AN INTRODUCTION TO GROWING ORCHIDS THE LAKESIDE ORCHID LOVERS’ MANUEL Lake Chapala, Mexico
Part One - Understanding Orchids & their History
Part Two - Identification, Care & Cultivation
Epiphytes & Lithophytes
(grown in cultivation) Terrestrials Mexican Species (grown in natural conditions)
Part Three - a) Fertilizers - b) Insect and Disease Control - c) Miscellaneous This guide has been written by local orchid enthusiasts for the use of the members of local orchid groups only. Please honor the implied copyrights. This document was shared with the Lakeside Garden Guild.
PART I UNDERSTANDING ORCHIDS & THEIR HISTORY
Grown on the ground.
Grown on rocks.
Grown in trees with bare roots.
UNDERSTANDING ORCHIDS & THEIR HISTORY
WHAT IS AN ORCHID?
10% of all the flowering plants on Earth are part of this family.
Their evolution is very advanced, with sophisticated male and female reproductive organs.
They are amazingly adaptable to changes of climate and circumstances and grow everywhere including the arctic tundra, dry savannahs and tropical rainforests; from coastal plains to altitudes of 14,000 feet.
Many cultures treasure them for their medicinal or aphrodisiac properties.
THE ONE THING THEY ALL HAVE IN COMMON IS THE STRUCTURE OF THE FLOWERS.They have 3 sepals and 3 petals. One of the petals is more pronounced than the others and is called the labellum or “lip”. This is often the most flamboyant part of the flower and its purpose in nature is to attract specific birds, bees, moths and insects for pollination.
Each species of orchid has a relationship with one type of bird or insect and the shape and color of the flower is designed to accommodate the process of pollination through contact with that specific creature.
In artificially propagated plants, this is no longer necessary and the flower is bred for shape, color and scent.
The male and female organs, the stigma and the anther (which contains the pollen), are located in the column or “throat”.
They can look very different.
They vary in size from plants weighing a ton or more to miniscule.
There can have one huge blossom, or have many tiny blooms.
The flowers can grow on long inflorescences or on short stems.
They can stand up straight or hang upside down.
The leaves can be broad and fleshy or thin and reed-like.
Evolution has changed the shapes to conform to the demands of climate, growing conditions and the process of pollination, so that many appear not to conform to the basic structure but, on close examination, the important elements are always there.
HISTORY ORCHID FEVER was very real and people have literally killed for orchids.
Orchids are mentioned in Oriental records from about 800 BC.
Drawings and paintings of orchids have been found on many ancient scrolls from all over the world, especially China, Japan and India.
A common terrestrial orchid found in ancient Greece had twin tubers, which gave orchids their name from “ORCHIS”, meaning testicles.
In EUROPE, they became popular in the early 1800s but only the very rich could afford them, as it was deemed necessary to build a greenhouse.
Paid collectors were sent all over the world to find orchids in remote mountain ranges and rain forests and many of them never returned.
Sadly, no-one really knew how to care for the orchids and many died in transit, or from too much heat and watering by their new owners.
Eventually, Kew Gardens in England started research into their care and conditions improved.
These plants were considered so erotic and sensual that, at first, women were forbidden to own them in England. However, Queen Victoria became so intrigued with them that she ordered an orchid house to be built at the palace, and thus the law had to be changed.
Finally, World War 1 re-established priorities and orchid mania ended.
In the 1920s, botanists and horticulturists started serious research into breeding and hybridizing orchids and they became more easily available and more affordable.
TERMINOLOGY 3 types of orchids:
Terrestrial - grown on the ground
Lithophyte - grown on rocks
Epiphyte - grown in trees with bare roots.
Orchids are either: Monopodial - leaves and flowers continue to grow from a single stem. Sympodial - after each flowering, a new shoot comes up from the base forming a new stem, or pseudobulb, for the next flowers.
PSEUDOBULB - bulb or swollen stem that grows above the compost. - these store water and nutrients in times of drought. RIZOME - connects the pseudobulbs at compost or ground level. TUBER - grows underground on some terrestrials. EVERGREEN - the plant keeps some or all its leaves year-round. DECIDUOUS - the plant loses all its leaves each winter.
SPECIES - specific plants, as found in nature. GENUS - a family of species with a common characteristic. (plural - GENERA) HYBRID - a cross between 2 or more species from the same or several genera, artificially bred or by natural accident.
NAMING AN ORCHID Understanding this is important so that you can read the labels intelligently when buying an orchid. The following is over-simplified but helpful.
All names are registered in Latin with the Royal Horticultural Society, London, England in the following order: Species: Name of genusname of species - for example: Oncidium sphacelatum (species name has no capital). These names are italicized and the genus name is often abbreviated - for example: Oncidium = Onc. Hybrids - this becomes more complicated, especially with inter-generic crosses, as those create a new genera. eg: a cross between a Laelia and a Cattleya = Laeliocattleya (abbrev. to LC) The new plant is then given a chosen name (in Roman letters), instead of the species name - eg: LC Drumbeat Heritage. The label often gives more information regarding the parentage of the plant and the breeder of a hybrid.
GROWING AREAS Each property has its own micro-climate and this can vary considerably in different locations. It is important to know your own. A GOOD GROWING AREA MUST PROVIDE: The correct amounts of light, shade, air, humidity & temperature range. These can be provided naturally or in a man-made environment. Orchids are susceptive to infection so the growing areas must be kept clean. Pots and tools should be sterilized.
At Lakeside, a south facing area covered with a translucent roof or shade cloth is ideal. This will provide warmth in winter and shade and cool in summer, but some orchids grow better outside in partial shade from trees.
If you can’t find a south facing location, building your orchid house against a west wall will provide morning sun and shade in the afternoon.
Most orchids will do very well in a shade house in this climate, just covered by shade cloth. Only consider a greenhouse if you really know what you are doing and are prepared to monitor it several times a day.
Many orchids enjoy the rain in summer, especially if they are growing in baskets. A few, like Phalaenopsis and Cattleyas, will rot easily if not protected from the rain and will need some covered protection in winter.
Most orchids can take morning sun but only a very few can take the hot afternoon sun, or sun all day. Most need “bright” shade, but their needs vary according to the species.
Species straight from the wild do best in natural conditions and usually prefer bright shade. They can be mounted onto trees or tied into hanging baskets. They survive better in a live tree than mounted onto dead wood.
GROWING MEDIUMS Each grower has his favorite medium or compost and this will vary according to climate, availability of materials and personal preference. The following are suggested as guidelines: For species grown on trees or portable alternatives:
Any natural substance that will hold moisture and does not deteriorate too fast, like coconut fiber, agave fiber, sphagnum moss or fern roots.
The medium is tied to the branch, or alternative, and then the plant is securely attached on top of this. The roots will grow into the substance by themselves. Pieces of wood, sticks, slabs of tree fern and loofas (mounted on sticks) make good alternatives where trees are not available. These can be hung up in suitable outside locations or in your growing area.
For epiphytes grown in pots and baskets etc.: Any of the following can be used, singly or in a compost. You will need to grade these, using a fine compost for thin roots and a heavier one for thicker roots. Place a few heavier pieces at the bottom to weight the pot and help drainage. All composts (except soil) must be sieved and washed well to remove dust, too fine grades or coconut oil. The mix must be loose enough to allow air to the roots.
Charcoal (Oak) - keeps the compost sweet. Absorbs salts and minerals.
Jal - (pumice stone). Common in Jalisco, is light and holds water well.
Lava rock - usually red. Light and the holes provide air pockets.
Wine corks and Styrofoam “peanuts” - non-absorbent but provide air.
Tree bark - usually fir or oak. Avoid oily woods like eucalyptus & cedar.
Coconut husk chips and fiber - soft and hold water well. Very useful.
Osmunda fern chunks - ideal for growing epiphytes in baskets.
For terrestrials: These are usually grown in a good quality potting soil with a high humus content. Granular jal is often mixed with this (small stones not dust), up to a 50/50 ratio. Larger pieces of jal, or broken crocks, with a little charcoal should be put into the bottom of the pot to improve drainage. In nature, terrestrials grow on top of the ground in the compost of fallen leaves.
TOOLS (basic requirements)
Sharp knife, secateurs and scissors etc.
Tweezers (as in eye brows) or forceps for removing dead bracts etc.
Alcohol for sterilizing equipment.
Spray bottle or other means for misting and fertilizing.
A portable fan (for improving air circulation if necessary).
At least one large mesh sieve for grading jal etc.
A variety of flower pots: if plastic pots are used, it helps to drill or burn extra holes in them to improve drainage and provide air to the roots.
Q-tips and cotton balls for removing mealy bugs etc. and cleaning leaves.
Misc. hooks etc. and chains or wires for hanging up plants.
String made of natural fibers (cotton, jute, linen etc). No wires on trees!
Sticks or metal rods for supporting flower stems (shishkabab sticks will sometimes do and plastic covered metal coat hangers can be adapted).
White plastic labels for numbering or naming plants.
GENERAL CARE AND MAINTENANCE
THINK OF YOUR ORCHID AS A PET - NOT AS A PLANT!
Do not only speak to your orchids but LISTEN, with your eyes and your touch. They will tell you whether they are happy or not.
You must know each plant individually and their specific needs.
Orchid Growing is not a spectator sport - do not delegate their care to your gardener. When away, ask another orchid grower to care for them.
More orchids are killed by over-watering than any other cause.
Orchids are not parasites - they live in a symbiotic relationship with their host. They attach themselves to trees for support, but do not harm the tree by sucking the sap. They also benefit from the shade and humidity provided by the tree.
Species attached to trees, or portable alternatives, with exposed roots can be left out in the rain. If the orchid is grown in a pot, it must be really well drained with plenty of holes, or be kept in a covered area, or it may become over-watered by rain.
As a rule of thumb, orchids with exposed roots need to be watered several times a week in their growing season, but those in pots (except for very small pots) only once or twice a week. However, even in Mexico, the variance of temperature and humidity must be allowed for.
Each plant has its individual requirements.
ADJUSTMENTS FOR SEASONAL CHANGES September, October & November: These are the most wonderful months of the year! The rains gradually end leaving the mountains green, the countryside lush, and thousands of flowers in bloom, including many orchids. In fact, it is an ideal time to buy orchids as, with the humidity still reasonably high and the temperatures warm outside, there is little difference between your home and the greenhouse conditions of the viveros. This reduces the risk of shock from moving them. It is also more fun to buy orchids in flower. This is pay-back time for all your hard work so enjoy it!
It is also a time to prepare for the colder months ahead. Shade cloth can be removed in some locations and many plants can be relocated outside, when the danger of rain is over. Water pots about twice a week and hanging species more often. Occasional misting of the leaves is helpful. Your cymbidiums should have morning sun to encourage flower development.
December, January & February: These are very dangerous months as the nights at Lakeside are cold. Temperatures under 52 degrees F can damage some orchids and these will need protection. These will be mentioned individually. Stop watering deciduous plants.
Watering should be done before noon and reduced in frequency. When possible, put your orchids in the sun for an hour or two after watering, until the surface water has dried off. DO NOT WATER on days when the temperature has not reached 60 degrees F. by mid-day, as the damp cold may kill the new growth. Waiting for a warmer day will not hurt them, as all orchids have storage capacity in either their psudobulbs or fleshy leaves. Leaves should not be misted, except on very mild days or where grown inside. Make sure all your plants are draining well. Standing in water in an outer dish etc. will cause fungal problems and will rot the roots. Some plants need to rest over this period, with watering cut back to 2 or 3 week intervals and fertilizing reduced or suspended until signs of new growth appears.
New growth (especially on Cattleyas and Dendrobiums) is very vulnerable and great care must be taken to avoid getting water into this. If it happens, blot as much of the water out of the new leaves as possible with a tissue, place the plant in warm sun and turn on a fan if the air circulation is poor. Leaving water in the new growth over a cold night will kill it.
Special care should also be taken to avoid leaving water in the axis of the young leaves of Phalaenopsis plants. If this happens, follow the instructions above. If the leaves of your Phalos start to dry out and go limp, this is from lack of humidity. Cover lightly with a plastic bag, with small holes cut in the top, or move into the house where it is warm enough to mist the leaves daily. Do not let this over-dry condition persist too long without seeking a remedy.
March, April & May: By March, the nights should be getting warmer and all plants can be grown safely outside. Gentle misting of leaves can start again, between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm. As the weather gets hotter, this can begin earlier in the morning and can be repeated in late afternoon. By mid-April, increase pot watering to several times a week, especially with smaller pots, and daily for those with exposed roots. This is a stressful time for plants, with the humidity so low, so think of ways of providing relief. The proximity of fountains, pools and ponds will help but remember that they often contain chlorine. Pouring water onto the floor of growing areas also helps.
Remember that the sun will be immediately overhead in the first week of May and will go north for about 4 months. This means that winter shady places may become summer hot spots. By early April, outside plants should be protected from the strong sun, either by moving them into more shaded areas or by putting up shade cloth. Cymbidiums and other big terrestrials will enjoy some morning sun but the leaves will burn after midday.
June, July & August - The wet season By the middle of May, start planning for the wet season ahead. Many plants will have to be moved under cover to avoid over-watering. Make sure all pots are well away from the run-off from the roof, as those first rains are very heavy and full of dirt and leaves, and also from the “drip-line” of trees. All pots of terrestrials (like cymbidiums) left outside must have good drainage. Put them onto metal stands or bricks to keep them off the ground.
The high humidity can cause fungal and mildew problems, so watch out for these. Watering can be done as needed for pots in covered areas, but do not water or mist the leaves unless the weather is warm and dry. Outside plants will probably need to be watered only if there is no rain for several days, but check the pots regularly to make sure. Many plants will be getting ready to flower, so watch for buds. Protect the hanging species from being over watered, and make sure they get enough light. FERTILIZERS - for more details, see special section. These fall into 2 categories - slow release granules and water soluble liquids. The former (trade names like Osmacote and Multicote) are added to the pots once a year, usually in the spring when new growth appears. The latter can be added in weak amounts to your weekly watering for 3 weeks, leaving the 4th week without to wash out accumulated salts. As this is a beginners’ guide, we suggest that you use good commercial brands like Schultz or Peters, following the directions on the package. If it is a fertilizer for other plants as well as orchids, use half or quarter strength. Please note: When you buy a plant from a reputable orchid grower, they will probably have added slow release fertilizer to the pot before selling it to you. Always ask if this is the case, to avoid duplication. BUY A NOTEBOOK You think you will remember these things but you don’t!
Record everything you do with your orchids:
The name and number (it helps to number them for easy reference)
A brief description (to help with identification later)
When and where you bought it
When and how you repotted it
If you gave it a rest period
When you gave it long term fertilizer (Osmacote etc.)
When it started to bud and when it finished flowering
Any problems or bug infestations and what you did to cure these.
EXCELLENT BOOK - for identification: Botanica’s ORCHIDS, Laurel Glen Publishing. USEFUL WEB SITES - American Orchid Society - www.orchidweb.org Santa Barbara Orchid Estate - www.sborchid.com *** Always remember that most books and culture sheets were not written for our climate or altitude.
Part 2 IDENTIFICATION, CARE & CULTIVATION
This section contains guidelines for the care and cultivation of specific orchid types. These are based on average climatic conditions and an average location at Lakeside. Seasonal adjustments should be made, as given in Part One. Allowances must also be made for some locations, such as on the mountain-side, where the air is dryer and cooler than at lake level in the winter. As this is essentially a guide for beginners, we will assume that the growing areas are outside, on an open terrace or in part of a home. Part 2 is divided into 3 sections for easy reference:
a) Epiphytes & Lithophytes (grown in cultivation) b) Terrestrials
Species (grown in natural conditions)
WATER It is also important to know the PH of your water. It is good to test your water periodically, at different times of the year, as it may vary with the height of the water table. Generally speaking, the water at Lakeside is alkaline and using some Muracid (or something similar) in the water will help to get the most from your fertilizers.
However, rain tends to be acidic, so use as much rainwater as possible for watering your orchids in the rainy season. Just watch out for chlorine in your fountain, if you plan to use it for watering! Please note: You can download the American Orchid Society pamphlets from the web site: www.orchidweb.org. Print them or save them as pdf files .
2b - TERRESTRIALS Grown on the ground or in pots with a soil compost. Terrestrials grow in the wild on top of the soil in the layers humus made up of rotting leaves etc.
2c - SPECIES Grown in natural conditions (trees and substitutes) PLEASE NOTE: Buying and owning species collected from the wild, without proper authorization, is illegal in both Mexican and International law. It is also illegal to transport orchids across international, and even some state, borders without a permit. This is worth taking seriously. Fortunately, it is possible to buy species legally from one of the large orchid viveros who are now mericloning or growing them from seed. Some Mexican nurseries will even ship your order to Lakeside. Most of the species you buy will be epiphytes (regardless of how they come packaged). It is very helpful to know their country of origin and the altitude and climate of their natural habitat, as your best way of growing them is to try to simulate these conditions. For instance, there are many beautiful Mexican species but they may be natural to sea level marshes around Vera Cruz or to an altitude of 10,000 feet in Puebla. A good knowledge of your Mexican species will help you to anticipate their needs, and learn how to identify them. Most of Mexico has 7 to 8 months with virtually no rain each year, while the Amazon valley in Brazil, which is home to an enormous number of exotic species, is hot and humid year round, so obviously orchid culture would differ there.
When buying species, look for the biggest number of firm, healthy-looking pseudobulbs in the clump, with firm green leaves. A plant with only a few shriveled pseudobulbs, even if it is in flower, is not worth buying. Some nurseries package their epiphytes in plastic bags filled with soil, moss or pine needles to protect the delicate roots in transit, so the plant needs to be removed immediately, rinsed well and mounted onto something more suitable. As you do not know how long the plant has been packaged like this, you should cover the roots lightly with sphagnum moss, coco fiber or pieces of loofa to reduce the shock, and keep moist (but not wet) until new roots appear. Terrestrial species, like Sobralia, Vanilla, Cyrtopodium and Epidendrum can be grown like hybrid terrestrials and are dealt with in Part 2b. CULTURE of natural orchids:
On live trees:
With all species it is best to try to simulate their natural habitat, although some can adapt to cultivation in well ventilated pots. There is no doubt that they will do best mounted permanently into live trees. Oak, citrus, Jacaranda, frangipani and various other trees are suitable but avoid eucalyptus, pine and trees with resin. If their roots are already firmly attached to a mount, tie the whole thing to a live branch on the tree, so that the roots can eventually spread over. PLEASE do not use wire on trees as this will strangulate the tree as it grows. Use string made of a natural fiber, old nylon stockings or something that will eventually rot. Alternatively, you can hang the mounted orchid from a branch, without attaching it permanently, where it can enjoy the environment of being in the tree. Do not use over-dry or rotten sticks as mounts. If the orchid has bare roots, or has been recently attached to a new stick, remove it from the mount and gently spread out the roots. You will probably find that they are folded to fit the mount. Tie a thin layer of loofa, moss or coco fiber firmly to the branch and then mount the orchid on top of this. The roots will find their own way into the material. Keep the pad moist until the roots start to grow and attach to the tree.
Where trees are not available, or if you do not want the location to be permanent, mount the orchids (using the method above) onto branch substitutes. The most popular are pieces of wood, preferably with rough bark, or slabs of tree fern. You can also put them into wooden or wire baskets containing a small amount of osmunda fern, wood or coco chips. Do not use too much material or it will retain too much moisture. The roots need to have plenty of air and be able to dry out between waterings, especially in the rainy season. Try to find locations to hang these resembling their natural habitat. Once the plant is fully established onto its new mount, watering should be reduced and the light increased during the dormant period in the dry season, to more nearly simulate the natural cycle of wild species.
PART THREE FERTILIZERS INSECT AND DISEASE CONTROL
FERTILIZERS There is such an enormous number and variety of fertilizers on the market, it is no wonder that novice orchid growers become confused. To make matters worse, when they ask for help from experience growers, they are likely to receive a mass of conflicting advice as each grower has his own preferences. The following should guide you in the right direction.
Orchids like everything in moderation. The golden rule is “weakly weekly”. If you under-fertilize, you can add some more. However, the effects of over-fertilizing can be very damaging and long lasting.
Always read the instructions on the label! Products vary in strength and recommended doses. If the fertilizer is made for general garden use, orchids should be only given ¼ to ½ of the recommended dose, depending on the frequency of use.
You must decide whether you want to use slow-release products, like Osmocote, or if you would rather retain more control and select liquid fertilizers for more frequent applications. Only large, mature plants can get both, on a careful schedule. Always use water at room temperature.
Do not use the same fertilizer every time. Alternate with other types to include more variety of minerals and trace elements.
Always leave at least one week in every month without fertilizing.
Liquid fertilizers: Water your orchids on their usual schedule with plain, tepid water and leave them to drain. This will also wash away the residue of salts from previous fertilizing. Spray the leaves with the fertilizer solution so that it runs into the pot, where it will quickly disperse in the wet medium. Try to avoid spraying the flowers and buds. Mounted, bare root species need a weaker solution.
DO NOT water or fertilize from a bucket, continually reusing the same liquid. This will quickly form a concentrate of the old salts and will spread any insects or infection in one plant to all the rest. Also, do not immerse the whole pot in water, as this will disturb the compost, especially in small pots or with recently repotted plants. Young, fragile roots can be damaged.
Slow release fertilizers last about 10 months and should be added once a year or when repotting. They are most useful with large, mature plants.
CHOSING A FERTILIZER All commercial fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and these will be defined on the product label in numbers, (like 15-30-15), and always in this order. The better products also contain very small amounts of extra minerals, known as minor (or trace) elements or micronutrients. These are all essential to the health and growth of your plants. However, the available products are unlimited in number and they vary in content enormously. So how does one know which fertilizer to use? Once again, read the labels, understand what each product is offering and decide what you want from your fertilizer.
The basic essentials: NITROGEN: increases vegetative growth and greenness. PHOSPHORUS: stimulates root growth and development of young plants to maturation, and promotes flowering and seed development. POTASSIUM: promotes vigor and resistance to disease. Hardens new shoots and helps plant development. Balances nitrogen and minor elements.
In theory, you should chose a product with a high phosphorus content (middle number) when nurturing young plants or for the month prior to your orchid blooming. However, this takes a lot of knowledge about each of your orchids and careful plant management. This will come with experience, but the novice is safer to stay with well-balanced products, like Peters 20-20-20, and allow the plant to select what it needs, varying this with another product offering a different formula.
If you prefer, you can give slow release fertilizer to all your pots once a year and a little weak liquid fertilizer to your bare root orchids once or twice a month. Just remember to record the date of giving Osmocote to each plant! UREA: this is the mineral that leaves white salt deposits on your growing medium. Orchids do not need urea, so it is helpful if you can find a product that does not contain it, like some of the fertilizers formulated specifically for orchids. A careful study of the products listed below will help you to understand the problems of choice. These fertilizers are all readily available, and well tried by experience growers. GUIDELINES FOR USING SPECIFIC PRODUCTS
SLOW RELEASE FERTILIZERS: 14-14-14 for orchids. (Osmocote, Multicote, etc) The granules should be placed on top of the growing media. Applied annually - 1 Tbsp per 6 inch pot, 1 ½ Tbsp per 8 inch pot.
PETERS 20-20-20: excellent general use fertilizer with a good supply of extra minerals. Applied weekly: ¼ teasp per gallon (4 liters) water.
MIRACLE-GRO 15-30-15: all purpose fertilizer with a good range of minerals. This contains rather more urea than some of the others, which is not required for orchids.Applied weekly: ¼ teaspoon per 4 liters water.
SCHULTZ 19-31-17: Orchid fertilizer with a good range of trace elements. Applied weekly: ¼ teasp (1.25 g) per 4 liters water.
HILLTOP ORCHID FERTILIZER 13-3-15 (for city water). Their formula for well water would be better for Lakeside. Contains a large range of extra minerals. Applied weekly: ¼ teaspoon per 4 liters (gallon) water.
BETTER-GRO ORCHID PLUS 20-14-13: this does not contain urea. Applied weekly: ¼ teaspoon per 4 liters (gallon) water.
SUPERthive: contains vitamins and hormones. This is not a fertilizer. Use as a tonic after repotting or dividing plants, or when they need an extra boost. Orchid dose: one drop per 4 liters (1 US gallon). Spray on plants after watering and keep in the shade until the leaves are dry. DO NOT OVERDOSE with Superthrive.
NEEM OIL: This is an insect repellant (not an insecticide) and is absorbed into the system of the plant. It is very successful in protecting all epiphytes but should not be used on terrestrial orchids, especially Paphiopedalums. MIX: 1 tablespoon 100% pure Neem oil with a few drops of liquid dish detergent and 1 gallon (3.785 liters) water and shake well. Use the same day. DO NOT USE when the sun is on the plant. Keep plants in the shade until all the leaves are completely dry. Keep Neem oil in the refrigerator. To treat bug infested plants: spray every 10 days until infestation is gone. For general protection: spray every 3 months. As the plants and growing area become bug free, spraying can be reduced to 2 or 3 times a year.
WHAT’S BUGGING YOUR ORCHIDS? Organic solutions FIX IT WITH NEEM OIL! Curiosity is often aroused when wondrous formulations are advertised. It is wise to be wary of new products when their product’s benefits are touted beyond belief. Yet orchid growers are always seeking an eco-friendly, integrated pest management tool. NEEM oil could be the answer for orchid hobbyists!
Native to east India and Myanmar, the Neem tree (Azadirachin india) is a tropical evergreen related to Mahogany. Compounds found in the seeds, bark, and leaves are said to have antiseptic, antiviral, antipyretic, anti-inflam-matory, anti-ulcer, and anti-fungal uses! Historically, there is documentation indicating Neem was used to treat medical conditions and cure many illnesses. For centuries, extractable compounds from Neem have been incorporated into personal hygiene products such as tooth-paste, skin cream, and soap. The list of medicinal value is long, impressive, and inspiring.
Reports from horticulturists state that extracts from Neem tree leaves have insecticidal and anti-fungal properties. Such a biological agent offers hope for growers concerned with protecting the environment while protecting their horticultural crops. Several commercial orchid growers from Florida tested NEEM oil on their orchid greenhouses. One Phalaenopsis grower used toxic sprays and still did not completely eliminate mealy bugs, scale, and slugs. Toxic sprays also caused allergic reactions in the greenhouse workers.
NEEM oil - at the rate of 1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp) per gallon of water with 3-4 drops of dish-washing soap as a surfactant) was sprayed on every plant, all benches, walkways, and under benches. The same procedure was repeated in two weeks and there was effective control of all pests including fire ants! Commercial growers have reported efficient and long-lasting pest control with NEEM oil. While NEEM oil does have an odor, described as like a strong “onion soup”, the odor only lingers for a short time. NEEM oil has been used safely and effectively on Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Phalaenopsis, Vanilla, and Vandas. However, it is NOT RECOMMENDEDfor Paphiopedilumsand other terrestrial orchids.
According to the information from the NEEM Association, the primary active insecticidal chemical compound found in the NEEM oil is Azadirachtin which acts as an antifeedant. This means plants with Azadirachtin on the leaves will not be eaten by insects. Instead, pests die of starvationl. Only insects that eat plants are adversely affected by NEEM leaving honeybees and other beneficial insects essentially unharmed. As to the fungicidal properties, when NEEM oil solution covers the leaves, fungal spores are prevented from sticking to the plant. If the spores do not stick, they can not grow, penetrate the leaves, and can not cause disease. You may want to experiment with this “Oil of Wonder” and see what it does for you plants! NOTE: Never spray if temperature exceeds 85!
RED SPIDER MITES Hot, dry summers are perfect conditions for the red spider mite to take hold. A tiny arachnite, these creatures can cause damage if left untreated. They can attack any orchid but love Cymbidiums. It is difficult to see anything but a tiny dot, if viewing the plant without magnification. Check your plants and follow the recommended “organic” control!
Red Spider Mite “Organic” Control” In a Blender Mix Buttermilk and Water at a 50/50 ratio Add a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap Blend for 15 seconds Pour into a hand held spray, or a regular sprayer if doing a large area such as a greenhouse. Spray front and back of all leaves allowing mixture to run down the pseudobulbs. Recheck the plants in two weeks.
NEVER USE TOBACCO ON ORCHIDS! From the website of THE NEW MEXICO ORCHID GUILD - www.nmog.org
FUNGUS Do you see pinpoint size, rust to dark colored spotting on your orchid leaves? If you have thoroughly inspected your plants and find no signs of insect infestation, consider bacterial fungal infections. How does one determine if your orchids have a fungus?Examine the leaves of the plant. Look for tiny spots, soft spots, or sunken areas on the leaves.
What caused this disease problem? Warm and humid environments with inadequate air circulation or ventilation is often the cause of fungal growth. The easiest and best solution to prevent this problem, is “good air movement”! Should you have the need for a more aggressive treatment - try the Tetracycline Drench! 1 Tetracycline Capsule -- dissolved in 5 Gallons of water in a large bucket Dip entire infected plant in the “Tetracycline Drench” Repeat the treatment daily for two more days (Note: save the “drench” for the three day treatment and then discard)
Re-examine plants in two weeks to determine that the fungus has stopped spreading. Tetracycline capsules are available at most Pet Centers in the Fish Section
FUNGUS GNATS Interestingly, there is an insect that can be used as an indicator of poor orchid care, event through they are commonly considered pests. Probably all orchid growers have at least some of this insect in their plant collection, namely, fungus gnats. The common fungus gnats in the hobby orchid collection are small, long-legged, long-antennaed, delicate flies with dark bodies and one pair of dusky-grey to black wings. Gnats are simply small flies, most of which do not bite.
The entire life cycle for the fungus gnats is about one month. They are common around orchids because their larvae are feeding on the fungi growing in potting media that is too moist or wet, is warm, and the media is decaying quickly. In other words, it is the over watering and over fertilizing of your orchids that bring out the best in these fungus gnats! Fungus Gnats are easy to control if you:- 1. Use yellow sticky cards sold to catch aphids. They are excellent for fungus gnats. 2. Repot your orchids on a regular basis and use mixes containing materials such as charcoal and coconut (fiber or chunks) that are slow to decay, or inorganic components such as perlite. 3. Do not keep the medium constantly wet and if possible allow to dry between waterings, especially the upper inch or so. 4. Keep fertilizer to a minimum need for the particular type of orchid, and adjust the potting medium used.
VIRUSES Paul J. Johnson of South Dakota State University states that most orchid growers “pamper” their plants. Two symptoms of this are over-watering and over-fertilizing which can cause break down of potting medium. In the case of orchids, the potting medium is not used as nutrition, as with most plants, but to help provide moisture in the artificial environ-ment of the home, office, or greenhouse, as well as temporary support while roots are growing. The more decayed the medium, the less breathable it is for the orchids’ roots. An anti-viral tonic is made as follows: 2 cups leaves from healthy green peppers 1/2 tsp. of liquid dish soap 2 cups of distilled water Put the leaves and water in a blender and liquefy the mix. Dilute the mixture with an equal amount of distilled water. Add the dish soap. Pour the solution into a hand held spray bottle. Then drench your orchids from top to bottom.
MEALY BUGS Are white, fluffy, cottony-looking spidery “bugs”, about 1/8 inch long, attacking your orchid plants, particularly Phalaenopsis types? These Mealy Bugs usually start in the leaf axils and then infest entire plants, eventually killing them, and will spread to your other plants. You can control them!! How? Combine a half and half mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. Just spray on the “mealy bugs” and they’ll be gone! Use a Q-tip “for hard to get ones” down in the leaf axils.
IMPERIAL & METRIC CONVERSION CHARTS There are a variety of U.S. Customary, British Imperial and metric (SI) units for volume. Why is metric the best choice?
The U.S. has two definitions of the pint and quart called the dry and wet measures. Each has a different size, something most Americans probably don't even realize.
The U.S. system has an ounce which refers to a fluid volume, but also an ounce that refers to mass; these are not interchangeable. In general, an ounce of liquid does not weigh an ounce!
The British Imperial system of liquid and dry measure uses only one ounce, pint and quart, but these differ from any of the U.S. measures as does the British Imperial gallon, peck and bushel.
IMPORTANT: In the charts below, several items have been rounded to the nearest unit, but are accurate enough to use when measuring fertilizers and insecticides.