Terrestrial Culture – December & January

The following two articles are from the December 2019 NOSSA Journal. Written by Les Nesbitt, they cover the months of December and January.

Terrestrial Culture – December

A few late orchids such as Diuris drummondii may still have green leaves and flowers so will need watering every couple of days. Most terrestrials will have died down by now on the Adelaide Plain. Watering consists of a quick squirt with the hose once a week to moisten the top 1 cm to prevent tubers shrivelling. A small terrestrial collection of pots can be moved to a cooler place out of direct sun under a bench or to the south side of the house. A large collection must stay on the benches so extra shadecloth is added for the summer.

Repotting is in full swing now. Keep a stock of the required materials on hand including sand, soil, native potting mix, clay, blood & bone, chopped sheoak needles, smashed and sieved gum leaves pots labels, shadecloth squares for crocking, pencils to write on plastic, sieve and bowl, watering can & shadehouse benching. A system for washing and sterilizing pots before reuse is essential to control disease and virus.

Pots dry out quickly in hot windy weather. Water a day or two before repotting so that the potting mix is just moist. If too dry dust will be a problem and tubers can be damaged by hard lumps of mix. Too wet and the mix sticks to the tubers and clogs the sieve. The ideal is a mix that is easy to work when separating wet pots take tubers from mix. It helps to move some pots under cover in case of rain. Wet pots take several days to dry out which can hold up repotting. Alternatively, a sheet of plastic over the pots when rain is forecast will shed the water but remember to weigh it down with bricks or it will blow away.

Pick out the tubers and put them in a kitchen sieve sitting in a container of water. Use a jet of water to wash the tubers clean and spread them on a towel to dry. Discard any tubers that are soft or have turned black. If the tubers are healthy, firm and a pale colour the mix can be reused. Colony type tubers should have at least doubled in number since last year. Add half fresh mix to the old mix and add a big pinch of blood & bone fertilizer. Should the old mix be dark in colour, or the tubers not be healthy looking then throw out the old mix and pot up in new mix.

Select the pot size, place a shadecloth square in the pot to retain the mix when it dries out. Fill the pot with mix to about 2cm from the top. Select the largest tubers for a show pot and push them into the mix with the shoot on top. The small tubers can be potted in another pot to grow bigger next year. Cover the tubers with more mix and almost fill the pot. Firm the mix down with your hand or use the bottom of an empty pot. Cover the surface with chopped sheoak needles. Write out a label with the name of the orchid and the provenance,
if known. On the back of the label note the number of tubers and the date planted. Water the pot gently so as to not disturb the needles. This helps settle the soil around the tubers and makes subsequent watering easier. Put the finished pots back in the shadehouse to await the next growing season.

Send off your tuber bank order before Christmas or you might miss out on your choices. The tuber bank is a great way to increase your terrestrial collection.*

*Tubers are sold only to financial members

Terrestrial Culture – January

Start watering the blue tag pots in January. Pots of orchids from the East Coast of Australia where it rains in Summer are given a blue tag as the culture is different compared to local terrestrial orchids. This early shooting group includes most cauline greenhoods, Pterostylis baptistii and Corybas hispidus. Local South Australian tubers can be kept completely dry until at least mid-February if pots are shaded.

When your tuber bank order arrives, pot up the tubers straight away. Plant each species in a separate 125mm or 150mm pot. Don’t forget to record the provenance name (if known) on the label and in your recording system. The
provenance is the location of the original collection. Provenance is important because in 10 years the orchid will possibly be extinct in that area as suburbia expands or weeds take over the habitat.

Summer watering is important. Too little and tubers may dry up. Too much and they may rot or come up early before the heat of summer is over when they will be attacked by thrip and aphids. A light sprinkle on top of the pots once a
week works OK.

Try to finish repotting this month. If left until February there is more chance of breaking off the new shoots which can be well developed by late February.

Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – June

It’s June and the the orchids tubers are on the move. And yes there are some tasks for this month but as can be seen by Les Nesbitt’s notes in the June 2019 NOSSA Journal (Volume 43 N0 5) there is not a lot to do.

Diplodium robustum  (syn Pterostylis robusta) – one of the cauline greenhoods


June is cold, often with frosty mornings and sunny days. Terrestrials can take -20C but any colder results in permanent damage. If you live in the country, you may need a solid roof for frost protection. Frosts are rare these days in Adelaide. I have black rubbish bins full of water under the benching in my glasshouse to moderate the temperature. The bins absorb heat in the daytime and radiate it out at night. If it is not frosty it will be cold wet and cloudy. Growth will be slow and there are few flowers out. There is not a lot to do in the terrestrial house.

Pterostylis robusta and Acianthus pusillus flower this month. If there are no flowers this year, they probably aborted due to high temperatures or excessive dryness over summer/autumn. Try putting the pots under the bench in a cooler position next summer.

The last of the terrestrial orchid leaves should appear this month although there are always a few stragglers. Tubers that formed in the bottom of a pot have a long way to grow to reach the surface. Sometimes they come out the drainage holes. If no plants appear, do not throw the pot away. Sometimes orchids take a year off and send up a leaf the following year. They are capable of forming a new tuber from the old without making a leaf. Gather together the “empty” pots in a corner. They can be left for another year or you can knock them out next month to try to establish what can be improved. Most weeds have germinated by now so weeding gets easier.

It is hard to drag yourself away from the heater this month but at least once a week go out on a wet night with a torch and examine your orchids for slugs, snails, earwigs, cockroaches, grubs and beetles. They always feed on your best orchid buds.

The SAROC Fair is in June. Clean up your flowering pots for the NOSSA stand. Other orchid clubs hold winter shows in June & July. Go along and see if there are any interesting terrestrials on the trading table.

Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – May

The following article by Les Nesbitt is taken from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal, May 2019, Volume 43 No 4. The article has been slightly modified with editorial changes in black.

The majority of terrestrials will have leaves showing by month’s end. A few stragglers like South Australian Corybas and Western Australian Cyrtostylis huegelii will not appear until June so do not panic yet.

Pterostylis truncata (little dumpy) flowers this month with a large flower on a short stem. This species is given a blue tag to denote watering from January otherwise there will be no flowers under Adelaide conditions.

Tasks for May

  • Move the Autumn flowering greenhoods under cover as the flowers open because they generally have tall thin stems that will bend over under the weight of rain drops on the flowers.
  • Rot can be a serious problem in May. Do not overwater if there is little rain; and inspect plants closely and often. The rot can be on the leaves or below ground. Look for plants that are not thriving and give them a gentle tug to see if there are any
  • Move infected plants away from healthy plants to a hospital area under cover. Water from below by standing the pot in a saucer of water. Keep the leaves dry. Good air movement and at least 5 hours sunlight a day are essential for the next 3 months.
  • The fast multiplying orchids will appreciate a weak dose of liquid fertilizer once a month until spring.
  • Weeding is a chore this month as weed seeds germinate after rain. Pull them out while they are small maybe even with the help of tweezers.

Virus

Inspect plants closely for virus as the symptoms show in the emerging leaves. All plants can be infected with viruses of which there are many. There is no cure for virus. Infected plants must be destroyed to prevent virus spreading to healthy plants via sap sucking insects or human activities spreading sap. Infection during the growing season does not show up in the leaves until the following year. It is difficult to eliminate virus entirely hence the need to be vigilant.

Signs of Infection

  • Virused Pterostylis leaves may have light & dark green blotches or be thicker than normal and look crippled or turned up at the edges.
  • Another sign to look for are pointed pimples on Caladenia and Pterostylis
  • Virus is harder to spot on the narrow leaves of Diuris and Thelymitra. Healthy leaves are straight with almost parallel sides. Leaves that have kinks or are curved probably have a virus. Variegated blotching may be present in severe cases.

Managing

  • If only one or two plants, in a community-pot, show symptoms they can be lifted out soon after the leaves appear and before side stolons form.
    • A tool can be made from wire to do this. Bend a foot on the bottom of the wire and a loop handle on the other end.
    • Push the foot into the mix alongside the infected plant, rotate the foot under the tuber and lift the plant out.
  • At potting time (when tubers are dormant)
    • A sieve is a great time saver during repotting but at the same time an excellent way to spread virus.
    • Do not shake the sieve when tubers are present.
    • Pick out the tubers as you see them and drop them into a smaller kitchen sieve sitting in an ice-cream container of water. The sand and dirt wash off and falls through leaving clean tubers behind.
    • Use a jet of water to remove any remaining dirt.
    • Pat the lumps of mix in the big sieve to crush them to expose any tubers.
    • Shaking the sieve is the equivalent of sandpapering the tubers, a sure way to spread virus.
  • If several plants are virused it is better to dump the whole pot, soil and all.
  • Refuse new plants that look suspect.

ALL EFFORTS SHOULD BE MADE TO ELIMINATE VIRUS FROM AN ORCHID COLLECTION.

Pterostylis 'Nodding Grace'

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'