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  #1  
Old 10-28-2020, 09:26 AM
DirtyCoconuts DirtyCoconuts is offline
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Default Mastering YOUR growing culture

I wanted a thread for discussion about the little ways we tweak our plants to thrive (give them what they need) in the homes they have (in your location and culture)

All good cultural guides will have a disclaimer that this just just what they do or just how it is in nature and you should adjust accordingly, but what does that mean to you


I have recently had out of season rains. And a lot of them. It rained for 6 of the last 9 days with almost no real sun. This happens sometimes here. Because of this phenomenon I have learned to grow my plants in a SUPER open mix with almost no organic materials. The only exceptions are the Bulbophyllum and they are still grown WAY more open then most other growers would.

I have started seeding my potted orchids with springtails as the extra moisture can allow fungus and mold to appear...they are harmless and will die if there is nothing to eat, they won’t ever harm my plants and I grow a culture of them so I have unlimited supply

Last tip I have found is to use leaf litter as much as I can. It not only allows the extra decay phenomenon which I believe adds materials for the plants but it lets good guys like spiders and anoles have a home and then they protect from the nastier pests

What have you leaned to adapt your culture to growing while still tailoring it to the plant?
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  #2  
Old 10-28-2020, 10:19 AM
Keysguy Keysguy is offline
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Great thread DC. I'll provide something of substance once I get my act together here.
First thing I'll say is that where you and I grow it's really easy to sit back and let mother nature do most of the heavy lifting. I just took a peek at the shadehouse. OMG what a jungle! I tried preen on the ground this year to see if it would help with the weeds. I'll post a pic later and you can decide if it worked. I'm thinking I'm not going to be invited to bid to take over their ad campaign.
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  #3  
Old 10-28-2020, 10:35 AM
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I’m still getting used to my growing conditions here and adjusting.

My greenhouse in PA was more like you Florida growers’ conditions, but now, without one, I at least have a very long growing season outdoors here in NC and a relatively short winter windowsill period.

I have long been a proponent of very “open” media and lots of watering, but that can create more work for in-home growers. I guess you just have to set your priorities...
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  #4  
Old 10-29-2020, 11:50 AM
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Ohio, where I live, is a fun place to grow tropical stuff. Winters are very dark and dreary and the home is cool. It can be brutally windy and bitterly cold...or forty degrees much of the winter. Summers are completely unpredictable...randomly choose three options: rainy or dry, cool or hot, everything in abrupt changes, or months of the same. We have had frosts in July, weeks of hot temperatures suddenly followed by very cold temperatures, weeks of temperatures in the sixties and low seventies with constant rain, and months of ninety-five degrees and no rain. There is no planning for it.

When I first started growing orchids, back in the late 1990's (according to photographs I recently found), I grew in bark. This effectively meant that the plants became dehydrated either because I did not water enough or because the middle never dried and all the roots died. In the summer, the orchid had to begin over again. After a couple of years, I realized that orchids grew on trees or rocks and the medium was just to hold the plant in the pot and keep the air humid around the roots so, when I saw the lava rock at a nursery...end of rotting roots. To prevent fungus issues, I add extra Calcium...need to prepare for those possible weeks of endless rain.

My other plants have always been potted in an abundance of perlite and allowed to go root-bound. I find that it helps to buy the tropical plants from places that have either the same climate or a colder climate and to buy them in the early summer (shipped after the cooler weather has passed and before the hotter temperatures arrive) to give them time to adjust. I learned that I do not fare well with outdoor fig trees so I have two fig trees in pots which enjoy a very indulged life of being brought into the home each winter. A few years ago, I added fluorescent lights to my set up. I enjoy the extra warmth as do the plants.

Growing plants is always a learning experience...I am always discovering new tricks to making them happier even after all these years.
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  #5  
Old 10-29-2020, 01:38 PM
DirtyCoconuts DirtyCoconuts is offline
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Really good tips, Leaf, especially about getting plants already acclimated to colder temps.
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  #6  
Old 10-29-2020, 01:46 PM
Clawhammer Clawhammer is offline
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This comment is completely unhelpful to the discussion but just reading the above makes me stressed and makes me glad I grow indoors. I won't feel so bad the next time I have to buy a light or pay my electric bill, the extra control is worth it
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  #7  
Old 10-29-2020, 02:47 PM
DirtyCoconuts DirtyCoconuts is offline
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it is a good comment bc i know what you mean in the opposite...when i am drenched in sweat in late October and annoyed at my sandy soil....i remember that i am SOOOO glad it isn't snowing
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  #8  
Old 10-29-2020, 03:39 PM
Mr.Fakename Mr.Fakename is offline
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That's a very interesting topic; there's so much that can be done differently from grower to grower, even in the same conditions.


Back when I started with orchid-keeping (9-10 years ago), my strategy was : put stuff in the garden under the trees so full sun doesn't burn, water when dry with tap water, repot when looking bad, take back inside and put wherever there's space during winter.

I had some success and some (mostly) failures. I still painfully remember that Phalaenopsis bellina coerulea SM/TOGA that I was gifted and killed in a matter of weeks.
Recently got 2 of those to prove myself I improved but that's another story.

Then I read more and more about orchids, learnt English (that helps to access and understand A LOT of valuable info), went to a few exhibitions and talked to people, etc.

I started getting my hands on specific genera instead of buying anything I could find discounted in stores, and ultimately became more aware of potting media, light and watering.
At this point I became pretty decent with a few Phal and Vanda species.

When I moved to my current location - 6 years ago if my memory serves me well - I had to get rid of most plants I had.
My parents got me a mini NOiD Phal that was a bathroom decoration, alone for years, before I got back into orchid frenzy again. That poor thing must've seen it all; neglect, no fertiliser, bad lighting, broken down media... Today it's a monster with 11 leaves, so I guess it's forgiving.

Then 3 years ago, I went to an orchid show nearby, and bought a Phal violacea and Phal Liodoro.
Pleased by reblooms and good growths, more and more plants were added, mostly Phal because I grew those in the past and was having good results.

Strong of this experiences, I knew how and when to repot, how to water, I got fertiliser, gave the plants the best possible spots; and most importantly sticked to orchids I knew would grow in my conditions.
That bathroom being south-oriented, with the counter-top about a meter or so away from the window, means that high light plants would not thrive and that my Phal got a rest period during winter due to sufficient light.


During the past 2 years, I started wondering how to get better orchids and experimented. Some ideas were/are total crap, some showed to be effective, here are a few:

Lava rocks in the bottom of pots provide nice aeration and drainage while maintaining humidity. That way the pots dry more evenly and I'm sure buried roots are not sitting in water or badly rotten media.

I started using bigger chunks of bark, mixed with long fibres Sphagnum and those lava rocks, as plants seemed to react better to faster wet/dry cycles and a more "open media".

Springtails and some soil mites randomly appeared. I kept them and let them roam free from pot to pot.
Mosses showed up as well, and I also let them grow.
I've never had a Fusarium/black rot/whatever outbreak, and I'm convinced that a healthy microbiome makes a happy and healthy plant.

I bought a better fertiliser. Simple enough yet life changing.

This year, I started using organic products that contain enzymes, acids, nutrients etc that are not in traditional fertilisers.

To go along with this and the microbiome thing, I also invested in "plant probiotics", with lots of helpful fungi and bacteria.

I also tried different wet/dry cycles for different plants. While my warm growing Phal seem to enjoy constant moisture, the deciduous species do better when they're dry for a few days once in a while.
My lowii is blooming for the 2nd time this year; both spikes were initiated after 4-5 days of drought. Coincidence or not, I'll try again next year to be sure.


While it's too early to be sure my current strategy is a winning one, I'm really trying to understand my plants and provide as many things as I can do, and let nature do it's thing.
I went from doing at random to doing with a purpose, using science to be a responsible plant dad. Now that I bought a grow light, my orchids can enjoy a full year of growth instead of being limited by a small window.

It's a never-ending learning process, and the Internet is such a wealth of knowledge, I'm in all honesty super stoked to see where things will go for the orchid growers community. It takes one person to come up with something (like S/H), and people everywhere can grow plants they couldn't touch before.


P.S.: My reply is all over the place but I stand by it.
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  #9  
Old 10-29-2020, 03:47 PM
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WaterWitchin WaterWitchin is offline
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An interesting topic. Thanks for the opportunity to think and chime in. One of the things that made me a more successful grower than when I first started... finally I stopped adapting to the plants. I can't keep track of all the different temperature requirements, the likes to stay moist, likes to dry out, etc. And after trying for a few years, decided I didn't like even attempting to do so.

So I get orchids I'm interested in. They adapt, or they don't. After using that cultural method for over a decade it's pretty well honed, and I don't have to think about it much. Turning to growing everything in semi-hydro or mounted was a real game-changer for me. It took away the moist vs dry out factor. If I give something a go in SH and it doesn't like it (usually have a two-year time limit before deciding it's not gonna work) I either mount it if I really want it, or give it away, or toss if it's pathetic. And I say "never will mount another plant" at least twice a year; I've learned I'm lying to myself, and just put more under the MistKing.

So everything has to grow in the same temperature range, year 'round, with only the occasional exception. It takes a LOT of loving a particular plant to make that exception. I know if I were to grow most of the Masdies it would require a separate area for them during hot months. Not willing, so far, regardless of how much I like them. Cymbs, I have only six, and I do drag them outside in mid fall to chill. Trying to get away from those that need the big chill. Anyone want a gigantic Cymb that needs a big chill next spring?

Basics... pretty much know what needs extra light, or less light, within reason. And more or less light is an easily adjustable part of the culture... looks too green, doesn't bloom, etc, give more light. Sunburn, less light.

Somewhere along the line, I moved from "I want that plant" to finding something I want, then first question is "Will that plant want me?" For me, it's similar to relationships and friendships... better figure that one out first because faking it doesn't work in the long run.
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Caveat: Everything suggested is based on my environment and culture. Please adjust accordingly.
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  #10  
Old 10-29-2020, 05:21 PM
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Leafmite Leafmite is offline
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Yes, it makes sense to buy only plants that like my environment but, to be happy, I find that I need to have a Theobroma cacao, a Cinnamomum zeylanicum, those coffee trees, passionfruit vines, that Neem tree, pomegranate, the citrus trees, and the jasmines. I tried life without a Theobroma cacao as it just seemed crazy to have one but I ended up replacing it. I once gave up my pom tree as I needed the space...I now have two. Since I love these plants so much, I had to find a way to help them thrive in my environment.

Orchids, though, I do now buy what grows easily for me. I realized that I enjoy them for the flowers and am not so picky about the type. The exception was the bellina but I have one now that tolerates the cooler temperatures.
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