Spotlight: Aerangis biloba

I am excited to bring you a spotlight post on one of my favourite orchids – the Aerangis biloba. In this post, I cover its growth and bloom cycle along with the care I provide, to ensure it’s successful blooming.

The Aerangis biloba ticks all the right boxes for an orchid hobbyist. It is compact, has a lovely foliage, bears beautiful white blooms, is hardy and needs very little care. At least, this has been my experience. I bought the orchid in July 2021 as a midsize plant. I mounted it on cork bark and it loved its new home. It produced new roots that hugged the cork and 11 months later, voila, it gave me blooms. I was super-thrilled at my success.

Aerangis biloba in bloom

Of course, it has a lot to do with the tropical climate of Mumbai, which is warm and humid throughout the year, and is therefore ideally suited for these warm-growing type of orchids. However, I have seen people growing these under controlled conditions in their indoor setups even in diverse climatic conditions, and they grow pretty well and bloom.

The Aerangis biloba, is hard to come by as it is relatively expensive. So if you come across it, it’s worth making it a part of your collection. Just provide the right conditions for it to grow and bloom, and it will make you very happy.

A little about its native habitat – The Aerangis biloba originates from the western and central parts of Africa. It thrives in warm and humid conditions. It grows well in dappled light and does not like being exposed to bright sunlight. The orchid thrives in 80% humidity, but is hardy enough to withstand occasional drying up, say like when you are on a holiday for a week (at least, this has been my experience). It becomes a little dehydrated, but bounces right back when it gets hydrated. Being epiphytic, it prefers being mounted on bark, but can grow equally well when potted.

A must-have in your collection

The Aerangis biloba is a compact and slow growing orchid. So it fits right in if you have a small grow space like mine. It is monopodial, meaning it grows like the Phalaenopsis or Vanda orchids on a single stem or axis. The leaves are elongated, dark green in colour and have an interesting mix of reticulate and parallel veining, which makes them very attractive. They also have dark spots, which are naturally produced in response to the amount of light it receives. So don’t get worried if the leaves develop them. The leaves are elongated and end in an attractive two lobed tip, a characteristic from which this species gets its name–biloba.

If you prefer watching the YouTube video over reading the post, please click on the link

As for its culture and care, the Aerangis biloba grows well on wooden mounts as well as in organic media such as bark chips with some moisture retentive sphagnum moss or cocoa chips. This orchid loves a good wet-dry cycle. It does not like to be in a continuously moist environment. I mounted mine almost two years back on a cork mount. It established itself well in no time. I added a generous amount of moss to maintain humidity levels. However, I did notice that the new roots did not like staying in the damp moss. They moved away from the moss and attached themselves directly onto the cork bark. I regularly fertilise the orchid with NPK 20:20:20, seaweed kelp, as well as with Calcium nitrate and Epsom salt during periods of active growth. I minimise fertilising in winter since there is a slowdown in growth.

The orchid continues to grow slowly by producing new leaves all year round, even when it is in bloom. After a dormant period in winter when growth slows down, the orchid regains active growth and develops pendant racemes or spikes that shoot out from the axial buds on the stem in spring. The spike begins developing buds all through summer, that is the months of April and May.

Buds developing on the Aerangis biloba

Once the spike grows, nubbings begin appearing on the spike. Interestingly, the buds at the tip of the spike begin forming first followed by the bud formation towards the base of the spike. Once they are big enough, the tips separate out from the spike and tiny spurs are visible. The buds begin swelling up and the spurs elongate as temperature and humidity increase to very high levels, causing the clouds to saturate.

Now, here’s the thing that amazes me — the orchid opens its first blooms when Mumbai receives its first monsoon shower. Maybe it’s the humidity saturation that finally helps the blooms open up. As opposed to the growth habit of other orchids, this one blooms first from the tip of the pendent spike, and the blooms towards the base of the spike open last.

The blooms are white in colour with perfect bilaterally symmetrical lanceolate petals and sepals. The white centre gives it a beautiful, pristine look, its beauty undiluted by strong colours. The only colour is a subtle peach tint at the tips of the sepals. The spur is also peach coloured, which adds a lovely contrast and breaks away from making the appearance of the blooms too stark. The spur is thin and transparent too. If you look closely, you can see the level of nectar in it, which is an ample reward for a moth/butterfly with a long proboscis that comes along to suck the nectar and in the process, pollinates the flower.

A word of caution. The petals are thin and delicate. So avoid wetting them or exposing them to rain as they do not dry out fast during the monsoons. The blooms, on being wet, are prone to developing botyritis, a bacterial/fungal rot that appears as wet and dark patches on the petals and sepals.

The flowers typically last for around ten to fifteen days. Last year, I had around five blooms that bloomed successfully. This year, the numbers increased. I have a total of thirteen blooms.

The orchid developed two spikes this year, but only one of them developed and the other aborted due to extreme dry summer conditions. The dry and warm spell has extended for almost four months, impacting the health of some of my orchids. On hindsight, I realise I couldn’t keep up with the humidity requirement of the Aerangis biloba. Next year , I am planning on giving it a temporary superficial padding of sphagnum moss, that will keep it hydrated and ensure good humidity all through the bloom season from March to June. of course, I would be removing the extra moss when the monsoons set in.

My recent post featuring the blooming Aerangis biloba

All in all, I am very pleased with the orchid and how it is growing despite an extended summer and lack of humidity. If you noticed, I have added a seedling on the left since this one is developing to the right of the mount. I hope to have a bushy plant in a couple of years.

I recommend this orchid for your collection as it is hardy and fuss free. The blooms are delicate and beautiful. If you grow it on a mount, the show will indeed be very beautiful. The bloom display will make you feel like you have a brought a slice of nature right into your living room. And to top it, the orchid has a lovely floral fragrance like that of jasmine at dawn and dusk. However, there is no fragrance during the day or at night.

I have some browning in the blooms and some of the blooms have been chewed up. It looks like thrip damage. Some of my other orchids have also been affected. I will spray some organic insecticide such as neem oil with a dishwasher liquid to take care of the issue. If the issue is not resolved, then, I might try out a suitable pesticide, though I try to avoid their use as much as possible.

That said, thank you so much for being here. Please subscribe to the blog for regular updates on orchid care. You can also check out my youTube channel if you are looking for tips on orchid care. Please leave a comment if you have any queries regarding this orchid. I will get back to you on it.

Until my next, happy growing!

Unboxing my Summer orchid haul

An orchid haul unboxing is filled with excitement, novelty, an element of surprise as well as a whole lot of suspense and delight. So read on or watch my YouTube video to know details of my latest unboxing.

I have off lately been on a self-pampering spree. I reorganised my small grow space to accommodate my last haul and realised that I could add just a couple more. You know how good we get at accommodating more:) That’s the orchid hobby for you. Once bitten, you are forever smitten.

At the outset, let me clarify that this is not a sponsored post. I heard from a friend that the Tree of Life Orchid Nursery at Kerala sells great orchids and so I decided to try them out.

I checked them out online. I must say, I was pretty impressed by the kind of orchids they had on sale. I ended up buying six and had to suppress myself from ordering more. I am eager to see what they have sent me.

At the outset, I would like to thank you guys for the overwhelming support that you have given my blog and YouTube channel. It means a lot to me. It gives me inspiration to put across better content with each post. Thank you once again for being here and putting the wind beneath my wings.

If you missed out on my spring haul unboxing post, you can check it out here.

After my last unboxing video, I was wondering why an unboxing elicits so much excitement not only in me, but also in anyone reading the post or watching an unboxing video. The way I see it, a product is no longer just a product for a buyer, or in this case your prized orchids are not just items you purchased. It’s the joy they bring that makes them special. So unboxings are all about the experience they provide.

We all look forward to such experiences. Whether it’s the type of orchids on sale, the quality and health of the orchids or even whether they are ready to bloom, or come with blooms.

Another thing I would like to bring up is the importance of good packaging. I can’t stress enough on this subject. Orchid sellers need to ensure your orchids arrive in good condition. After all, you don’t want a damaged orchid that will struggle and finally give up or suffer from setback which will take years to recover and bloom.

We want our orchids to be healthy and in perfect condition when they arrive. Now here is what is important. Since you are paying a premium price for orchids, and shipping charges, it becomes the responsibility of the vendor to ensure that the orchids reach you in good condition. As a hobbyist, who spends on this wonderful hobby, you need to get your money’s worth – What I mean by this is that you should receive healthy orchids in a well-packed condition.

I have had some pretty bad experiences and lost orchids as they could not revive from the stress they underwent in transit. So the next time you place an order, remember to add a note to the vendor insisting on healthy orchids and good packaging. If you receive damaged or poor quality orchids, you must immediately send pictures of the damaged/diseased orchids and speak to the vendor about a possible refund or replacement, especially in the case of the orchid being damaged beyond repair and does not survive.

Buy orchids from reputed nurseries that sell healthy orchids and arrive in good shape.

However, not all experiences are bad. There are a lot of conscientious sellers, who take pride in providing the best to their customers. They are in the business to stay and grow. It’s always better to buy from such sellers as they maintain good standards. As discerning customers, we need to raise the bar on what is acceptable and what is not.

That said, here is how my unboxing experience turned out to be.

The packaging looked good and said a lot about the care the seller had taken to ensure the orchids arrived in good shape.

I have also made a YouTube video on this haul. If you prefer watching the video over reading the post, you can check out the same here:

Click on this link to watch the video

Here’s the description of the orchids:

  1. Phalaenopsis Sesame – This is a Phalaenopsis hybrid. It came with beautiful blooms. The blooms looked a little stressed, but pretty nonetheless. There were a few buds too. So I had more blooms to look forward to. It is named so because of its speckled pattern. I like spotted Phalaenopsis. I don’t have any in my collection. This one, I particularly liked, as it opens out as a deep red freckled pattern on a creamish backdrop. As the flower gets older, the cream background gradually fades to a pure white and the freckles take on a deep magenta colour. The variation makes it very interesting. It’s like getting two orchids for the price of one.
  2. Cattleya (Iwanagara) Appleblossom Hihimanu – This is a healthy Cattleya. It had plump and shiny pseudobulbs. They were bursting with good health. And they also had developing sheaths. I am glad I got a matured ready-to-bloom plant. The blooms of this variety are cream coloured with a deep yellow in the centre. Flowers are big in size and bloom in twos or threes from each spike. This one had been on my wish list for a very long time. So I am excited and eager to see it bloom.
  3. Epicyclia Diurna BS – This is an Encyclia hybrid. It looked very healthy. It had bloomed before and also had sheaths. I had my reservations about its ID as it looked so much like the Serena O’Neil. The nursery got back with a confirmation that this is the Encyclia diurna, but I still think that it is a case of mistaken identity. This could be the Epicyclia Mabel Kanda, which is a parent of the Serena O’Neil. Anyway, the blooms are an attractive combination of pastel green petals and sepals with a pleasantly contrasting pink lip. The bloom display will be amazing and I am eagerly waiting for it to do its thing and shower me with lots of blooms.
  4. Cattleya Battalinii X Cattleytonia Maui Maid White BS – This is a hybrid Cattleya again. The plant was compact in size compared to other Cattleyas. It blooms multiple times in a year, which made it a real winner. The blooms are white with a hint of pale green in the sepals. Just my favourite type. Size of the blooms is 6-10 cm and they arise in clusters. As with Cattleyas, this one is fragrant too, which is something else I look forward to in orchids. I remember having a similar no-id orchid when I just began growing orchids. After a repot, I guess I overwatered it and it slowly went down-hill. So I am glad I am glad I got a similar or, perhaps the same one. It would be wonderful to bloom this one successfully. You know, you can never forget the ones you lose. You always want them back in your collection.
  5. Cattleya violacea Variety Alba – This is a small to medium sized cattleya. It requires 60-70% humidity, which explains why it was potted in sphagnum moss. The blooms are white, very beautiful, and very fragrant. I always gravitate towards orchids with white blooms and have several in my collection.This may take a year or two to bloom. It seems like a long wait, but totally worth it.
  6. Ascocentrum miniatum BS – This is a compact vandaceous orchid. I prefer buying small sized orchids as I can fit more into my small grow space. The foliage is dark green and it has some basal Keikis, which will grow up to form a bushy plant. The blooms are an attractive bright orange in colour, beautifully offset against the dark green foliage. The blooms are tiny, but the numbers in each spike make up for the lack in size. You also get multiple spikes, which makes it a lovely and vibrant addition to your collection.

This was indeed exciting. I am more than pleased with my purchases. I recommend Tree of Life as one of the top nurseries in India. My first experience with them has been really good and I will continue buying from them. You can check out the vendor here.

That said, I would also like to request you to buy cultivated orchids from nurseries and leave the naturally growing orchid species to thrive in their natural environment. These orchids are becoming extinct due to collection and selling by locals. They are rapidly disappearing from their natural habitat. We need to conserve the biodiversity so that our future generations can enjoy them too. So the next time you spot wild orchids, let them be. Please don’t bring them home with you. Also, please don’t purchase such orchids sourced from the forests. I urge you to support orchid nurseries that sell cultivated species.

Wild orchids are becoming extinct due to clearing up of forests

On this note, I thank you for being here. Please subscribe to the blog for regular updates on orchid care.

Until my next, happy growing!

Bud blast in my orchids

Every once in a while, we come across orchid buds that dry up and drop. This is referred to as bud blast.  Read on to know how I made a few changes to overcome this issue.

Bud blast is every orchid hobbyist’s  worst nightmare. It can make you very anxious and disappointed, especially after the hard work you have put in to care for your orchid, and of course, not to forget the long wait for its blooms.

Blooms are much awaited, so bud blast can be very disappointing

I recently had issues with bud blasts in my orchids.

Now, here is what is important. Bud blasts can be caused by many different reasons such as inadequate fertilising, sudden temperature shifts, drop in humidity levels, transport stress, inadequate watering, and many others. However,  sudden change in temperature, exposure to warm dry breeze and dehydration are the most commonly observed reasons causing bud blast.

I discovered recently that orchids having bud spikes suffer in fluctuating environments  and therefore need stable conditions to successfully bloom.

The Renanthara monachica buds began drying up and shriveling just before blooming

Two of my orchids suffered bud blasts due to sudden dry and warm climatic fluxes that dried up the root system far too quickly. The first one is the Renanthara monachica, which was bare-rooted. It generally blooms during the warmer months and is pretty resistant to very bright light and warm temperatures. The second one is the Rodriguezia venusta. It came mounted on a small piece of teak wood and has a good root system. It needs bright indirect light and warm temperatures to spike. I have observed that both these orchids are sensitive to their roots drying out even for a short while. They react to this shock by drying up buds and spikes.

I live in Mumbai, which has a tropical climate

Let me give you a brief idea of the climatic conditions of my area. Mumbai has a tropical climate. Humidity levels and temperatures are very conducive for growing orchids. But  during October and November, day time temperatures begin to rise and humidity levels begin to drop. This dry heat, coupled with warm breeze, leads to bud blasts in orchids. A similar phenomenon takes place in March and April, when temperatures begin rising along with a dip in humidity levels. So there is a high incidence of bud blast during these months. 

You can watch my YouTube video on this subject if you prefer a more graphic discussion.

My recent video on bud blast in my orchids

To give you a better perspective, I want to give you an idea of the conditions I provide in my grow area.

I grow my orchids on the  windowsills of my third floor apartment. Since my apartment is west facing, most of my windows get strong direct afternoon light, which is not suitable for orchids. However, I have made some makeshift arrangements using a white shade cloth to shield my orchids from direct sunlight and heat during the afternoons. This arrangement works great for me. I tuck the shade cloth up after 4 pm, when it is relatively cooler. And I follow this throughout the year. My orchids continue to grow well in these conditions. 

Now, coming back to my affected orchids,  I purchased them in October 2022. They were healthy. The Renanthara monachica came with a tiny spike. All was well and the buds developed to blooming size. I was excited and eagerly awaited for the buds to open. Unfortunately, just before blooming, the buds turned a deep orange and shrivelled up one after the other. This could have been triggered due to dehydration as I went on a holiday for about five days. So I put it down to stress and dehydration. The bud blasts continued with only one or two blooms opening. I was very disappointed, but thought that it could be due to stress caused by a change in the environment coupled with lack of hydration when I was away. The orchid, however, continued to grow normally.

In March, I was excited to notice a bud spike again. I was filled with the anticipation of a good bloom season this time. Unfortunately the mature buds began blasting just before opening. I kept shifting the orchid to cooler places, misted it several times during the day, but the buds continued to blast. I lost a total of 9 buds, one after the other.

I was desperately trying to find the cause. It did point out to inadequate nutrition, but I brushed aside the thought since all my other orchids looked healthy, with a lot of vigour. At this juncture, I learnt from Danny, aka Miss Orchid Girl’s YouTube videos that the Renanthara monachica does not like it if its roots dry up. A shout out to Danny for providing me with this tip. It did come as  a surprise since I was under the impression that Vandas grow better when kept bare-rooted. I learnt that this one, unlike other Vandas, prefers perpetual humid conditions around its root system.

Moisture around the root system is crucial during the bloom period

The obvious explanation to this phenomenon is that the orchid’s nutritional requirements increase during the bloom cycle. A dehydrated orchid is often malnourished and lacking in energy for blooming. The orchid cannot cope with such nutritional deficiencies during this crucial period and therefore decides to abort or eliminate the buds in order to conserve energy for its survival.

Having understood the cause, I immediately used small grade cork bark chips along with a handful of coconut husk chips to pot the bare-rooted orchid. I layered  the bottom of the pot with a few coconut chips, which are moisture retentive and spread some cork chips on top of it for providing aeration. I repeated the layers again and placed the basket in the pot. I added more cork chips until the root system was fully covered. I watered the orchid and allowed the excess water to drain off. With a silent prayer I placed the orchid in its place.

The next morning, to my surprise, the bud had not blasted, instead the orchid had a beautiful bloom. I was excited over my, let’s say,  overnight success? But I wanted to test it further. After two days, a second bloom opened and I was thrilled over my success. Since then, the remaining buds have opened normally.

I am happy about my success and wanted to share this experience and learning with you. An obvious takeaway from this experience is to maintain adequate humidity levels around the root system to provide the plant with a continuous supply of nutrients, thereby preventing bud blast.

So we need to be extra-cautious and keep a lookout for these unexpected situations, especially if the roots get completely dried up even for a short while, as in the case of my affected bare-rooted and mounted orchids. We need to react at the earliest to arrest it at the early stages.

My phalenopsis orchids bloomed unaffected despite the sudden rise in temperature

Of course, not all orchids are sensitive to these fluctuations. My phalaenopsis orchids were also in spike, but continued to develop and bloom unaffected by the dry and warm temperatures. Maybe, because their roots are sitting in a moisture retentive medium. So maintaining adequate moisture around the root system is important for successfully blooming your orchid. This is especially important in the case of bare-rooted and mounted orchids, which are more prone to drying up quickly.

Bud blast in the Rodriguezia venusta

But I wasn’t so lucky with my other orchid, the Rodrigezia venusta. I did not get the chance to salvage the damage. So I can, at best,  put it down to a good learning experience. The orchid seemed to be growing just fine. It had some coconut husk around the roots, which was sufficient to give it a good wet-dry cycle. I left it undisturbed, and in February, it developed two spikes. But both spikes turned yellow and shrivelled up due to the warm dry breeze. I shifted it to a cooler place, but the damage was already done.  So I will just have to wait until the orchid blooms next year. It has now gone into vegetative growth. I am planning to mount it on  cork bark and will provide it with some extra moss during its bloom cycle to maintain sufficient moisture levels around the roots.

Orchids are resilient – give them the right care, and they will thrive

Time and again, we will face such challenges. Overcoming these issues will lead to a better understanding of how we can care for our orchids. Hope you found this post helpful. To know more about summer care for orchids, you can read my post on  Care tips for orchids during the warm summer months.

Do leave behind a comment if you are facing any issues with your orchids. I will see if I can help you resolve them.

If you like the content, do subscribe to my blog for regular updates on orchid care.

Until my next, happy growing!

Unboxing my spring orchid haul

Unboxings are always filled with excitement and anticipation. Everyone loves to share the euphoria of a good unboxing. Read on to know about my delightful experience.

Today, I am excited because I unboxed my spring orchid haul. I did this after a very long time.

The reason being that I live in an apartment and grow my orchids on my windowsills. I have a limited grow space. So I make efforts to not crowd my grow space with more orchids than I can handle. Over the years, I have consciously cut down on growing my collection due to space constraints.

But being an orchid hobbyist means that the desire to buy new orchids is always stoked on the slightest of pretexts and so when Orchid-Tree, a Bangalore based orchid nursery, announced a 20% sale, all my good intentions of ‘no-more buying -orchids’ just flew out of the window ūüėĀ

At the outset, let me clarify that this is not a sponsored post. But I would definitely vouch for Orchid-Tree as the best orchid nursery in India. Not only do they have the choicest of orchids that are attractive and sought after by hobbyists, but their orchids are also healthy and of excellent quality. I have been buying from them since the past five years and they have maintained their standards very well.

While we are at it, I would also like to bring out the excellent packaging they do. Every time, their orchids arrive in ship-shape condition and it is a delight to unbox them. 

As an orchid hobbyist, I have had some pretty nasty experiences with orchid vendors who ship orchids that have been poorly packed due to which they get damaged during shipment.

You can watch the YouTube video on the unboxing of my spring haul. Link at the end of the post

Very often, this kind of stress affects the orchids and they may take months to recover, or worse still, they may not survive. So do insist on top quality packaging and quick shipment so that your orchids arrive in good condition.

There are a few other considerations you need to make before you decide on purchasing orchids.  I did give my purchase a thought as to whether the timing was right to buy orchids. I prefer buying orchids during the warm months, as they actively put out new growths.   This helps the orchids recover from transport stress and adapt quickly to their new environment. Summer is followed by rains and humid conditions, which further encourage  vegetative growth as in roots, leaves and shoots  in orchids. Therefore, the orchid will get enough vigour to flower during its bloom cycle.

This said, let me take you through my unboxing.

So, I purchased a total of eight orchids and a packet of bloom booster fertiliser. I was excited with this unboxing, as it had been a while since my last haul.

None of the orchids were in bloom as I prefer buying them during their vegetative growth phase. Moreover, as the weather gets warmer, the blooms start wilting and buds drop off due to the stress.

The pictures used in this post have been provided by Orchid-Tree.

Read on to learn about the orchids that have been on y Wishlist for quite some time.

  1. Schomburgkia thomsoniana – So the first one is a mounted, small sized orchid. I love mounted orchids . it is so much like bringing a part of nature into my home. It is also called the Banana orchid. There have been changes in the classification of this species. Earlier, its genus¬†name was Schomburgkia, but now they are ¬†reclassified as¬†Myrmecophila¬†or¬†Laelia.¬†A species native to the Cayman Islands’ sister Isles, it is also the national flower of these islands.¬† The orchid is a heat-tolerant epiphyte commonly found growing in the scrub at sea level. Bright yellow coloured frilly-petalled flowers with purple on the lip make them very attractive. Flowers normally appear in summer.¬†¬†The shape of the mount is good, but looks like it absorbs too much water, which is not ideal for a Schomburgkia. I will mount it on cork bark, which is my preferred choice of medium for mounting.
  2. Dendrobium Jasmine РThis is a healthy Dendrobium Jasmine. The canes are plump and healthy and the plant seems compact. Dendrobium Jasmine is s a hybrid which bears beautiful twisted and fragrant flowers. The pink and russet hues make for an attractive display. 
  3. Phalaenopsis Doritis pulcherima Dwarf – It is a miniature phalaenopsis having thick, small leaves that are mottled. This orchid is sought after for producing compact, multiple basal growths that make for an attractive display even when the the plant is not in bloom. The flowers are pink, small in size and last up to 8 weeks. These orchid also grows very well when mounted.
  4. Cattleya Dialaelia Snowflake – This is a cattleya orchid. It is a beautiful primary hybrid between Caularthron bicornutum x Laelia albida. The blooms are white with pink tints at the edges. This one is a fall bloomer. So I am looking forward to some beautiful blooms in fall.
  5. Dendrobium Violet Yamaji Nalo РThis is a pretty big one guys. I am wondering whether I was impulsive in buying a large size orchid. but the blooms seemed irresistible. Dendrobium Violet Yamaji Nalo is a hybrid of den. spectabile. The flowers are are a rich crimson colour, and very large in growth habit due to the spectabile species. It flowers from both old and new growths, making it an amazing specimen plant over the years.  This orchid is the biggest one in my collection.                          
  6. Cattleya India Rose Sherwood РThe plant is healthy and has a new growth as well. The site said that it is a matured plant. So I am hoping to see some blooms in the near future. It is the Cattleya (Ctt.) India Rose Sherwood, a hybrid cattlianthe registered in 1994. It is a cross between Cat. Naomi Kerns and Ctt. Chocolate Drops. I love cattleyas with red flowers and this one has red waxy flowers, which bloom in two or more in number.  I am sure it will make a great display.
  7. Oncidium Catante Pacific Sunburst – This one is an Oncidium alliance hybrid. Oncidium (Odcdm.) Catatante ‘Pacific Sunburst’ is an easy-to-grow oncidium with a lovely long inflorescence of golden and rust coloured flowers. Its a heavy bloomer. The spikes can get real long and can branch out giving a grand show.
  8. Epithecea Orange Blaze – It is an exquisite hybrid orchid that grows quite tall and can even reach up to 1 meter in height. It produces large., orange-yellow flowers. Growing them is easy. They are fuss-free and hardy. This orchid is young, so it may take a while to bloom.
  9. Basfoliar NPK: 13:40:13 Fertiliser РI noticed that my orchids were not putting out as many blooms as I expected. So I decided to tweak my fertilising routine to include a bloom booster. Basfoliar 13-40-13 is a high phosphorus bloom booster and can be used as a foliar application. It contains phosphorous (P) and potash (K) in 100% soluble form and promotes healthy root development  and flowering in orchids.

That’s it guys. Thank you for reading the post. Do leave behind your comments on what orchids are on your wish list. Do subscribe to the blog to learn about all things related to growing orchids as a hobbyist.

In case you find it cumbersome to read the post, you can click on this link to view my YouTube video on the unboxing.

Until my next, happy growing!

A visit to Coorg – the land of wild orchids, coffee and spices

Coorg is a lovely holiday destination in the southern part of India. It beckons you with  its natural beauty and quiet old world charm. Known for its miles and miles of coffee plantations, a stay in the heart of the plantations, close to nature, was indeed refreshing and rejuvenating.  The discovery of wild orchids growing freely all over the plantations and countryside made the visit extra special for me.  Read on to learn about this beautiful experience.

I love travelling to places rich in natural biodiversity. While this post is about my visit to Coorg, I must begin by telling you about where it all began. My first trip of this kind was a visit to Sikkim in the North East Himalayan region of India.

Coelogyne nitida blooming on a tree in Darjeeling, West Bengal
Image: Col. Mohan Joseph

It gave me a first hand experience of seeing orchids thrive in their natural habitat. The highlight of the trip was seeing the Coelogyne nitida in full bloom. To know more about this visit, you can read my blogpost on the same. I will provide a link in the description.

Coming to my recent visit to Coorg, it was equally exciting.  I could absorb the beauty of its rich natural biodiversity, which is nurtured by the river Kaveri and several large lakes in the region.

The rich biodiversity is nurtured by several lakes, and the River Kaveri

The lush greenery of the wild forests and coffee plantations along with the cloud covered peaks on the horizon make for a picturesque landscape. But what took my trip to the next level was seeing native orchids growing on trees on the coffee plantations. As an orchid hobbyist and enthusiast, my joy knew no bounds in watching them closely, growing undisturbed all along the countryside.

The climate of Coorg is pleasantly cool, with plenty of rainfall, which feeds the rivers and lakes in the region. The terrain is hilly and the fertile land is ideal for the cultivation of coffee and spices such as pepper. I also came upon a mulberry tree that had berries 2-3 inches long and were lip-smacking delicious. Bitter sweet oranges are also grown in Coorg, which are used for preparing marmalade and to add tang to the native dishes.

Offering a blend of a rich historical past, verdant landscapes, friendly people and delicious cuisine, Coorg had been on my wishlist since many years, and so a family trip and stay on the coffee plantation was just what I needed to recharge my batteries.

On arrival, we stayed in a villa style bungalow that had an old world charm and elegance to it. Its Victorian decor  was thoughtfully preserved and suitably embellished with modern amenities that blended perfectly with its rich interiors. 

Enjoyed the old world charm of this accomodation

Built in 1890, it gave us a peek into life in the early 1900s that was marked by colonialism. The pictures lining the hallways, the grandfather clock and chandeliers hanging from the wood-panelled ceiling, the large dining table, the king sized double bed and large bedrooms, as well as the brass fittings in the bathroom, completed the period feel of the accommodation.

To add to the feel, it also had a quaint old styled bicycle with one very small wheel, which was a challenge to balance since the two wheels were not connected by a chain. So balancing the wobbly wheels was a tricky proposition. My son finally managed to ride it, albeit it being a shaky experience.

Coffee bushes laden with ripe berries

I had never been on a coffee plantation before and so I was excited to get a closer look during my morning walk. The robust dark green leaves with green berries growing in bunches all along the stem was indeed a beautiful sight. The berries ripen to a deep red and then they are ready to be harvested. I was fortunate enough to spot some bushes that had coffee blossoms on them. The blooms look like beautiful bunches of jasmine growing on a bush. We enjoyed sipping coffee made from the beans grown on the plantation. It was fresh, aromatic and rich in flavour.

Interspersed between the coffee bushes were pepper vines climbing on tall trees that protect the coffee plants from strong direct sunlight. The vines were laden with bunches of peppercorns that looked amazingly beautiful. A lot of the dishes we ate were spiced up with the peppercorns grown on the plantation.

Wild orchids thriving on trees, adding to the beauty of the surroundings

Besides these experiences, the  wild orchids growing in the region looked healthy and beautiful in their own way. They are native to the Western Ghats. Most of them looked like Foxtail orchids (Rhyncostylis retusa), Dendrobium, Coelogyne and Bulbophyllum species. I had the opportunity to film some of them up close, but most of them were not in bloom. I found only one orchid blooming and have pictures of the same. It is now identified by Mr. Sujith, fellow orchid hobbyist and a native of Coorg, as Liparis viridiflora, popularly known as the Bottle brush orchid or Coorg Liparis.

As an orchid grower, I always find myself trying to provide grow conditions similar to those which grow in the wild. So, every opportunity I get, I study their habitat. This time, it was no different. I noticed that orchids do not grow on trees with thick foliage. They grow on trees that allow a good amount of diffused sunlight to stream in on them. While they do not like sun exposure throughout the day, they grow in places that get a decent amount of diffused light for a period of 3-4 hours every day.

A blooming Bottle Brush orchid – Liparis viridiflora

Wild orchid blooms are generally small and may not be as impressive as their hybrid counterparts,but they have their own place under the sun  and add to the rich biodiversity of the region. Clearing up of forests for urban development and infrastructure projects has impacted the growth and proliferation of these orchids. Efforts need to be put in to educate the public at large and ensure these species are protected by the native people.

Moreover, as people gain awareness of orchids, it also becomes important to prevent them from collecting wild orchid species and selling them. This is already a menace in some of the Northeastern Himalayan states of India, leading to their disappearance from certain regions. As a conscientious orchid hobbyist, I always believe in buying orchids from plant nurseries and advocate the same to my fellow hobbyists. We need to conserve wild orchids so that their blooms can be enjoyed by our future generations. It is a legacy that needs to be passed down from one generation to the next.

But Coorg has more to it than its verdant hills, vales, water bodies and orchids. Adding to the rich biodiversity of the region is the Dubare Elephant Training Camp, where elephants are fed, sheltered and looked after.  Located on the banks of the Kaveri river, it is indeed a sight to go rafting and observe elephants that come to river to bathe. These elephants are trained and are people-friendly. Watching a baby elephant splash around and relax blissfully while the trainer scrubbed it indulgently was indeed a lovely experience.

Rafting through the calm waters of the Kaveri, felt like being in the Amazon basin. There were trees and green patches in between the waters. Clumps of spider lilies bloomed along the edge of the water, giving it a beautiful natural look. The branches create a natural arch, and it was lovely sailing beneath them.

It was also a trip on which I could observe nature at close quarters. In our busy urban lifestyles, we have very little time to observe the tiny wonders of nature. The Coorg trip brought me closer to the sights, sounds and beauty of nature. Whether it was a butterfly sucking nectar from the vibrant cosmos flowers, a cricket basking in the sunshine, the leaf-like camouflage of a grasshopper or the tiny ladybird that caught my attention, I revelled in the slow pace of life with a child-like glee.

The gigantic Datura flowers in full bloom at night

Come night, and I had the opportunity to watch the huge Datura flowers (Brugmansia suaveolens; common name: Angel’s Trumpet / Devil’s Trumpet or Angel’s Trumpet) open up with their heady fragrance. I used to always wonder why the Devil’s Trumpet flowers are always droopy and never bloomed to their full potential and beauty. On one of the nights on the plantation, I was drawn to their sweet floral scent and was amazed to find them blooming in all their glory. The large blooms were fully open and looked like large pink and white trumpets that caught the smallest amount of light and were illuminated  in the dark.  I realised  then that they are night bloomers and attract night time pollinators by spreading their fragrance.

Indeed, there is a method and purpose to every tiny thing that happens in nature. I was struck by the amazing detail with which each event or action is planned and perfected by nature over thousands of years.

Mushrooms springing up overnight on this branch

Similarly, I noticed how mushrooms sprang up within a single night. I remembered filming a wild orchid on a low lying branch in the evening. The next morning, there was a clump of mushrooms that seemed to have sprung up overnight. I was again struck by how nature can leave you constantly amazed. How can such complex organisms grow to their full potential within a span of twelve hours?

Whatever the underpinnings of this creation, I am awestruck by the rhythm with which each life form grows and proliferates on this earth. We are fortunate to be born on this beautiful planet and must conserve the beauty of its diversity so that our future generations can savour these wonders of nature. 

Pholidota imbricata or Necklace Orchid growing freely on trees on the coffee plantations

I had planned to film orchids up close, but it had rained heavily the previous night and the plantations as well as the trekking paths  were infested with leeches. After a few started crawling into our shoes, we gave up the idea and bolted back to safety. I had to drop my plans of filming more orchids.

Bulbophyllum sterile growing freely on this tree near Abbey Falls

However, I took some shots of orchids near the Abbey waterfalls, which provides a sunny, yet humid environment for orchids. The waterfalls is beautiful with crystal clear waters and is framed with rocks and greenery, which provide a great backdrop. I found some Coelogyne, Bulbophyllum and Dendrobium orchids growing freely on trees in the area. Unfortunately, I couldn’t identify the species, but that did not dim my excitement as I filmed some of the native orchids.

I would have loved to go on filming some from up close, but lost out on that opportunity as too soon, our holiday came to an end. But I made a promise to myself that I would go back one day, better armed,  to explore and learn more about the orchids growing in the region.

Soon it was time to leave this beautiful place and return to the urban landscapes of Mumbai. Coorg is remarkable for its old world charm, unspoilt natural beauty, friendly people and delicious cuisine. The people of Coorg are worshippers of nature and are fiercely protective about the unspoilt beauty of their sylvan surroundings. No wonder then that people from cities love visiting Coorg for the simplicity and beauty it offers.

Please leave a comment or a suggestion. I always look forward to hearing from you.

Please watch my YouTube video covering my visit to Coorg.

If you don’t want to read the post, you can just watch this video

Do subscribe to the channel for regular updates on orchid care and related videos.

Bush snails on my orchids – Preventive and remedial care tips

Snail infestations could wipe out your entire collection of orchids. It’s as serious as that. Repeated checks and timely intervention are key to protecting your orchids from snail damage. Read on to learn how to take care of the issue and follow preventive care tips.

Snails severely stunt the growth of your orchid

My orchids were attacked by bush snails recently, and it came as a bolt from the blue!

At first, I thought it was only one orchid, but on further inspection, I noticed tiny bush snails on other orchids too and was on my wit’s end trying to get them under control.

Fortunately, since I grow my orchids in sections on my windowsills, only a small portion of my collection was affected. The process of elimination continued over the next few weeks. I conservatively tried to eliminate snails without the use of chemical pesticides such as metaldehyde. Based on my experience, I am giving you tips on how to ensure that your orchid collection remains free of these pests.

Bush snails and orchid damage

Bush snail on my Vanda orchid

Bush snails are tiny and have a shell on their back. They mostly chew on new roots, tender new growths, buds, flowers and leaves. Loss of roots and root tips is especially worrying as it affects the nutritional uptake of the orchid, thereby preventing it from developing properly. This also affects the stability of the plant, which discourages it from sending out bud spikes.

Therefore, it is important that we eliminate the snails at the earliest. Check your orchids for chewed up roots and root tips. I did notice some bruised root tips, but always put it down to mechanical damage or assumed the tips dried up due to lack of nutrients. I also assumed that it may have been caused by insects such as thrips.

Orchid root tips chewed up by snails, whi h I habits growth and blooming

I was very much disturbed at the time as I was facing snail infestations for the first time in my five years of orchid growing. It so happened that it had rained throughout the previous night, and the next morning, as I surveyed my happy orchids, I was thinking to myself – ‘they look nice and healthy, and have enjoyed getting soaked in the goodness of rain……’

On closer inspection, I was shocked to see a number of tiny snails crawling all over one of my Vanda orchids, probably hatchlings that were nested in the roots of the Vanda orchid. Since it was raining through out the night, probably, the snails decided to come out of hiding.

I was shocked and terrified of losing all my orchids as snails spread very quickly. At that time, I thought that only one of them was affected as all the others looked clean. But I knew there would be more in hiding. So I decided to take care of the immediate emergency at hand, and later scrutinise the other orchids for snails.

The best thing to do in such a scenario is to physically remove the snails and make a thorough investigation to check for any more hiding in the root system. Since my Vanda grows in a slatted basket with cork bark chunks, I did not want to disturb its root system as I would damage a lot of roots.

Subscribe to my channel for regular updates on orchid care

Remedial measures for snail infestation

Physical removal is one of the first steps to be taken in such a scenario
Sometimes, putting off repotting may cause more damage tha you can think

I immediately set about removing the snails that were visible. I used a Q-tip and an absorbent kitchen towel to remove the snails. The Q-tip worked very well as the snails clung to the cotton fibre. I could place the snails on the towel without worrying over them sneaking away. You could also use toothpicks to reach into narrow crevices and remove any hiding in between the sheaths and leaf bracts.

With the immediate threat resolved, I brought the infested Vanda inside for a thorough inspection. I did not want to treat it with chemical pesticides such as metaldehyde or with hydrogen peroxide as I wished to avoid their usage as much as possible. I left the Vanda as it was, and quarantined it from my other orchids.

Tracing the source of snail infestation

Having taken care of the emergency, I then wondered about the source of the snails. I have a dedicated grow space that is well protected. So the snails could have come along with the orchids I had purchased recently.

Normally, I repot my new buys at the earliest, but this time, since I was a tad busy, I decided to repot one of them later. I did not find any snails in the medium while repotting the other orchids, and the roots seemed healthy. With no signs of chewed up roots, I assumed none of them had snails. I needed to find out the source of the pest infestation. I resolved to act quickly to prevent more such pest attacks. I quarantined the orchid until I repotted it soon thereafter.

Continued remedial action to eliminate snails

Snails have a tendency to come out of hiding at night. Later, I checked on the infested orchid at midnight and found some more tiny snails close to its root system and the base of the plant. I was sure there would be more snails hiding in the root system. So, the next morning, I immersed the Vanda in a tub of water for an hour. This would help dislodge any left over snails into the water. As expected, I found a few snails in the water. I repeated my nightly checks and immersed the Vanda in a water tub every morning for the next week or so until I was sure that all the snails had been eliminated. I haven’t come upon snails since the last two days. I just hope that’s the last I see of them.

I also carried out similar night checks for my other orchids and found tiny snails on the Vandas. On immersing them individually in water tubs for about 15 minutes, the snails came out of hiding and began moving to the upper portions of the orchid that were dry. Using a Q-tip or cotton bud, I removed the snails and placed them on a mat. I repeated this for the next couple of days and now my orchids seem to be free of them. However, I would be checking on them everyday until I am sure they are absolutely free of snails.

I did look up snail infestation discussion threads on the Orchid Board, a few research papers and conservative remedial measures on YouTube. Some of the conservative methods included coffee grounds, powdered egg shells, diatomaceous earth, fermented yeast solution, copper tape, magnesium sulphate, garlic and coffee concoction and even sea weed fertiliser application. These applications create an undesirable environment for snails. I have begun trying them out one by one, and will inform you on what works best.

There were also the more aggressive methods such as application of metaldehyde pellets, iron phosphate and hydrogen peroxide, which I may consider using if the snails return in my collection.

Care tips to save your orchids from snail attack

With this experience behind me, I wish to give you tips on how you can prevent such pest attacks:

Immersing your orchid in water will force the snails to come out of hiding
  1. Keep a keen eye on your orchids and inspect them for pests every day. You could do this while watering and fertilizing them. On noticing something wrong or a pest infestation, immediately quarantine them and physically remove the pests if possible.
  2. Inspect your snail-infested orchid late in the night as snails come out of hiding at night. You can draw them out from their hiding places by placing a few cabbage or lettu e leaves on top of the medium. Alternatively, you can pla e a cup of scale beer or a sugar solution with some yeast in it. The snails get attracted to the smell of the fermented liquids and will fall into the cup and drown.
  3. Remove the snails from the plant. Repeat this until you are sure that your orchid is free of these pests.
  4. Use copper tape or sprinkle diatomaceous earth, coarsely powdered egg shells and coffee grounds to protect your orchids from snails. All these methods provide a physically undesirable environment for snails, thereby acting as barriers.
  5. If possible, clean up the infested orchid and repot it in fresh medium. This will doubly ensure that no pests are left behind. If your orchid is bare-rooted like my Vanda, then immerse it in water for an hour every morning. This will help dislodge the few remaining ones.
  6. Quarantine your newly purchased orchids and repot them at the earliest as they may carry snails in their medium. Commercial orchid growers face huge losses due to snail damage. Though they take lot of preventive measures and try their best to not send infested orchids,, snails do find their way into their collections sometimes.
  7. Provide an environment that discourages their growth. Snails thrive in a damp environment. So it is better to keep your grow area dry by watering your orchids every morning rather than evening. This will allow excess water to evaporate.

With this said, every now and then, the best of us will face these uncalled for situations. You just need to problem solve at the earliest and your orchids will be safe.

Happy growing!

Please Like, Share and Subscribe to the blog for regular updates on orchid care. Thank you for the support.

If you are looking for orchid supplies, do visit my online store by clicking on the below link:


Fertilizing your orchids

Orchids require the  optimal balance of factors that influence their healthy growth. Fertilizing your orchids  can be a real game changer if you get it right. Your orchid will be in robust form and will bloom generously during the season. The trick is in tweaking it to suit your grow conditions. In this post, I am touching upon the fundamentals of fertilizing orchids and giving tips on getting good results.

Aerangis biloba – first time  blooms under my care

My first four years into the orchid hobby  were spent on learning how to tend to my orchids. While I had a sizeable  and healthy collection, the blooms were few and far between. My family even began convincing me that I had been duped by the sellers and these plants could bloom well only in green houses.

But YouTube offered many success stories of growing orchids at home, and I knew that I had to keep trying out new ways to increase blooming. I kept fertilizing my orchids once a week by spraying them with concentrations of 200 TDS of NPK fertilizer, but it just did not seem to be enough. The few orchids that bloomed produced one or two flowers. That’s¬† when I realised that perhaps they required more frequent application at higher concentrations.

I got new insights on nutrition for orchids by watching Rick L’s Orchids  channel on YouTube. His explanations seemed logical and his orchids looked healthy and bloomed abundantly. I laid down a similar strategy for fertilizing my orchids. I fine-tuned it to suit my climatic conditions and my orchids are responding well by producing more blooms with each passing season.

However, I have achieved results after experimenting repeatedly. I am sharing my insights and tips on applying fertilisers that helped improve blooming.

Basic orchid care comes before fine-tuning your fertilising routine

Cattleya labiata Coerulea blooming for the first time

Getting a beautiful bloom show is every orchid lover’s dream. And while some orchids put on their best show without any special care, the majority of orchids, especially cultivated hybrids, require the right balance of light, moisture, temperature and nutrition to coax them to bloom. From my experience as an orchid hobbyist, I have realised that missing out on even one of the above mentioned factors will affect the outcome of an entire year’s care. So when we talk about fertilising your orchids, it is utmost important that you do not overlook  basic factors such as suitable light, moisture and temperature to achieve good results.

Orchids are mostly epiphytic, and in their native environment depend on the trees on which they grow to provide them with nutrition – not as parasites sucking the sap of the tree, but by absorbing the the nutrients from dust that has  settled over time, bird and insect droppings that run down the trees along with rain water. Rain water, which collects Vitamin B12 producing bacteria and fungi from the air, also helps the orchids absorb these nutrients, thereby optimally meeting their requirement of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Along with these, Calcium, Magnesium and other trace micronutrients are also made available to the orchid.

When there are no rains, the aerial roots absorb moisture from the air and thereby help the orchid survive. The orchids also have thick fleshy pseudobulbs and leaves, which serve as reservoirs of stored energy. This is used up by the orchid to grow and bloom during periods of drought.

With this understanding, we need to now provide nutrition in similar ways and mimic nature. Of course, with the growing number of special hybrids, the need for fertilising year round has become a norm as these orchids produce large blooms and also have more number of spikes and blooms. However, the basic principles remain the same, wherein the orchid requires maximum nutrition during its growth period, and the stored nutrients get utilised during the bloom period. However, opinions differ, and some hobbyists continue to feed minimally or nominally even while they are in bloom.

About orchid fertilisers

Initially, the Brassocattleya Jimminey Cricket did not bloom due to low concentrations of fertilizer. After tweaking the concentration, it bloomed repeatedly.

Orchids need to be fertilised when they are in vegetative growth. This is crucial for their proper development and blooming. So when you observe new leaf or root growth or the development of a bud spike or new shoot, then you need to feed it with fertiliser to meet its increasing requirement for growing new tissue.

To this end, we should apply a fertiliser that is rich in basic building blocks (macronutrients) such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium as well as Calcium, magnesium, and other trace micronutrients such as zinc, manganese, cobalt, boron, , copper, iron and molybdenum. Most fertilisers have these components in a form that can be easily absorbed by orchids. Nitrogen promotes good leaf and shoot growth. Phosphorus promotes healthy root growth as well as development of bud spikes and blooms. Potassium makes plants robust and strong, builds resistance to pest attack.

Orchid fertilisers can be grouped into Chemical and Organic fertilisers. Chemical fertilisers are those that are manufactured in an industrial process and are in a chemically pure form, either in a powder form or as a solution. Examples of these are NPK 20:20:20 and solutions of Calcium Nitrate and Magnesium Sulphate (Cal-Mag).

Organic fertilisers, on the other hand, are made from plant or animal matter and even their excreta. These substances are in the form of bio-compounds that need to be further broken down by microbes in the medium to get absorbed by the plants. Examples are sea weed kelp, fish fertiliser and other home-made fertilisers such as soaked rice water, green tea extract, garlic extract, banana peel extract, diluted coconut water etc.

While the above fertilizers enhance vegetative growth, commercial growers use bloom booster fertilizers to improve bloom production. This is an NPK type of fertilizer with a higher proportion of Phosphorus.  A balanced NPK 20:20:20 fertilizer application alternating with a high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer helped my orchids grow and bloom just as well.

How often should you fertilise?

Include weak fertilizing every week with a number of different fertilizers to provide all types of nutrients and micronutrients

Well, there is no one-size fits-all answer to this question. It all depends on your climatic conditions, your grow area – whether indoor or outdoor, your frequency of watering, the medium in which the orchid is growing, ambient temperature,  etc.

West facing window sill set up

Generally speaking, you can fertilise once a week, or you could divide the same dose into half and do a twice weekly routine, if you are watering your orchids twice a week. Remember to flush your orchids with plain water in between to avoid build up of fertiliser. Initially, I fertilised my orchids once a week, but that just didn’t get them to bloom. After going through Rick L’s videos on YouTube, I began fertilising my orchids twice a week at recommended concentration, but I varied the type of fertilizer I applied so that they absorbed different types of nutrients and trace minerals.

North facing window sill

Before I talk about my fertilizing routine, it would be good to give you an idea of my setup. I grow my orchids on my windowsills, and they get plenty of natural light and air. I grow orchids in well-draining bark chips along with some moisture-retentive sphagnum moss or coco chips. My setup allows me to water my orchids lightly by spraying them everyday.

For instance, I apply NPK 20:20:20 along with Calcium nitrate and  Epsom salt once in 4 days. I repeat with the same after  four days. After 3 more days, I apply a high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer such as NPK 00:52:34. In between, I apply organic homemade liquid  fertilizer twice a month and Silicon dioxide fertilizer once a month. This method of appropriate dose fertilizer application, either stand-alone  or in combination, has helped me improve growth in my orchids. Lots of healthy roots, pseudobulbs, and leaves will ensure healthy blooming in your orchids. I will cover this aspect at length in a separate post.

Applying the right quantity of fertiliser to your orchids

Orchid hobby guide
Apply optimal concentrations of fertilizer to coax your  orchid to bloom

Having said this, there are some ground rules to begin with. Doing it right and understanding the basics of applying the right quantity of fertiliser is important. Following the recommended doses and frequency as advocated by the fertiliser manufacturer helps if your fertiliser is designed for orchids. But if it is a general plant fertiliser, it is always better to start with half the recommended dose and increase or decrease it based on the response of your plants.

If the leaf and root tips start drying out, it is an indicator of leaf tip burn, then it means the concentration of salts is too high. The quantity of fertiliser needs to be reduced in such cases. However, if the orchids show healthy development, then the dosage caters optimally to the plant’s nutrient requirement. On the other hand, if the plant shows no improvement in growth, and new growths die back or have stunted growth, then you need to increase the dosage gradually until your plants become healthy and lush green. These healthy growths will then produce blooms during the season.

Healthy roots are good news. It’s one step nearer to blooming your orchids.

Concentrations matter based on size of orchid, the thickness of the leaves and roots. Orchids with thick, spongy velamen and thick leaves such as Vanda and Phalaenopsis orchids require regular doses of fertiliser like a teaspoon of fertiliser in 5 litres of water. But for thin leaved and thin velamen-root orchids such as Oncidiums, Tolumnia, Catasetums and Bulbophyllums and others, the dilution can be reduced by adding half teaspoon of fertiliser in 5 litres of water. If the orchid fertiliser is not improving growth, then you can marginally increase dosage until these orchids start developing healthy roots, leaves and shoots.

When not to fertilize

You should fertilise your orchids during periods of active growth. This is usually during the warmer summer months and rainy season. Your orchids will produce new roots, leaves and new pseudobulbs. The right amount of fertiliser application will help in their healthy development. However, as ambient temperature drops down with the advent of winter, you need to minimally water and fertilise your orchids based on their growth.

There would be a few exceptions, such as Oncidiums, which would start producing new growths in winter. In such cases, you can continue fertilizing these orchids. However, a major portion of your collection would be done with the growth period, remain dormant, and conserve energy for the bloom period in spring. In such cases, water them sparingly and allow them to rest in a near-dry condition. Don’t worry if you see the pseudobulbs 66. That is a part of their cycle, even in the wild. Once the temperatures rise back to normal, the orchids will push out new growths such as sheaths, spikes, new shoots, and roots. At this stage, you need to resume watering and fertilizing.

Do not fertilize if your orchid is not doing well

Another instance of when you should avoid fertilizing your orchid is when your orchid is sick or has undergone a shock such as a transplantation shock or sudden change in ambient environment. This could be when you buy a new orchid and bring it home, repot it or if it has some underlying infection and is therefore not growing normally. In such a scenario, it is best to not increase stress by fertilizing it during this period. Gradually, when the orchid shows sign of recovery and growth, you can begin fertilizing it with very low concentrations to begin with and gradually resume to normal levels.

As you tweak your fertilizing method, your orchids will bloom in significant numbers

With these fundamentals in mind, you can go ahead and experiment with different kinds of fertilizers.  You can check out which ones are most suited for your grow conditions. Remember to keep it optimal. Your orchids will thrive and reward you with healthy blooms during the season. 

Happy growing!

Six orchid care tips for the rainy season

The monsoon downpours have begun, and your orchids will get a fresh lease of life when you make the most of the season and allow them to soak in its goodness. Rich in Nitrates, phosphorus, and Vitamin B12 producing bacteria floating in the air, rainwater also comes with a  balanced  pH optimal for the growth of your orchids, thereby helping them thrive and bloom during their cycle. But the trick here is to expose your orchids in the right way, for the right time, and to check thereafter that they are growing well and not facing issues of rot.

Read on to learn more about my six orchid care tips for the rainy season to take full advantage of the rains. An added benefit would be that we can look forward to some respite from our regular watering and fertilizing schedule, and focus on other orchid related projects.

Please Like, Share and Subscribe to the blog if you find these tips useful.

My windowsill vanda orchids enjoying the rains

After the hot and dusty summers, your orchids will welcome the rains with gusto. The first shower will drench your orchids and invigorate them to produce new growths and roots in abundance. The spurt in growth is significantly noticeable, some shooting up by almost a centimetre in a single day. As the leaves and stems get drenched and water trickles down the stems and into the roots, you notice visible changes such as a bright green colour, turgid leaves and new growths that are almost bursting out of their sheaths. Well that’s not all. Rain water will swell up the buds on the nodes, which develop into spikes in the case of vandas, oncidiums and phaenopsis, just as you will find buds pushing themselves out of their sheaths, as in the case of cattleyas. Such is the amazing impact of the rain on your orchids.

This should come as no surprise to you, knowing that most orchids, in their natural habitat grow in the rain forests, where there are frequent downpours and a predominantly humid environment. Epiphytic orchids (orchids that grow on trees) get drenched in the rains and spread out their roots on the tree trunks. Since the roots are exposed to air, they tend to dry off quickly and therefore roots do not rot even with repeated downpours. The leaves and crown are so arranged that water that falls on them just slips away and falls down or trickles down all the way down along the stem. Also the breeze following a downpour quickly dries off the plants, preventing collection of water and microorganisms in the crown and other nooks and crevices.

I strictly avoided wetting the leaves and only watered the orchids in the root region earlier. I did face crown rot and stem rot issues.  So I decided to make the orchids resistant to crown rot by spraying them down with my gardening spray pump.

I took this step as I have a west facing windows, which allow good air circulation. So if you do not have good air circulation in your grow area or do not have a fan to circulate air, then this is best avoided.

Initially, when I begun spraying water, I found water pooling in the crown even after hours after i was done with watering. So I used to tip the pots to drain out the water from the crown. But after some days, I noticed the orchids draining out water from the crown automatically. Talk about adaptation! ūüôā I have never faced crown rot issues¬† after that, even during the rainy season when there is a continuous downpour.

Providing an environment that mimics nature

However, growing orchids in your home environment or in a greenhouse is quite another story. The growing conditions you provide in terms of potting media, light and air movement will vary based on your climatic conditions. Growing phalaenopsis orchids with their crown positioned vertically to provide an aesthetically pleasing display, may not exactly be conducive for exposing your orchids to the rain. To remove the tediousness of everyday watering, we have also modified our care routine by growing orchids in moisture retentive medium. While this can work well during the warm dry summers, it can adversely affect your orchids if they are continuously exposed to the rain during the monsoons.

I grow my orchids on my windowsill, in my tropical grow conditions using organic potting mixes of pine bark and sphagnum moss. Warm summers are followed by the rainy season. While I make some superficial changes to provide a conducive environment for growth during various seasons, additional care needs to be taken so that the orchids don’t develop issues such as fungal and bacterial rot. Taking care of these issues will help you provide the right amount of exposure to rain, which will stimulate growth and blooming in your orchid.

Let us begin with the commonly faced issues when our orchids are exposed to rain:

Leaf rot  in cattleya orchid
  1. Crown Rot – This is one of the most common issues faced by orchid hobbyists when their orchids are exposed to rain. When rain water collects in the crowns of monopodial plants such as phalaenopsis or vanda orchids, the long exposure to moisture, along with the bacteria and fungi that are on the surface of the leaves, tend to create an unhealthy environment for the orchid, wherein the bacteria and fungi start multiplying due to excessively moist conditions. This leads to rotting of the tender tissue in the crown of the plant. The infection spreads to the other portions of the stem and the plant slowly begins to lose its leaves. Timely intervention can help you save the orchid, but it will set back its growth and blooming to some extent.
  2. Rotting of leaves – Rain drops often collect in the base of the axil of the leaves. These regions are snugly bound to the stem and can allow moisture to accumulate. This again leads to an environment conducive for bacterial and fungal growth. Since the leaves are arranged on either side of the stem or pseudobulb in the case of vanda, phalaenopsis, oncidium and tolumnia, dendrobium and other such orchids, the infection spreads quickly to the stem and other parts. Sometimes, soft water-filled black spots appear on the leaves. If left untreated, they quickly spread and destroy the whole leaf and subsequently the stem. Only timely intervention and appropriate remedial measures can save the plant.
  3. Root rot – Moisture retentive medium such as sphagnum moss, when added to the potting medium tends to hold copious amounts of water. This is utilised by the the plant and the medium dries off after a couple of days. But when your orchids soak up rain water, the medium remains damp for prolonged periods, then fungal and bacterial infections become rampant. The roots become soggy and begin rotting. The first sign of root rot is when the leaves become thin and dehydrated despite moisture in the pot. This is indicative of a damaged root system. If not treated on time, the infection quickly travels up the root, to the rhizome and the pseudobulbs. This further causes the leaves and stem to turn yellow and black, and decay.
  4. Rot of new growths ‚Äď Just as with crown rot, rain water that remains trapped in new growths of oncidium and cattleya orchids can also lead to bacterial and fungal rot. As the water travels into the crevices, it collects bacteria and fungi on the surface of the plant and its narrow vertical structure does not allow air to enter and dry up the moisture. The prolonged dampness promotes bacterial and fungal attack on the roots, leading to rotting of the delicate tissue. Losing a new growth to rot can lead to setback for the plant as these new shoots are the ones that would mature and bloom in the coming season. Moreover, orchids put out new roots through these new growths. If the orchid does not have a healthy root system, then this could prove to be a major setback for the plant. So, these delicate new growths need to be protected from rainfall.

Advantages of rain water for your orchids

Now you must be wondering that if there is so much of risk involved, then why you should even consider placing your orchids in the rain. Well, for the simple reason that rain water has manifold benefits on your orchids. The first and foremost being that it has the right pH of around 6.5, which is suitable for healthy orchid growth and blooming.

During rains, Nitrogen from the atmosphere is converted to oxides of Nitrogen by lightning. Oxide gases of nitogen and sulphur , along with carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, are brought down to the earth by rain. The Nitrogen is converted to nitrates when it dissolves in rainwater.

As the rainwater comes down, some of the nitrates are converted to  metabolic by-products  such as Vitamin  B12  by bacteria in the air and on the surface of plants. This is rich in Nitrogen and Phosphorus (If you check out the structure of Vitamin  B12, you will find several nitrogen atoms and a phosphate group in each molecule). Vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed by plants directly, so it is broken down by bacteria and fungi to form soluble nitrates and phosphates. These  are then readily absorbed by the plants, resulting in the insrant greening effect on plants seen after rainy showers. I allow my orchids to soak up the rain. The results are simply amazing. They develop a lush green hue that is incomparably beautiful and healthy.

Another advantage of rainfall is that it can help your dehydrated orchids become hydrated and healthy once again. Since rainwater is readily absorbable, you can place your severely dehydrated orchid in rain and the leaves and pseudobulbs will plump up again. I have revived quite a few orchids that were dehydrated due to an inadequate root system. The plant basically gets a new lease of life and will begin producing new roots and growths when it gets soaked in the rain.

This cattleya sheath grew almost a centimeter  in length after a continuous downpour

Healthy plants thrive in the rain by shooting up to almost a centimetre in length of new growths, leaves and roots. Spikes and sheaths also begin to develop as a result of rain. I have known cases where a vanda orchid did not bloom for ten consecutive years, but bloomed in the eleventh year, when the hobbyist allowed the vanda to soak up the rain during monsoon. Such is the power of rain water. In fact, experienced orchid hobbyists often collect rainwater in large clean storage tanks and water their orchids with it throughout the year.

Now let us understand how you can effectively provide the above advantages without adversely affecting or damaging your orchids. A little care will help you keep your orchids safe while exposing them to the rain. While most of your orchids will thrive in the rain, you may face issues in some orchids based on their health. You need to watch over them with a keen eye, for any signs of susceptibility.

Six care tips for your orchids during the rainy season:

Follow these six cautious care tips to protect your orchids when you expose them to rain:

  1. Prepare your orchids for the rainy season

My tropical grow conditions are ideally suited for warm growing orchids. During summers, the climate tends to get very warm and dry, increasing my frequency of watering. To increase humidity, I superficially line up the periphery of the pot with sphagnum moss. This provides humidity and keeps the orchids cool. But come rainy season, and I remove this top layer of moss and replace it with bark chips. This prevents excessive moisture retention, which would lead to rotting of the orchid roots and stems.

Along with this, I also clean up the leaves of the orchids with a soft cloth or sponge dipped in mild dish-wash solution and allow them to dry under a fan. This removes any superficial dust and mites.

Small waterproof bags can be used to cover the new growths

When it begins to rain, I use small polythene bags to cover the new growths and protect them from holding moisture. I followed this tip from the YouTube channel, My Green Pets, and it has worked just fine for me.

  • Prevent retention of moisture for a prolonged period
Ensure water does not get retained in the crown of the orchid

Since we grow orchids upright as opposed to how they grow in the wild, water tends to pool up in the crown area of the pseudobulb, leading to rot. To prevent this from happening to your orchids, you can allow them to soak in the rain and once it is saturated, tilt the pot slightly and allow the excess water to run off along the axil of the youngest leaf. This will allow minimal moisture to remain in the crown, which can easily be dried up by air-drafts.

Tip your orchid pots at an angle to
allow excess water to drain out

If you grow your orchids outdoors in your balcony, patio or on your window-sill, the breeze will dry off the remaining moisture. But remember to tip the pots sidewards at a 45¬ļ angle so that excess water does not remain trapped in the pot. Alternatively, place the orchids under a fan. This will ensure that they dry off quickly. You could also draw out the moisture by rolling up absorbent paper and blotting out the moisture.

  • Check on your orchids after they get wet in the rain

One way to ensure your orchids are safe, is to check them every day for signs of infections and rot, especially after you have exposed them to rainfall. Catching infections, rot and pest infestations early on will help you save your orchid by taking appropriate preventive measures. Look out for soft, damp, dark spots on the leaves. This is an indication of leaf rot. Also yellowing and soft rot in the crown region or the stem indicates crown rot and stem rot, respectively. These require immediate remedial action.

  • Ensure a good wet-dry cycle

While it rains almost every day during the season, we cannot give our orchids the advantage of getting soaked day-after-day during the season. The reason being that we pot our orchids in moisture retentive organic medium like coconut chips, sphagnum moss and bark chips.

Good drainage and adequate ventilation holes ensure a healthy environment for root growth

Excessive retention of rainwater can lead to a soggy environment. Orchid roots do not like prolonged soaking wet conditions and quickly begin to rot. Excessive moisture over prolonged periods in the medium makes the medium very acidic. This is either caused by excessive moisture retention due to moisture absorbent media or due to poor drainage and ventilation of the pots. You need to ensure that both these issues are set right before you think of soaking up your orchids in the rain. If not detected early on, the rotting can even spread to the pseudobulbs, and destroy the plant completely.

To prevent rot from setting in, you need to limit the exposure of your potted orchids to rainfall. Let your potted orchids reach near-dry conditions before allowing them to soak up rainwater again. If they are already moist, do not expose them to rain again as excessive moisture in the medium will promote rotting of roots and new growths.

If your orchids are potted in any inorganic material that is non-absorbent ar are bare root, you can go ahead and allow them to soak in the rain during the entire season. Just ensure they dry up after each soak so that no water pools up in the new growths and crowns. You can easily tip your mounts to one side to drain out any moisture that is trapped in new growths or sheaths.

Inorganic media is a safe bet during the rainy season due to good aeration of the medium
  • Take quick remedial action if you observe signs of rotting

Once you identify any rot issues in any of your orchids, you need to take quick remedial action to treat them at the earliest.

Cutting off the rotted portion of the leaf on time can help save your orchid

In the case of stem, crown and leaf rot, you may have to remove the rotted tissue by cutting or scraping away the affected portion. Apply cinnamon powder on the cut surfaces to prevent them from getting re-infected.

For root rot issues, you may need to cut away the affected portion of the roots and rhizome and apply 3% hydrogen peroxide to the healthy part of the rhizome and root system. In case the infection is severe, you may need to apply a suitable fungicide in below recommended proportions. This will help salvage the healthy portion of the plant.

Some hobbyists recommend a fungicidal spray (prophylactic) every fifteen days to prevent fungal and bacterial rot. Personally, I avoid spraying harmful chemicals and instead prefer much conservative and harmless methods to control rot issues. I use fungicides cautiously, only when there is a major problem with orchids. These are highly toxic and, therefore, should be applied with extreme caution and care, especially if you have children and pets around. Also, there is the issue of development of resistance to these fungicides, which will render the application ineffective. So please use them selectively to isolate and treat only the affected plant.

  • Additional precautions to be taken

Once you wet your orchids in the rain, do not allow the excess water from the medium to drain out onto other pots. This can lead to rotting of the crown, stem, roots, leaves and also new growths of the orchid. The rot is mainly due to spread of infection from one pot to another. This can be prevented by placing a saucer under the pot to collect water or allowing it to drain out fully before hanging it up above your other plants.

Another reason for spread of infection can be attributed to the use of unsterilized equipment for trimming your orchid leaves and roots. This can get aggravated and lead to spread of the infection due to a prolonged moist environment. So always sterilize your cutters with rubbing alcohol and flame it with necessary precaution. Ensure all safety measures are taken during this procedure.

For instance, Fusarium Wilt is a fungal disease that is commonly spread by sharing of water and using unsterilized pruners or cutters for trimming your orchids.

For more information on orchid diseases, pest infestations as well as their treatment and preventive measures, you can read my post How to save your orchids from pests and diseases.

Armed with these tips, you can confidently allow your orchids to soak up in the rain and get all its inherent advantages. This will promote their healthy growth and blooming. And you get some respite from watering your orchids. Just watching them soak in the rain will make you very happy. After all, growing orchids is also about keeping ourselves peppy and happy.

Please leave a comment below if you have some more useful tips so that I can include the same in the post (and credit you for the same).

Till my next, happy growing!

Project#4: Tidying up your orchid’s root system

Orchids need a regular maintenance routine. Tidying up your orchids gives them a healthy environment, which prevents attack from pests and diseases. This ensures the orchid remains robust and is ready to put out beautiful blooms during the season.

In this project, I demonstrate how to clean up the root system of a lithophytic orchid (mounted on a rock).

Please Like, Share and Subscribe to the blog for regular updates.

Every year, your orchid grows new roots. As the number of new roots increase, peering through the transparent pot, you will notice several roots that are brown and mushy. This decay is a natural ageing process to shed off old roots.

A mix of old and new roots

The root system is now dominated by the roots from the newer growths. In order to create a healthy environment for these new roots, it is a good idea to clean up the root system and remove the old, dead roots.

While the general school of thought is to not disturb the orchid, I am a compulsive picker of old dried sheaths and roots that are visible, so that the orchids looks neat. This does not mean that I frequently unpot my orchids and go on a cleaning spree, every time I spot a dead and mushy root or two.

Instead, I assess whether the orchid medium remains wet due to lot of mushy dead roots. I also ensure the orchid is done with blooming, and check for the development of new growths and roots. This will indeed provide an opportune moment for repotting as the orchid will not suffer from dehydration due to lack of good roots. The new roots will quickly take over and minimise the shock of disturbing its root system.

Another reason why I like to tidy up the root system of my orchids is that dead mushy roots hold copious amounts of water. Prolonged dampness in the congested and closed environment within the confines of a pot encourages fungal and bacterial rot issues, which are commonly seen in orchids that grow in an excessively damp environment.

Dead, mushy roots encourage rot

The damp environment also acidifies the medium, leading to its early breakdown. Disintegrating medium further aggravates the dampness, leading to rot. Therefore, tidying up their root system will provide a healthy environment and prevent the root system from decaying, thereby encouraging the healthy growth of the plant, which in turn will lead to a healthy bloom cycle.

Aesthetically too, your orchid will look neat and well-groomed if the scruffy dried roots are taken off.

Green roots look healthy,  nurture the plant and provide good support

Now that you have understood the importance of cleaning up your orchid’s root system, you need to also recognise that the root system is the most important part of the plant, and is prone to set back. Therefore, you need to follow the below listed precautionary measures while cleaning up the root system:

  1. Always choose a good time for cleaning up your orchid’s root system. Preferably, time yourself when the new growths start showing up, and before the new shoot develops roots. This is of special significance as there is a high risk of damaging the new roots by bruising or breaking off the tip of the new roots. This in turn can affect its further development, as well as its capacity for nutrient and water absorption.
  2. Set aside some dedicated time to execute this project as you cannot complete it in a jiffy.
  3. Ensure that you have all the requirements like 3% bleach, rubbing alcohol, 3% hydrogen peroxide, foreceps, tweezers, fresh medium, if required, and a bigger pot ready for repotting the orchid.
  4. Sterilize equipment such as cutters, tweezers and forceps by rubbing with alcohol and flaming them. Take extreme precaution while doing so, so that there are no mishaps. Children need to carry out this step under adult supervision.
  5. Handle the plant carefully so that you do not damage any of the delicate parts of the plant such as roots, leaves and new growths.

Project

Tidying up the root system of my orchid

Cleaning up the orchid’s scruffy root system will make for one very happy plant

I mounted this Cattleya Walkeriana in June 2020.  The orchid liked its new environment during the rainy season and produced new roots. A few months later, once the rains stopped, I found the orchid suffering from lack of humidity. Frequent wet and dry cycle took its toll on the roots and they began dying.

Things got worse when I had to suddenly leave town for four weeks and my orchids remained untended. When I returned, I found a severely dehydrated orchid with its roots shrivelled up and dried. Watering it regularly only made these roots mushy and unhealthy.

Fortunately, the orchid recovered from the setback and put forth a new growth and roots. I did not want the orchid to develop rot issues and so decided to cut off the mushy roots, without disturbing the new roots. Hopefully, the plant will thrive in its new healthy environment.

To execute this project, I carried out the following steps for the best results:

  1. Cleaned the work area by rubbing with a swab dipped in 10% bleach solution.
  2. Prepared the plant by watering it before hand to ensure the plant doesn’t get dehydrated since I do not water the plant for 24 hours after cutting the roots or stem. This is done to effectively seal the open wounds caused by cutting the roots or stem.
  3. Untied the wires and raffia tape that were used to secure the plant on the rock.
  4. Removed the moss surrounding the roots and looked for the mushy roots. I began separating them with a pair of electrical tweezers. The tweezers are especially useful to reach into nooks and crevices and remove dried sheaths, tease out roots and separate them from the plant before cutting them off. This easy accessibility also prevents us from accidentally cutting off good roots or sheaths.
  5. Once the roots were cut off, I spritzed the root system with 3% hydrogen peroxide to reduce the risk of bacterial and fungal rot, and allowed them to sit for 10 minutes.
  6. I then covered the new roots loosely with a little moss, ensuring the moss is not too close to the base of the pseudobulbs. This will ensure the dampness from the moss does not encourage rot around the stem.
  7. I secured the moss and plant firmly in place with wire or raffia tape. Doing this will make the plant feels safe and will encourage further root production.
  8. Lastly, I placed it back in its tray and have been watering it every day by spraying a little water on the rock. The LECA bead humidity tray does the rest, by providing a humid environment throughout the day.

I stepped back to assess the plant and was pleased to see it all tidied up. I am confident the plant is much happier and will thrive in this low risk, environment. I will keep you posted about its progress.

There is a lot you can do to make your plants comfortable and provide a healthy environment for their growth. This dramatically reduces stem rot and root rot issues as well as the risk of developing diseases such as Fusarium Wilt.

To know more about orchid diseases and pest infections and their treatment, read my post, How to save your orchids from pests and diseases.

Orchids are resilient, and you will find them responding very well to seemingly small, yet important initiatives on your part, such as cleaning up of leaves, removing dried sheaths and cutting away dead roots, dividing the plants if they have outgrown their pots, and also cutting away old canes or pseudobulbs that are done with blooming.

All of these will give them a new lease of life and encourage them to focus their energy in putting on their best show during their bloom cycle. To know more about care tips for your orchids, read my post, 5 Basic care tips for your orchids.

Healthy growth conditions lead to a good bloom cycle

So make such projects a part of your orchid care regimen to provide them with healthy conditions for their growth.

Until my next, happy growing!

Project#2: Mounting your Tolumnia orchid on wood

One of the most fascinating aspects of growing an orchid is that you can get as creative as you like and mount them on various substrates such as wood, bark, coconut coir shells, rocks and any other textured surfaces such as ceramic mounts. Your orchids will take to this arrangement like a duck to water, and there is very little that can go wrong in this near-natural environment that you would be providing.

In their natural habitat, orchids grow as epiphytes on tree branches and trunks, as lithophytes on rocks and in between chinks in the rocks. You also find ground or terrestrial orchids that grow in soil. It is this diversity in their growth habitat that gives rise to a host of exciting possibilities. You just need imagination to experiment with new ways and learn about what suits your orchids well.

Mounting Tolumnia orchids

Growing orchids by mounting them on a suitable substrate can be creatively satisfying. They serve as excellent display pieces even when your orchids are not blooming. Lush, healthy well-fed leaves and pseudobulbs on a backdrop of textured cork or a wood mount of any kind, creates a unique, natural display. I personally believe this to be a very thrilling aspect of growing orchids, making it a highly creative experience and taking the feel-good factor of this delightful hobby, a notch higher.

Let us begin by understanding what a mount is. A mount is any textured surface on which an orchid can attach itself to and grow. It may be in the form of a rugged wood mount, a rock with an interesting shape and texture or even a coconut coir shell. You may hang it vertically, or you can place it in a shallow bowl or tray, and even in a vase with driftwood to make the most amazing displays.

Now, depending on the type of orchid, you can select the option most suitable for its growth. Always try to mimic its natural habitat. For example, thick rooted orchids like phalaenopsis are relatively more resistant to root burn and dessication than thin rooted orchids like oncidiums and dendrobiums. So they can adapt pretty well to growing them on coconut coir and shells. On the other hand, oncidiums and tolumnia or equitant orchids grow well on wood mounts. Cattleya, especially the nobilior and walkeriana varieties, grow reasonably well on both wood mounts and rocks as these are commonly found growing on trees as well as lime plateaus and moss-covered rocks in Brazil.

Pros and cons of mounting your orchids

ProsCons
1.Wood mounts provide a near natural environment for growing your orchids.Requires good quality cork or durable wood mounts that do not rot or disintegrate due to daily wetting/soaking. Cork mounts are best suited for mounting, but can be expensive. You can look for inexpensive substitutes for cork from within your locality.
2.Roots attach firmly to the mount and make the orchid feel secure, promoting healthy growth.Firmly attached roots pose a problem if you need to change the mount when the orchid outgrows its mounts. The roots get destroyed on unmounting. So it would be better to choose mount size based on the rate of growth of your orchid and the surface area it requires to spread out.
3.Chances of disease and rot significantly reduce due to quick drying out between waterings.Requires frequent or everyday watering, which can be tedious. So if you enjoy watering and have the time for it, then this is a great way to grow your orchids.
4.Occupy less space and can be accommodated on walls and vertical structures.Frequent handling for daily watering can increase the risk of mechanical damage to plants. The risk of infection spreading through open wounds and bruises makes them susceptible to rot, leading to their deterioration.
5.Aesthetically pleasing and makes for beautiful displays with or without blooms.You will love your wood mounts, but the daily watering schedule can take a toll on you if you have a large number of wood mounts in your collection. You will need to dedicate time every day for watering them. It’s always good to keep the numbers smaller by choosing hardy ones for mounting. You can also increase the amount of moss for mounting your orchids so that they provide a humid environment over a longer period. This will also allow you to wet the mount quickly and put it back. You need not soak the mounts. This can reduce your watering time to a great extent.

Project#2: Mounting your tolumnia orchid on a locally sourced wood mount

Mounted Tolumnia

From time to time, I take up mounting projects for select orchids, but usually plan them just before the beginning of the rainy season. The reason being that rain water brings out the best in orchids and they respond very well by putting out new growths and roots in abundance throughout the rainy season.

Therefore, the process of adapting to the new surroundings happens much more smoothly, without increasing your anxiety over delayed rooting and attachment. Once the roots get firmly attached, the orchid begins growing new pseudobulbs and leaves, and begins preparing for a healthy bloom cycle from its mature pseudobulbs.

For demonstration purposes, I have chosen a Tolumnia orchid, which is one of my favourite orchid groups, due to their compact size, beautiful, lush green fans and to top it all, the most amazing and vibrant coloured flowers that continue to sequentially bloom from the same spike.

Besides, Tolumnia orchids prefer to grow on surfaces such as mounts as opposed to growing within a pot with medium. While they grow equally well within pots, they need to be carefully watered so that they don‚Äôt remain in a soggy environment for long, which creates a conducive environment for bacterial  and fungal rot.

Tolumnia orchids prefer moisture, but also like to dry out between waterings. The fans are susceptible to rotting when grown upright. Growing them on vertical mounts ensures that water does not remain trapped in between the leaves and fans, thereby minimising the chances of rotting.

Along with these factors, there are other considerations such as the structure, size, growth habit, rate of growth and multi-directional growth or unidirectional growth, etc., which needs to be taken into account for selecting the most suitable type of mount for your orchid.

If you do not wish to wait for the rains before mounting, you can go ahead and mount it right away. Orchids develop new growths as the cold winter days recede. Check when your orchid develops new growths. This is the best time for making the transition to the mount as the new growths will very soon produce new roots that will attach the orchid firmly to the wood mount. This will also help the orchid adapt faster to the new grow environment and will ensure the bloom cycle does not get majorly affected due to a setback.

Choosing your mount and preparing it for mounting

Requirements for mounting your orchid

Once you have decided on your orchid, now you need to find a suitable mount. Fortunately, Tolumnia orchids are small in size and therefore require small sized mounts. I however, like to mount different coloured Tolumnia orchids on a large size mount (community planting). This will create amazing bloom displays, something akin to the flower shikara or boat on the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir, India!

So I chose a long cylindrical piece of dried wood, which I could either stick into a vase or lay it down like a wood log, on which the orchids would grow. I boiled it for a few minutes, which killed all germs and insects growing in the bark.

Select an area on the mount that will provide an aesthetically pleasing background for your mount and will allow it to feel at home and comfortably grow. Since Tolumnia orchids develop multiple growths or fans in all directions, you need to place the orchid on the centre of the mount. Gradually, its new growths will help it grow into a bushy clump and spread in all directions.

If you wish to vertically hang the mount, then drill a hole and make a hook with a metal wire of 10 gauge thickness. I prefer to make it a horizontal display or stick it vertically into a vase, so I gave this step a skip.

Apart from these major items, you will also need a cutter, tweezers,  sewing thread, moss, metal wire for making a hook, plant label, 3% hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and flamer as well as 10% bleach.

The tweezers,ers are very handy for cleaning up orchids or separating out dead roots and cutting the. You can gain access to narrow crevices between the gtowths. I bought this set of four tweezers from Amazon. You can check out the same here.

How to mount the Tolumnia orchid ‚Äď a step by step guide

Unpot your tolumnia
Teasing the medium out of the orchid roots with a pair of tweezers
Wind the thread diagonally to secure the orchid upright
All done up and ready
Get creative for a fabulous display
  1. Sterilize the work area by rubbing it with 10% bleach swab. Allow to dry.
  2. Wet the orchid and unpot it gently, without damaging its delicate hairy roots. Remove all pieces of media stuck to its roots. Wash the roots to remove traces of old media and check for any dead roots that are papery, flat, blackened or mushy.
  3. Sterilize the cutter by wiping it with rubbing alcohol and flaming it to kill any harmful germs that could get transferred to this orchid. Cool the cutter and cut the dead roots off, leaving behind only the good, healthy roots.
  4. Spray 3% hydrogen peroxide on the roots and keep the orchid aside for ten minutes.
  5. Take the wood mount that has been sterilised to kill any insects and microbes, and place it on the work area.
  6. Make a tiny bed for the orchid at the desired place by placing a little bit of moss and placing the tolumnia on it. Spread out the roots in all directions. Cover the roots with more strands of sphagnum moss and secure with your fingers, holding the plant and moss in the desired position.
  7. Use a long twine or raffia tape or sewing thread in a neutral colour to secure the orchid in place by repeatedly winding it around the moss. To secure a plant upright in the desired position, wind the thread diagonally to make the figure 8. This will hold the plant firmly in place. Tie up multiple knots to ensure the binding doesn’t open up. Cut off the loose ends to give it a neat finish and also prevent it from getting entangled with other plants and objects.
  8. Water the mount and hang it up in a suitable place.
  9. Water the mount daily by wetting it under a tap. Ensure that only the mount/roots get wet and not the fans of the Tolumnia. Fertilize it once a week by spraying a mild solution of orchid fertilizer (110 PPM).
  10. Very soon, your orchid will start growing roots and will eventually produce blooms from the mature fans.

Community planting

7 Tolumnia on one mount

Since Tolumnia orchids are small in size and grow as bushy clumps, they are good options for community planting projects. Instead of planting a single Tolumnia, you could plant five or more varieties with vibrant coloured blooms to create a beautiful display. I tried this project by planting seven different Tolumnia orchids on a single mount and had two of them blooming at the same time. I am eagerly awaiting the time when all seven of them will bloom at the same time. It would indeed be mind-blowing, I am sure.

Getting a slice of the woods into your living room

Nature in your living room

I have realised, over the years, that growing orchids is just the beginning of a wonderful journey of creativity. You could elevate this hobby to greater heights by displaying your mounted orchid in a beautiful arrangement that will teleport you instantly to the woods, where these orchids grow in wild abundance.

Mounting your orchids and creating these displays will provide you with immense satisfaction, which will contribute to your overall well-being. To know more about this equation, read my post on 7 Reasons why orchids can help you beat stress.

On this note, I urge you to get creative and wish you a happy mounting!