can cause foliar damage (leaf burn.)

  • Acceptable range is <70 ppm
  • Problematic range is 70-200 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >200 ppm

 Chloride (Cl-): Naturally occurs from dissolved minerals and sea water, but also may come from road-salt, fertilizer, and sewage.  Levels Greater than 100 ppm can cause foliar damage (leaf burn.)  Chloride can be absorbed by plant roots accumulating in leaves causing toxicity.

  • Acceptable range is <70 ppm
  • Problematic range is 70-300 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >300 ppm

 Nitrate (NO3-N): Naturally occurring in soil and from decaying plant material, high levels are often the result of fertilizer usage.  High concentrations can cause plant tissue to become more susceptible to pests.

  • Acceptable range is <50 ppm
  • Problematic range is 50-100 ppm
  • Severe problem range over >100 ppm