Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture—March

As stated last month, this is the second in the series of terrestrial culture notes for growing orchids in Adelaide.

Terrestrial Culture—March

Les Nesbitt

The growing season is underway although much of the activity is underground out of sight early in the month. Repotting should be completed by now. Repotting tubers with long shoots is a tricky business requiring very gentle handling. Broken shoots and the death of some plants can result. It is better to leave them until next summer.

The weather can be hot up until equinox on about March 21st.  Be aware that autumn is a time of rapid change. Day-length decreases by 2 hours in the 6 weeks from the 1st of March. Our orchids respond to the longer cooler nights faster than we do. All pots should be in their growing positions for the coming winter. Increase watering in March so that by equinox the mix is damp right through to the bottom of the pot. The first Eriochilus cucullatus flowers are usually open by the last day of March with the majority blooming in April. The buds resemble a grain of wheat when they first emerge.

Eriochilus collinus
Eriochilus collinus (syn Eriochilus sp Adelaide Hills, Eriochilus aff cucullatus)

Thrip can be a major problem this month. Thrips love to suck on the flowers and will cause the flowers to shrivel up in a day or two. If using a pressure pack fly spray to kill thrips, hold the can at least half a metre away or you can freeze the flowers with the propellant. Repeat the spray every few days.

Pull out any weeds that germinate while they are still small. The early Greenhoods will be showing leaves and some of the blue tag Diplodiums may be showing buds. The Greenhoods will like a weak soluble fertiliser sprayed on their new leaves as they develop.

Deflasking can be done after equinox. April is the best month to deflask terrestrials as it is cooler and more humid with enough sun to harden the leaves before the cold and damp of winter. Flasks are often the only way to get the slow multiplying terrestrial orchids. Seedlings in flask that have tiny tubers establish more successfully.

Diuris tricolour in flask

Remove the second layer of shadecloth at the end of the month or first week in April. Keep up the night time hunts for pests which get more active as the nights cool.

Autumn is a good time to build or extend a terrestrial growing area. A terrestrial house should be sealed to keep out birds and animals and have shadecloth or wire mesh sides to allow the breeze to move through. I prefer a roof of angled 50% shadecloth. Other growers use a solid roof of plastic sheeting. A solid roof means you have to water your pots by hand, which is more work. It is very important that winter sun reaches your plants so site the shadehouse away from the winter shadows of buildings, high fences and evergreen trees. Galvanised mesh benching about 750 mm high will deter slugs and snails and is a convenient height for observing the pots.

food healthy nature forest
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – February

The following article by Les Nesbitt is from Journal of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia, February 2019 Volume 33 No 1. It is the first of a monthly series that Les is planning to produce for this year.

It should be noted that February in Australia is late summer and dry; and that this article has been written for Adelaide growing conditions. Many of the terrestrial orchids have been dormant.

Terrestrial Culture — February

The excitement is building with the new growing season about to commence. First leaves on the early species may show this month so start looking. Look with your eyes not your finger. Many a new shoot has been broken by that dastardly finger. Keep the blue tag pots moist. Blue tag orchids include Diplodiums, Ptst. baptistii and Corybas hispidus, all species from the East Coast of Australia.

Repotting and Watering

Finish repotting as soon as possible. Many tubers start shooting this month and are easily damaged by handling. Move all pots to their growing positions for the coming winter. For local orchids adapted to a dry January-March, commence watering in the last week of February and increase watering in March. The water will run down the side of a dry pot and out the drainage holes leaving a dry plug of mix in the middle where the tubers are. Watering three days in a row should wet the pot right through. Continue light watering weekly, so pots do not dry out completely again. Top up the cut she-oak needle layer on pots as needed. This is very important for the fungus dependent species which do not get repotted often.

Diuris tricolour in pot
Topped with she-oak cuttings

Hunting the Grubs and Slugs


Start the nightly visits to pick off the slugs, snails, earwigs and grubs. Hunts are more successful on cooler nights after rain or watering. If the new shoots get eaten off as soon as they appear you might not even see them and wonder why your orchids did not come up.

Labelling

If the names on labels are starting to fade rewrite them before the name is lost. Remember to pot up any spare tubers for raffles, stalls and the tuber bank later in the year.

Diplodium


The cauline group of greenhoods (Diplodium) from the eastern states are the first to shoot and ideally should have blue tags and have been repotted in January with watering commencing at the end of January. There are some 38 species in this group. Some come from high altitudes in NSW/Vic and start flowering there in February. They flower in March/April/May in Adelaide.

Diplodium in cultivation
Diplodium robustum – one of the cauline greenhoods, with both flowering and non-flowering plants


Points to note about Diplodiums:

  • Flowering plants look different to non-flowering plants. Flowering plants have small pointed leaves on the flower stem. Nonflowering plants have a rosette of rounded leaves flat on the ground. Usually there are only a small percentage of flowering plants.
  • They flower early in the growing season. Most flower in autumn with a few stragglers in winter. None flower in spring.
  • The rosette plants multiply and are easy to grow in regular terrestrial mixes. New tubers form in Autumn.
  • Diplodiums are not easy to flower in Adelaide. Flowers abort if too hot and/or too dry. Grow them in the coolest shady area there is. Keep pots shaded until late March. Local species are easier to flower as they flower in winter.
  • Poor tuber development from flowering plants is common. These plants sometimes die after flowering.
  • Flowering plants can be tall & slender and may need supporting with a wire cylinder. Stakes can damage the developing new tubers.

 

For additional information on growing terrestrial orchids click here 

Orchids in the Snow?

It’s Christmas and usually, despite Australia’s hot climate, we associate Christmas with snow and cold but we don’t tend to associate them with orchids. And yet, for Australia we do have not one but two Christmas flowering orchids in snow country, that is, on the isolated sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, an island where “[r]ain and snow are frequent, with only a few days each year with no precipitation”. Admittedly at this time of the year, being summer it is warmer with an average temperature of 7.9degrees Celsius.

The first species was only discovered in 1978 and not recognised as an unique species until 1993 when it was named Corybas dienemus (syn. Nematoceras diemenum). Previously it had been linked with Corybas macranthus.

The second orchid species is  Corybas sulcatus (syn. Nematoceras sulcatum) and this species, possibly the world’s rarest orchid, has gone travelling. Staff from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens have manage to collect and amazingly propagate the seed.  Amazingly because orchids, particularly the terrestrial orchids, are difficult to grow. It is now flowering, this Christmas season, but under very carefully controlled conditions in Hobart.

Click here and here to see images and read about this amazing journey.

So Christmas, orchids and snow do go together in Australia, albeit in the far flung island of the south.

Corybas sulcatus (Grooved helmet-orchid) is one of two endemic orchids which occur on Macquarie Island (Photo: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens) Image Source

Reference

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nematoceras_dienemum accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/macquarie-island/location/climate-weather-tides accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/news/2017/sub-antarctic-orchid-shows-true-colours-far-from-home accessed  23 December 2017

 

2017 October Cultural Notes

Steve Howard’s October Australian Epiphytes and Terrestrials Orchids Cultural Notes for Adelaide’s conditions.

Epiphytes

  • October sees many native epiphytes finish flowering and shortly it will be the best time for potting on and division as new growths are due shortly. The earlier you start, the more time the orchid has a chance to initiate new growth and mature it in time for next years flowering.
  • Remove spent flowers as leaving them on the plant in wet and humid conditions leads to rot caused by botryitis.
  • Be aware that aphids are in big numbers now and will cause grief to flowers and new growths.
    • Malathion at 1 ml/ litre of water will knock them out.
    • Repeat fortnightly for 6 weeks to break the breeding cycle.
  • Apply lime to plants grown in bark to counteract acidity.

Terrestrials

  • Most terrestrials nearing completion of the season.
  • Start drying off once leaves start yellowing. Keep water up to those staying green.
  • Additional shade helps now as suns intensity increases

Epiphytes in flower (1)
Annual NOSSA Spring Show

2017 September Cultural Notes

Steve Howard’s September Australian Epiphytes and Terrestrials Orchids Cultural Notes for Adelaide’s conditions.

Watering

Epiphytes

Mounts daily. Generally moistening roots only.

Pots weekly. Small pots twice weekly depending on weather.

Terrestrial

Pots can dry out faster on warmer days so keep a watch on conditions. Note some terrestrials will commence summer dormancy towards the end of the month. Those that do show signs can have water reduced somewhat.

Feeding

Terrestrials

Weak organics like Seasol and Powerfeed applied in low doses can benefit colony type greenhoods.

Epiphytes

Low nitrogen always best for native epiphytes. Top up epiphyte  pots with dolomite lime and a dash of blood and bone. Seasol a useful additive now as new seasons root start.

Pests and Disease

Epiphytes

Botrytis will rot new buds in cold damp weather as fast as it attacks new growths from now. Aphids will increase sharply this month and favour new growth and spikes.  Pyrethrum sprays eco friendly and work well, so does a hose but dry spike straight after.

Terrestrials

Some terrestrials will rot this month if conditions have been too wet or stagnant over winter. Note this for next season and add more drainage if this has been an issue.

General Advice

Keep flowering plants under cover to enjoy as can be rather wet and cold as well sunny and warm this month. Start repotting and division once flowering finished to give plants longest possible time to establish over new growing season.

Time to get busy and take note of the jobs of potting and division to be done. Sept and October are the best months to work on the collection before the hot weather sets in.

Do you have small slugs and snails in your pots?  Get a cheap coffee grinder and grind up your snail pellets. Sprinkle in the pot and water them in. Bite size for micro slugs and the baits get right into where they hide.

[Terrestrials are not repotted until summer – Steve will have more on that later]

Pterostylis 'Nodding Grace'

2017 August Cultural Notes

Steve Howard writes cultural notes for Adelaide conditions. These are his notes for August; for both epiphytes and terrestrials.

WATERING

Mounts daily.

Pots weekly. Small pots twice weekly depending on weather. Drier conditions for hot cold types. Terrestrial pots can dry out faster on warmer days so keep a watch on conditions.

FEEDING

Epiphytes: Recommending feeding towards months end as days lengthen. Many plants in strong spike growth and flowering now.

Terrestrials generally don’t need to be fed although weak organics like Seasol and Powerfeed applied in low doses can benefit colony type greenhoods.

PESTS AND DISEASES

Epiphytes: Botrytis will rot new buds in cold damp weather as fast as it attacks new growths from now. Aphids will increase sharply this month and favour new growth and spikes.  Pyrethrum sprays eco friendly and work well, so does a hose but dry spike straight after.

Some terrestrials will rot this month if conditions have been too wet or stagnant over winter. Note this for next season and add more drainage if this has been an issue.

 

GENERAL

Epiphytes: Keep flowering plants under cover  to enjoy. Soon will be the time to start thinking about re-potting and division as spring nears.

Keep flowering terrestrials out of strong winds and heavy rains as flower stems on some varieties are quite weak when grown in cultivation

Additional:

Later August will produce some warmer drying days as spring nears. Ensure small pots and plants don’t dry out at this time. Good time to check out seedling lists and prepare orders to ensure your plants arrive at the commencement of a new growing season.

den-alick-dockrill-paleface-jb-1

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2017 July Cultural Notes

Steve Howard regularly writes orchid cultural notes for various orchid clubs in South Australia. His notes are tailored specifically conditions in Adelaide. The following are his notes for both epiphytes and terrestrials for the month of July.

Epiphytes

  • Water mounted native epiphytes daily; pots weekly and small pots twice weekly depending on the weather. Hot cold types require drier conditions. Generally none to once monthly for me.
  • Colder weather slows down their metabolism in winter. Foliar feeding is beneficial.
  • Keep water out of new growths to avoid rot. Clones prone to this need to be moved under hard roof cover to keep drier.
  • Check under leaves for scale.

Epiphytes in flower (1)
Annual NOSSA Spring Show

Terrestrials

  • Weed pots as the weeds appear and ensure that they don’t get too wet.
  • Remove rotted growths.
  • Start baiting for slugs and snails as spikes emerge from protective sheaths.
  • Provide hard cover during wet weather to stop botrytis spotting and rotting out spikes.

Thelymitra plants in pots

Gleanings from the Journals: Terrestrial Potting Mixes

The following article by Les Nesbitt was published in May 2017 Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal Volume 41 No 4. The article relates to Australian Native Orchids.

Suggested potting mixes for potted native terrestrial orchids have changed greatly over the years as some ingredients such as peat moss have become too expensive or difficult to obtain. Basic requirements are that the mix should be free draining yet retain moisture and should have an organic component that breaks down slowly and does not go mushy in winter. Most species are not too fussy and will grow in a variety of mixes.

Those tubers that desiccate in summer do better in a heavy mix that contains clay. Examples are Diurus behrii, D. punctata and Pterostylis nutans.

Tubers that rot easily in wet soil in Spring prefer an open coarse sandy mix. An example is Thelymitra antennifera.

A dry mix containing a higher proportion of sand is usually recommended for Caladenia and Glossodia species grown in pots. In contrast these orchids grow in clay soil on my property in the Adelaide Hills but there excess water can run off. In pots, excess water has to drain through the potting mix.

An organic component is vital to feed orchid fungi.

Some Basic Ingredients:

  • Washed sand with rounded particles. (Not sharp sand as this sets hard in summer.)
  • Soil (sandy loam, clay based loam, mountain soil)
  • Native seedling mix (Bark based – sieve to remove splinters)
  • Native potting mix (can be sieve* to remove larger particles)
  • Chopped and sieved* gum leaves
  • Perlite or isolite (but will make tubers harder to identify at repotting time)
  • Composted leaf mould & buzzer chips (but needs to be gathered now for use next summer)
  • Cauarina (She-oak) needles chopped for surface mulch

Some Suggested Potting Mixes

  1. ANOS-Vic dry mix – 2 parts coarse sand, 1 part coastal sandy loam, 1 part composted buzzer chips, 1 part leaf mould
  2. 100% native potting mix. (Works for drought resistant tubers, viz. Pterostylis curta & P. pedunculata)
  3. Native potting mix (sieved*) and isolite
  4. Native potting mix and sand
  5. Les Nesbitt’s current mix of 50% sand, 20% hills soil, 25% seedling potting mix (sieved), and 5% chopped & sieved* string bark gum leaves.
  6. Dry mix, 50% coarse sand, 25% perlite & 25% native potting mix
  7. Heavy mix, 50% clay soil, 30% sand and 20% organic matter

* Use a 5mm sieve

thelymitra-plants-1.jpg

Thelymitra in cultivation

Watering When: cauline type Pterostylis

A common question asked is when to water terrestrials. The short answer is to keep them dry over summer but there are variations such as was previously posted about the watering regime for Chiloglottis. In the March 2017 NOSSA Journal, Les Nesbitt’s article highlights another watering variation.

Blue Tags

Les Nesbitt

Jane Higgs’ lovely pot of the red form of Pterostylis coccina in flower had a blue tag. Jane explained that a blue tag meant that watering had to commence in January for that pot and not at the end of February as is normal for most terrestrials. Start watering later and there will be no flowers. Her pots are under a solid roof. She explained that in the ANOS Vic cultural booklet (Cultivation of Australian Native Orchids) there is a list of cauline type greenhoods which she tags with blue, and includes Pterostylis decurva, aestiva, laxa, coccina, revoluta, reflexa, truncata, robusta, alata, and fischii. To this list can be added abrupta and also the rosette types ophioglossa and baptistii which shoot early.

I have trouble growing and flowering this group of Autumn flowering greenhoods. I went home and dragged out my ANOS Vic booklet and brushed up on the notes. I found several old blue labels in the shed and cut them into strips. I now have blue labels in my pots and the pots are grouped together in the shadehouse where they get afternoon shade. They were given a thorough watering but it will be too late to expect flowers this year. I find large tubers of this group rot easily in Spring and the plants go dormant earlier than other greenhoods. I will try to remember to move the pots under cover in September to let them dry off.

Diplodium in cultivation
Diplodium robustum – one of the cauline greenhoods

Having a visual reminder would certainly make it easier to know when and which pots to water. Obviously other coloured tags can be used instead of blue, so long as they stand out from the label.

 

2017 February Winning Picture

1702 sm CC Cryptostylis subulata

The first competition for the year followed a wet orchid theme with three of the orchids being South Australian swamp orchids and the fourth from Western Australia; though not a swamp dweller, it grows in shallow moist soil.

The outstanding winner was Claire Chesson’s Cryptostylis subulata, followed by Robert Lawrence’s Spiranthes alticola, Rosalie Lawrence’s Pterostylis falcata and Pauline Meyer’s Thelymitra villosa.

Known to South Australian’s as the Moose Orchid, elsewhere it is either Large Tongue Orchid or Cow Orchid. This tall (40 to 110 cms) evergreen orchid is common in the eastern states where it is commonly found in damp areas as well as swamps. but in South Australia it is limited to swamps and is rated as endangered.

Leo Davis makes some interesting observations about the structure of this flower in his article Upside Upside Down which is well worth reading (https://nossa.org.au/2017/03/03/upside-upsisdedown/).

Whilst not an easy orchid to grow it has been cultivated although seed set has not always occurred. Helen Richards, an experienced Victorian terrestrial orchid grower, shared in an email how she grows them.

Cryptostylis species grow from brittle rhizomes which can be quite long and they resent frequent disturbance. Mine are potted into a pot therefore that is large enough for the long roots and which will accommodate further growth for several years. My mix is ANOS basic mix, the same as I use for Pterostylis and many other genera. They need to be kept moist all year round, especially in summer when they flower and new leaves appear, their active growing period. I grow them in an area of moderate light. Others have seen pollinators active on the flowers but I haven’t. However seed capsules frequently develop without my assistance with a toothpick. Richard Thomson says they haven’t had success germinating the seed.”

Reference

https://nossa.org.au/2017/03/03/upside-upsisdedown/

http://bie.ala.org.au/species/http://id.biodiversity.org.au/name/apni/89052

http://saseedbank.com.au/species_information.php?rid=1288

Personal communications Helen Richards (OAM), Chairman Australian Orchid Foundation

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA

The other entries :

1702 sm RWL Spiranthes alticola

1702 sm RAL Pterostylis falcata

1702 sm PM Thelymitra villosa

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