Can I encourage Maxillaria tenuifolia to grow from the base?
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  #1  
Old 10-12-2019, 09:11 PM
StephaneL StephaneL is offline
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Can I encourage Maxillaria tenuifolia to grow from the base?
Default Can I encourage Maxillaria tenuifolia to grow from the base?

I recently bought a Maxillaria tenuifolia. When I repotted it, I realized that it was previously potted very deep in the medium, and that many of the pseudobulbs covered by the medium were rotting. After removing the rotted pseudobulbs and roots, I ended up with four separate plants, each with a single stack of pseudobulbs.

The plants look a bit weird, and I was wondering if there is any way to encourage them to develop more pseudobulbs at the base, rather than growing vertically? Maybe by cutting the top pseudobulb?

Thank you for your suggestions!
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:39 PM
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Maxillaria tenufolia may look weird as a young immature plants. But that is how they grow, newer pseudobulbs grow upwards above the older ones, forming clumps of shaggy grass like mounds. The flowers will hide inside the long thin leaves above the pseudobulbs and have that lovely coconut scent. Your plants are fine and will grow into small mounds over time (a few years) or repot them all back into one pot and that will shorten the time some. But either way patience will be needed.
The plant in the photo was only three pseudobulbs when we got it five years ago and looked like yours.
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Old 10-13-2019, 02:28 PM
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camille1585 camille1585 is offline
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I agree, that's just how they grow, stacking bulbs is their natural habit. They usually start new bulbs mid spring (late April for mine), so hopefully they should start to fill out a bit next year.

However, once your plants get larger you can manipulate that to some degree. If you keep them in small pots, they tend to grow upwards. If you increase the pot size (without overpotting) or mount them they tend to stack a bit less and put out more growths from the base.

This is mine, after 9 years of growth. It started out just like yours.
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Old 10-13-2019, 03:25 PM
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One more note... there are roots from those "stacked" pseudobulbs that reach all the way down into the medium. So don't remove those brown sheaths - they protect the roots. This "climbing" habit eventually turns into beautiful pendulous growths full of flowers like those of Camille and Selmo, even though the pot looks small by comparison. Let the plants do what they want to do naturally.

Also, these really don't want roots disturbed- The plant would have been better off not being separated, but what's done is done. Now just let the pieces have a chance to establish. Since you have 4 of them, perhaps try mounting one of them, with sphagnum over the rhizome areas.

Here's one that I mounted a couple of years ago. Some nice new growth both at bottom and top.
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:13 PM
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And just for grins, here's one grown by a friend of mine in southern Orange County, CA (coastal). It is still in its original 4 inch basket (though by now, pretty much guaranteed there is no medium left) The plant is about 4 feet across (actual measurements 44 inches x 30 inches). My friend says "maybe time to repot and divide to make it look better... maybe next year". Don't mess with success...It has been growing that way, outdoors, for about 8 years.
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Old 10-13-2019, 09:23 PM
StephaneL StephaneL is offline
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Thank you all for the recommendations. I guess I just have to wait. Looking at your pictures, it's worth the wait...

@Roberta: Many pseudobulbs and roots were rotting. For future reference, do you still believe I should have let them as is?
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Old 10-13-2019, 09:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StephaneL View Post
Thank you all for the recommendations. I guess I just have to wait. Looking at your pictures, it's worth the wait...

@Roberta: Many pseudobulbs and roots were rotting. For future reference, do you still believe I should have let them as is?
With these, it is sometimes hard to tell what is actually rotting and what is OK. If pseudobulbs were squishy or smelly, then yes they'd need to be removed. If just black, I'd rinse them and the roots and put in small bark (or even sphagnum in a basket) and let them root. (One big plant is stronger than several little ones) They're weird... roots can look fairly awful and still be supporting the plant while it makes new ones. These things tend to ramble. I have had some success putting them in a bulb pan with well-drained medium, laying the "stack" of pseudobulbs on the medium instead of hanging down, and they can root. But it's in the nature of the species to stack up the growths. Once the plant gets established, what is in the pot becomes pretty irrelevant.

When a big plant is divided, it's common to put some lower pseudobulbs into the pot, especially if there aren't a lot of roots. Since roots run between the pseudobulbs, that means that there are some roots to go into the medium even if there aren't many "free" roots. That, of course, is not a good environment for those pseudobulbs and they may rot at least somewhat, but if the attached roots reach out and continue to hydrate the part above the medium, the plant will establish itself and grow new roots.
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