By orchidannie at 2007-02-03 20:38
A SIMPLIFIED METHOD OF GROWING ORCHIDS
he word hydroponics means working or moving water. This can be accomplished with a pump in a water reservoir or more supply by using an aggregate that has capillary action with a small reservoir of water.
Most orchid growers visualize orchids growing in hydroponics to be sitting in water. They believe that orchids and hydroponics do not mix. There is nothing further from the truth. Orchids need moisture, oxygen, nutrients and light. The first three of these components can be supplied to orchids growing in hydroponics in just the exact proportions that they need with more control than any other growing method.
When the orchid grower pots an orchid in most conventional growing mediums that medium is the best it is ever going to be. The medium will start to break down, decompose, with each passing day. Growing orchids in an inert fixed medium will provide that root zone with a healthier environment without the presence of decomposing matter, bacteria and mold.
Using a hydroponic growing kit with a high fired terra cotta medium is an ideal hydroponic method. The terra cotta growing medium has capillary action and will provide even and consistent moisture to the root zone. This hydropinic growing kit consists of two pots. A culture or grow pot and an outer pot to hold the nutrient solution. It also has a float devise to monitor the depth of the water in the outer pot. The culture pot is of special design. It has slits all around the lower portion of the pot with a concave bottom so that only the lower outer portion of the pot makes contact with the nutrient solution. Orchids growing in any hydroponic system must be allowed to go dry before the water is replenished. This will allow maximum oxygen to the roots.
Even orchids that need more moisture in their root zone also need oxygen. This means that an ideal hydroponic medium, must have good moisture retention and still provide oxygen. The fired clay aggregate, with its uneven circular shapes, provide air pockets between the pebbles and will not change in composition with age and use. The fired clay aggregate can be recycled. If you wish to use it again in another orchid you can sterilize it in a hot oven.
Before you place any orchid into a hydroponic growing kit be sure to remove all of the old medium and any roots that are not sound. Trimming the dead roots should be done with a sterile instrument. Place a small amount of the terra cotta medium into the bottom of the grow pot. Hold the bare root orchid in the grow pot and simply pour the medium around the roots. You can tap the grow pot on a hard surface to settle the medium down into the pot. Add additional medium if necessary. The placement of the orchid in the selected grow pot will have a lot to do with its growth pattern. Sympodial growing orchids should be placed with their oldest growth against the wall of the grow pot and monopodial orchids should be centered in the pot. Most orchids can go several years before repotting. When it is time to repot the hydroponic orchid to a larger pot this can be done without radically upsetting the plant.. If upon examination the roots look sound when it is dispotted , then you can simply hold it into a larger grow pot and fill in with additional medium. Monopodial growing orchids such as phalaenopsis usually need to be reset but not always potted on. In this case, examine the roots, removing any unsound roots and reset into the same pot or larger using the same terra cotta medium. No need to sterilize the medium unless you are using it with a different orchid.
Light, temperature and air circulation should all remain the same as conventional orchid culture. A hydroponic system with a water reservoir will add humidity around the plant. In a dry environment the evaporation rate will increase adding to the humidity around the foliage. For some orchids a defined rest period after blooming is recommended. In a hydropinic system this is easily achieved. Either replace the nutrient solution with plain water to an initially lower depth, or withhold the reservoir completely and occasionally run plain water through the medium to keep the roots from dehydrating.
Hydroponically grown orchids have less frequency of infestation due to the fact that you avoid the too wet too dry syndrome. A healthier plant means less problems with infestations. If you should need to chemically treat a hydroponic orchid for an infestation use all precautions suggested by the manufacturer; such as; avoiding direct sunlight, always apply where you have good ventilation and in most cases rinse through the roots with plain water to remove any chemical residue. Some systemic chemicals can and should remain in the roots after application. In this case do not leach. If it is a soap based application always leach thoroughly to flush the soap from the roots.
Try an orchid in hydroculture and experience the ease of growing. You will grow a healthier orchid, that lives longer, producing beautiful foliage and an abundance of blooms.