How to grow Dracula spp.
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  #1  
Old 11-27-2014, 11:11 PM
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Default How to grow Dracula spp.

I have recently been on a Dracula kick, so I've been collecting a few Dracula spp. In the meantime, I've also been asked about how I grow my Draculas. So here it is, a tutorial on the process of how I grow Draculas.

Draculas are generally found growing in the cloud or mist forests of Central to South America. The range of elevations they come from are generally around 800 m on up to about 2,800 m.

Not all Draculas are cool growers, that is overgeneralizing. A large majority of them will fall within the category of either being intermediate growing or cool to intermediate growing. Draculas that tolerate either extreme in temperatures are actually relatively rare.

Plants that were collected from 800 m to about 1,200 m are generally considered intermediate to warm growing.

Those that come from about 1,200 m to about 1,600 m would generally be considered intermediate growing.

If the plants were found from elevations of about 1,600 m to about 2,200 m, they would be considered cool to intermediate growing.

Anything above 2,200 m are strictly cool growing.

I recommend doing a search on the web as to which Draculas come from what countries and which elevation ranges.

Some Draculas grow upright inflorescences while most will grow pendulous inflorescences. Keep this in mind when buying your Draculas.

In terms of lighting I would say it would be about bright shade to the low end of moderately bright indirect light, no brighter. The way to tell whether your Dracula is receiving enough light is by the shade of green the leaves are. If the leaves are a dark green, the plant's not getting enough light. If they're getting sunburn blotches, they're obviously getting too much light. Should they be getting stronger than usual lighting that doesn't give them sunburn, I have not ever seen a Dracula produce anthocyanin pigments, (purple pigments), to act as a sunscreen, so err on the side of caution so that the plant doesn't get sunburned.

Humdiity levels of about 50% to 90% are beneficial to the flower formation. I have not had the experience of humidity levels being around 50% kill off a plant before, but try not to let the humidity drop below 50%. If you must, get a mister or a fogger, and use RO/DI water only. Using tap water in a mister or fogger will shorten the machine's lifespan. Plus, your Draculas will not like it when you pump mist with high levels of TDS in it onto them.

Growing container of choice would be either wood slat baskets or plastic net pots. The reason is twofold. First, the roots like a lot of air going to them. The second is because a large majority of Draculas have pendulous growing inflorescences.

Potting media of choice would be either full Sphagnum moss, a combo of Sphag and "sponge rock", or a combo of Sphag and large grade wood chips.

For those who are wondering, yes, perlite and "sponge rock" are essentially the same material, the only difference between perlite and "sponge rock" is the size of the particle. "Sponge rock" is far larger than what is often packaged and sold as perlite. Don't use the smaller grade particle, the stuff commonly sold as perlite, use what is marketed as "sponge rock".

Additional potting media materials might be packing peanuts. It doesn't matter if they're the white ones, green ones, or pink ones, the orchid will not care, it is only a grower's preference.

I'm sure by now a lot of people have heard that Draculas like it wet, well…that's not entirely accurate. They like it consistently moist. Growing them sopping wet will rot the roots out. Do not make this mistake! Draculas will be ok if the potting media goes dry, just make sure it's not during a hot day or that it's only dry for less than 24 hrs. Generally speaking, it is best to allow the potting media to dry to the point where it is still barely damp to the touch, then water again.

Regarding water quality, they detest water that is high in TDS. While TDS could mean all sorts of things in terms of mineral content, in the case of growing a Dracula, the specific mineral content of the water doesn't really matter. The water's gotta be low in TDS irrespective of the mineral constituencies, or the roots will die off, the leaves will start getting leaf tip dieback, which is followed by rapid leaf drop. As far as TDS values go, I'd say about 11 ppm - 20 ppm is plenty good, so I recommend getting the best water filtration unit you can buy and use it not only for the Draculas, but you can also use the water for other orchids, cooking, or drinking, and/or maybe even for fish keeping/reef keeping if that's a concurrent hobby of yours.

Fertilization should be very minimal, like I said, they don't like high mineral content or nutrient content in their water. Since the math involved in calculating fertilizer concentration is variable according to the N-P-K ratios of each brand of fertilizer and what-not, and can be a bit complicated, I'll skip this and defer to somebody who has the know-how to teach this.

With that, I will now show you guys how I pot Draculas. The following bits will have photos, (I will upload them as I type this up).
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:50 PM
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These are the tools of the trade.

You will need a magnifying glass just in case you need to look at something small on the plant.

The scissors are for cutting off any dead material on the plant.

Forceps are for removal of cut off dead plant material from tough spots in order to avoid damaging your plant as much as possible. I personally like using the toothed tissue forceps.
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:51 PM
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This is a demonstration of repotting my Dracula chimaera. The potting media it was in was going bad, so I decided to change it out. When I removed the old potting media for the Dracula chimaera, I didn't think to take a photo of it, so I don't have an example of what the previous potting media looked like that prompted me to want to change it out, but I will have a photo of a Dracula sodiroi ssp. erythrocodon where the potting media will need to be changed out soon, and you will see what a potting media that needs changing looks like there.

Here is a photo of the plant unpotted with the potting media removed. Notice how much of the longer roots are actually dead. The living roots are all towards the top of the root mass and are significantly shorter.
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:53 PM
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This is a pic of a healthy root on my Dracula chimaera. It was difficult to take a good photo of it because the root was rather thin and small. But you can still see the white velamen and the green root tip. So, in a way, a healthy root on a Dracula generally looks very typical of that of other more well known orchids, (such as Oncidiums, Miltoniopsis, or Dendrobiums), as well.
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:58 PM
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Dead roots were trimmed and removed.
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Old 11-28-2014, 12:00 AM
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Here, I'm using a plastic net pot.

I'm prepping the pot by putting some styrofoam peanuts on the bottom because of how short the roots are on this plant and how few of them are still alive.
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Old 11-28-2014, 12:01 AM
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Lining the pot with moss.

The moss was pre-soaked with RO/DI water. Remember, no tap water whatsoever!
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Old 11-28-2014, 12:02 AM
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Placing the orchid in the pot.

Be careful not to damage too many roots, young shoots, and any flower spikes. The more important thing being not to damage a ton of roots during this process.
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Old 11-28-2014, 12:04 AM
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Filling in the potting media.

Do not put so much moss in there that you're covering too much of the base of the plant. If there is so much moss that it starts covering too much of the base of the plant, it will invite a lot of future problems with rot. Only put enough moss to cover up the roots, don't overdo it.

Also, do not pack the moss in too tight. Remember, the roots like a lot of air going to them. They need to breathe!
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Old 11-28-2014, 12:06 AM
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Finished product.
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Last edited by King_of_orchid_growing:); 11-28-2014 at 12:35 AM..
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