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Old 09-06-2018, 01:37 PM
WeirdGuySeattle WeirdGuySeattle is offline
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advice on buying a flask
Default advice on buying a flask

I have an urge to get some orchids that I have never seen anywhere other than in a flask.

Comparettia would be ideal - and found someone who would sell a flask.

Anybody ever bought a flask, raised the seedlings? How big of a pain is it, what sort of mortality rate should I expect (assuming a first-timer with de-flasking)..

Ugh, even if successful, I dread trying to get rid of the excess. Are the strongest seedlings going to have the best flowers (which babies do I keep to flowering size?)

General tips / advice appreciated, maybe I can help some breeder out.
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Old 09-09-2018, 09:36 AM
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Fairorchids Fairorchids is offline
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advice on buying a flask Male

I have some general guide lines up on my web site, which are based on experience with a lot of Paphiopedilum, some Vandaceous and a few Laelias.

Go to Fair Orchids
Click on Orchids, and from the drop down select Cultural notes.
Look for FO, Growing Orchid Seedlings from Flask.
Kim (Fair Orchids)

Founder of SPCOP (Society to Prevention of Cruelty to Orchid People), with the goal of barring the taxonomists from tinkering with established genera!

I am neither a 'lumper' nor a 'splitter', but I refuse to re-write millions of labels.
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Old 09-10-2018, 08:21 AM
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MrHappyRotter MrHappyRotter is offline
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advice on buying a flask Male

How big of a pain is it, what sort of mortality rate should I expect (assuming a first-timer with de-flasking).

There are far too many variables and unknowns to predict and the answer is basically unknowable ahead of time. Could be anywhere from 100% mortality if you aren't good at following instructions, are unlucky, or decide to experiment, could be 0% mortality if you're skilled, knowledgeable, and/or lucky.

I will recommend you purchase your first flask(s) from reputable, experienced nurseries/flaskers, even if it costs more, presuming you want to maximize your chance of success. The first flasks I attempted were purchased from reputable vendors, and they have turned out fantastic. Little to no mortality, very healthy plants, fast growing, etc.

The flasks I've purchased from random people have mostly been disappointing for various reasons. In some cases, the survival rate of the seedlings has been low (despite giving them the same care as my successful deflasked seedlings), I've received flasks where the overwhelming majority of the seedlings are deformed mutants (likely due to inexperienced flasking techniques, incorrect growth hormones/nutrients, environmental conditions, and things of that nature), and it's also much more likely that things are mislabeled (such as when someone accidentally self-pollinates a plant due to inexperience when they were actually trying to hybridize it with something else).

As for mortality, some of it will depend on your skill and patience, some of it will depend on the seedlings themselves. You'll need to read up on how to deflask and care for recently deflasked seedlings, there's lots of good info online. The summary is that initially you plant multiple seedlings in the same pot and you need to keep them covered so they get 100% humidity, then over the course of a few weeks (or more) you begin to expose them to the air for longer and longer time frame to harden them off. Also, initially, it's recommended that you have some anti-bacterial / fungicidal products on hand to treat the seedlings and prevent disease. Hydrogen peroxide is another tool for disease control.

Ugh, even if successful, I dread trying to get rid of the excess. Are the strongest seedlings going to have the best flowers (which babies do I keep to flowering size?)

This unfortunately is another question where the answer is unknowable.

There are different points of view on this, but I doubt there's been any conclusive scientific study on this. I know people who say that vigor and flower quality are roughly correlated, meaning that the batch of the best growers is also most likely to contain the plant or plants with the best flower quality. However, it's not unusual for the plants with the biggest & best flowers to be slower and more difficult growers.

I think a lot of the decision to cull the weakest has to do with making sure you don't spend too much time and energy cultivating weak plants that could always be runts that may not bloom or grow well. From there, it's fairly typical for hobbyist growers to keep the biggest plants for themselves, and sell off the healthy stuff that's sort of mid-range in size. Some of this has to do with the fact that the biggest plants are likely to be the most vigorous and also likely to be the first to bloom. Some of it has to do with the belief that the biggest plants will produce the best quality blooms.
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Old 09-14-2018, 12:54 PM
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isurus79 isurus79 is offline
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Originally Posted by WeirdGuySeattle View Post

Ugh, even if successful, I dread trying to get rid of the excess.
Honestly, this probably won't be a problem with your first flask. I'd assume a massive mortality rate! Even the best growers need to kill off a few flasks before they become proficient enough to have some excess.

For all my pics:

Instagram @isurus79
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Old 09-14-2018, 01:41 PM
WeirdGuySeattle WeirdGuySeattle is offline
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advice on buying a flask

well, I received a flask of Comparettia speciosa.

The vendor actually removed the plants already, and sprayed off the roots (no agar that I could find), and sprayed a fungicide on the plants. Also she wrapped everything in a wet paper tower, put it in a baggie, and sent it to me.

Looks great actually.

Potted them all 5 different compots - 100% sphagnum.
The compots are now sitting in a dome lidded seedling tray on the bottom shelf of a bench in the greenhouse. Dome sort of offset a little to get air in there, and the GH is 80% humidity (59F at night, 80F daytime max).

3 days later they still look pretty good, maybe 1 seedling turning yellow, but he was already on his way to yellow when I got him.

I really should take more pictures, but so far so good.
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Old 10-06-2018, 05:44 PM
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King_of_orchid_growing:) King_of_orchid_growing:) is offline
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Late to the game, (and it is understood that the purchase for the flask has already been made), but I will add something else that was not mentioned yet. I hope the following information can also help others reading this thread.

Some hobbyists who offer flasks may have had the orchid seed flasking done at a lab before they were sent back to the hobbyist to offer up for sale. If you ever had a question regarding the sale, ask the seller and ask others who may have bought plants from the seller.

If you ever buy a flask from a seller with smaller than usual seedlings and the seedlings have not been deflasked, you can most certainly send the flask to a lab you trust and have them replated. I've done this once before, and it worked beautifully. It may cost more than you'd like, but you're ultimately not wasting your money either, especially if that orchid is ridiculously difficult to get a hold of.

I don't like culling seedlings unless they are so deformed and unworthy of keeping that they must absolutely be destroyed. Nature will usually do the work of culling for you, no extra effort needed. If you tend to work with species (or hybrids) that are not produced in large numbers by seed, it is difficult to want to cull anything for fear of losing the numbers needed for sustaining the population, (this is particularly true if the orchids are extremely rare or difficult to get a hold of for any reason). It is also true that if you work with a species or hybrid you have never worked with before that the possibility of a 100% loss does exist, therefore, culling does not come into play until I must absolutely do it in order to maintain a strong and healthy population of the plants. (It just happened to me this month where I experienced a 100% seedling loss from a flask that was produced even though I have had experience with deflasking seedlings.) I probably wouldn't be thinking of culling anything until the population of seedlings have established for an extended period of time. Usually, I find it more satisfying to just put up extra seedlings I feel confident in letting go for sale, plus this gives me peace of mind that I am not wasting a life.

Seedlings that grow vigorously do tend to have a higher correlation with earlier blooming cycles, although, it does not guarantee it. It also does not necessarily mean that the "best blooms" will come out of them. What is considered the "best blooms" is a subjective truth, not an objective one, provided that a permanent deformity is not involved. What I consider beautiful blooms does not necessarily follow along with what you'd consider to be beautiful or ideal blooms. Mother nature built in genetic variation for a reason - because it is a lottery, you never know what's going to happen and what's going to come out of an extinction event. Consider how some non-avian dinosaurs evolved to become some of the biggest and most diverse group of animals known to have existed, but a mass extinction happened, and only the small avian dinosaurs survived, which eventually paved the way for tiny mammals to take over - hence the rise of human beings. So, yeah, Mr Happy Rotter is correct, you never definitively know what's going to come out of a batch of seedlings until it happens.

In terms of runts... This is also relative, (in a sense). Plants can produce growth inhibitors not only against plants that do not belong to the same species, but competition amongst individuals in the same species has also been scientifically documented as well. If you grade out the seedlings by size you give the "runts" a better shot at growing. However, do understand that as long as the seedlings are grown in community pots, (aka compots), there will always be "runts" in the bunch. There is a plant documentary that describes this behavior. I believe the whole idea of "a runt should be culled" should not be employed.

Speaking of deformities of seedlings... In some cases, it is difficult to tell right off the bat whether a seedling has a permanent deformity caused by genetics. Sometimes, what would be considered a deformity is temporary, you'd need to wait it out and see if there are any recurring or developing problems with the plant(s) over time. In this case, it also makes culling something to do potentially quite a long time after deflasking is done.

I generally find that in the majority of cases it is not necessary to use a bactericide or fungicide to prevent seedling loss upon deflasking. I have seen on many occasions that the problems with disease is stress related due to improper care or poor development of the seedlings in-flask. The problem with using bactericides and fungicides is that it still does not guarantee that it will protect the seedlings against the pathogenic organisms attacking them and it may also delay the plant's immune system development, (the seedlings must quickly develop to live and survive in a world surrounded by disease organisms without our constant aid). Nonetheless, it is still good to have a bactericide or fungicide at your disposal, just in case. I am also against using hydrogen peroxide as an antiseptic agent for multiple reasons. I am in the camp that it potentially produces more problems than does any kind of good, I feel that this is especially so with something as delicate as seedlings, (especially the seedlings with thin leaves or ones that are extremely fragile like seedlings of members of the Catasetinae or Stanhopiinae).

Last edited by King_of_orchid_growing:); 10-07-2018 at 12:38 PM..
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Old 10-07-2018, 10:56 AM
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orchidsarefun orchidsarefun is offline
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advice on buying a flask Male

If at all possible always ask for a photo of the flask/ seedlings and the date of replating. I've purchased a flask - off e-bay - where the medium was in offish colour, indicating that the seedlings were too long in the flask. They were also small. As a result all perished.
fine print - anything I say cannot be used against me and ymmv on any growing advice
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Old 10-07-2018, 12:07 PM
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Ray Ray is offline
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advice on buying a flask

Treat your compots with Concentric Ag Garden Solution (currently on sale), and they will be a lot more vigorous.
Ray Barkalow, Orchid Iconoclast
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