Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate
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Old 11-10-2022, 08:32 AM
HiOrcDen HiOrcDen is offline
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Male
Default Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate

So I'm curious about propagation vs. allowing an Orchid to grow into a specimen.

Take for example the phalaenopsis, not sure of the precise term (Moth Orchids?) but the popular one with big white flowers. If I simply want it to grow unhindered, do I repot into equally shallow but wider and wider pots? Or should the depth increase as well, and to what degree?

Will a specimen allowed to grow like this eventually reach a maximum size? I do not know if Phalaenopsis have some kind of bulb underneath the medium. I'm guessing stalks spread out and sprout up stems, something like that?

Anyway, I'm most curious about that last question... that is, will the 'Moth Orchid' Phalaenopsis specimen eventually reach a maximum size. And at that point will it continue to grow in any other sense?

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Old 11-10-2022, 09:07 AM
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Ray Ray is offline
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Male

There are two general forms of growth in orchids, monopodial (single foot or base) and sympodial ([growing] from the foot or base).

Phalaenopsis are monopodial and have no “bulbs”, but use their thick, fleshy leaves for storage of reserves.

While there certainly is a genetic limit to the size they will grow, they are mostly limited by the growing conditions and care they receive, affecting both the size and number of leaf pairs they carry. The better the culture, the greater of both.

As far as potting and repotting is concerned, I tend to use the size and condition of the root system as my guide. You’re going to repot periodically to get rid of decomposed material and/or media with a lot of mineral buildup, so that gives you the opportunity to assess the root system, helping you adjust the medium itself and your watering methodology.
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Old 11-10-2022, 09:37 AM
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Louis_W Louis_W is offline
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate

I think most of us just try our best to keep the plants happy and healthy. Space limitations also dictate how large we allow our plants to get before dividing them. It kinda ends up being a 'how can I fit more plants in my space', situation.
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Old 11-10-2022, 12:00 PM
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tmoney tmoney is offline
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Male

seems to be a few orchids which easily take to propping, but unfortunately phals aren’t one of them. basically all of what ray said.

but if you are like us and love to make vegetative propagations then you would want to look at things like maxillarias, bassovola, dendrobiums, catasetums, maybe some oncidiums groups....these have been the groups we have successfully propagated on medium sized plants (except catasetum, but they can be done). keep a couple things in mind that 1. the bulb types need to have growing bulbs with separations, so you would need larger plants to begin with. 2. our experience has shown that cuttings take awhile to establish and get going again, but can flower even a couple months after separating. 3. paphs also apparently can be separated if there are several growing fans. but again, this would be cutting up a specimen sized plant, and those things (some of them) can grow notoriously slowly.

basically if you are after specimen sized plants you either need to just let them grow, or find a special plant and vendor and be prepared to shell out a few bux.

edit to add that also perhaps it’s worth defining specimen plants. could be size, but could also be size and specific to genera/hybrid/species. an old, big plant, imho, doesn’t necessarily equate to specimen plant

Last edited by tmoney; 11-10-2022 at 12:03 PM..
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Old 11-10-2022, 02:55 PM
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate

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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Male

If you have a chance, visit an orchid nursery or an orchid society member with a large collection. There are multiple orchid societies near you; almost everybody there will be friendly and eager to show you things. We all started growing orchids knowing nothing about them, and more experienced orchid growers were mostly very friendly to us.

Look at a lot of different orchids. Ask the grower how they grow, and ask to see younger and older examples of different orchids. It's a lot easier to learn about plants when you see a lot of them and can have things explained by somebody there who is experienced.

Monopodial orchids, as Ray mentioned, grow continuously upwards from a central growth axis. This includes Phals, Vanda, Neofinetia, Aerangis, Angraecum and a lot more genera. Sometimes they branch from the stem to form another rosette, another set of leaves. Sometimes these branches form roots of their own, and can be separated. Sometimes they don't form roots and must stay on the plant.

Leaves of each species or hybrid have a maximum size, rarely reached unless you provide ideal temperatures and humidity. Most Phals are relatively small orchids. Many Vandas have much longer leaves than most Phals. Some monopodial orchids cluster profusely, like Neofinetia or Angraecum sesquipedale. I have seen an Ang. sesquipedale with multiple growths, too big to fit into the back seat of a car.

Sympodial orchids have a mostly horizontal rhizome that grows sideways. New growth grows upwards, flowers, and generally doesn't grow any more. Further growth is usually from the rhizome at the base of newer growths. Examples of this are Bulbophyllum, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Laelia, Pleurothallis, and many more.

I have plenty of space, so I would let my Phals continue to produce offsets, to get a bigger overall display and more flowers. But people with limited growing space may wish to keep their Phals with just one growth. They can separate and pot up the additional rosettes when they develop roots, and share them with other people.
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Old 11-10-2022, 03:48 PM
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Female

As noted above, Phalaenopsis tend to maintain a small footprint, growth is mostly vertical. Some of the sympodial orchids can turn into beasts. My limiting factor on Cymbidiums is what I can lift... Once it outgrows a 2 gallon pot, I'll divide - and try to find a home for the extras, such as society auctions. Another one is Laelia (Cattleya) purpurata. I have some that have already exceeded that "lifting" test... likely will have to be "gently" divided with a Sawz-all. But big plants like that are gorgeous when they bloom. So I'm torn between practicality and the beauty of big ones.
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Last edited by Roberta; 11-10-2022 at 04:29 PM..
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Old 11-10-2022, 04:15 PM
dbarron dbarron is offline
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Male

(opinion of course) The impact of a large plant is so much more than the impact of 3 much smaller pots (divisions).
Plus, with some orchids that bloom each time a PB matures, a large plant can seemingly be in bloom for very long periods (or almost perpetually).
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Old 11-10-2022, 05:42 PM
Keysguy Keysguy is offline
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Creating Specimen vs. to Propagate Male

For me it usually comes down to space on the bench.
When they reach that point I will divide them, keeping the best division for myself and usually donating a couple to the society raffle table and then sell the rest on the co-op table at the annual show.

Now not only do I have more room on my benches but I have a little free cash to buy some new and different plants to take the free bench space.

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