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  #1  
Old 09-24-2021, 04:38 AM
DavTom DavTom is offline
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Is this ordinary or extraordinary result?
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Hi All, my name is Davide. I am Italian and I live in The Netherlands since 2008. Since just a couple of years I have happily accepted the "challenge" to grow some orchids. I am fascinated by challenges...Before accepting this challenge, I have happily accepted another one growing planted aquariums, the ones in which the plants are the main focus and the fish become just a nice-to-have... ;-) Let's call them underwater gardens rather than aquariums ;-)

After 5 or so years of mistakes and a lot of wasted money too!, I finally learned how to make plants thriving underwater and I have really learned a lot of things there...and now, why not applying this knowledge to grow orchids too? My assumption was that the principles are the same (i.e., you have to achieve a sweat-spot/balance of many parameters, in which some are much more important than others, and achieving this equilibrium underwater should be more challenging than "above" water) and the first results seem to prove that!

Now, I get to the point...I have bought two very common Phalaenopsis from a shop in June 2020 and immediately applied "the aquarium knowledge" on both. By November 2020 they were both blooming and then...they kept blooming flowers after flowers in huge numbers and healthy size without stopping with multiple spikes per plant. Each spike of flowers lasts between 4 and six months. By the time that spike of flowers fades away, new spikes have bloomed. So, there are always a lot of flowers. This is still going on now that I am writing this post. In a nutshell I am having a continuous blooming since almost one year and it looks like it will keep going like that.

Since I have very limited experience with orchids, I am asking myself whether this is just some good and ordinary achievement or something extraordinary.

If you are interested I can share the details about all the "things" I am doing to these two orchids. It is quite a lot of staff and it gets quite technical too...

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thanks you.

Ciao,
Davide
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  #2  
Old 09-24-2021, 05:39 AM
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Welcome Davide.

Really it is a bit of both. When a Phal is in bloom and you plant is in a very good spot covering all the great conditions they want (light, humidity, air, good feeding) they keep popping flowers like crazy, until one day, because they need their time also to grow and recuperate anargy in order to flower again. So, this mean you have done well.

Never the less, it could be great to understand the details to see if you are using anything out of ordinary that could be en extra push to their performance

Cheers!
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  #3  
Old 09-24-2021, 07:34 AM
DavTom DavTom is offline
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Hi Sade, thank you for your reply and interest. I am happy to share more details. I will cover them mostly at high level since each one of them could require a dedicated post:

1) I use only lava rock as medium. I break it to have stones between 1cm and 2 cm diameter. In this way while there is still plenty of air flow, they retain moist much better
2) I use reverse osmosis water
3) I use pure dry fertilizers and I mix them creating 2 main recipes providing this nutrient to the plants when dissolved in the watering solution: a) Macros with 120ppm N, 120ppm K, 25 ppm P, 80 ppm Ca and 40 ppm Mg; b) micro: Easylife Profito for 0.5 ppm iron and many more micronutrient (there are almost 20 mincronutrients there - much more than in other micro products)
4) I fertilize every week in every season in the same way, alternating solution a) and solution b). Sometime I use tap water and/or K2SO4 or (NH4)2SO4 solution c) to provide also Sulphur. Since I do not want Urea in the lava rock, which would not break down to ammonium in the lava rock as it does in other medium, all my Nitrogen in solution a) comes from NO3. Therefore, in solution a) I cannot add any Sulphate otherwise it would precipitate in CaSo4
5) I fully immerge the plant, including part of the leaves in the fertilized solutions above and I leave it there between 12hours and 24 hours. I want the roots to absorb a lot of nutrients. The feeding that the roots gets is given by the concentration multiplied by the time of exposure
6) PH. I pay attention to the ph trying to be in the soft spot of ph 5.8-6.0. However, PH is much more important for micros rather than for macros, so when I dose macros I only make sure that I am below 7. With micros I try to hit 5.8-6.0. By the way, the PH that matter is only the one at equilibrium. I soak the plant in the fertilized water and after a while I measure that PH.
7) I can overfertilize the orchids because the lava rock retains little salts. In addition, each time I swap from solution a) to solution b) I flash almost everything
8) I give supplemental artificial light from November till February, with roughly 200 PAR intensity with a good spectrum of light that has a lot of blue and red (a bit more red than blue is better) and a bit of all the other frequencies between blue and red. I also provide a bit of infrared and UVA
9) I have not optimized the humidity so far. I leave them in my house where they have an humidity between 50-60%. I have just set-up a stealth grow room in which I am supplying mist via an humidifier, but I have just started that - no concrete results so far
10) Temperature at night around 20 C; at day around 24C. This is also not optimized yet and it will be soon optimized in the stealth grow room in which I will provide around 28C (and 85% humidity) with lights-on and about 20C (and 40% humidity) with lights off

I thinks that's it at high level.

Ciao,
Davide
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  #4  
Old 09-24-2021, 09:00 AM
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good stuff Davide,
I can tell you certainly learnt how to take care of your aquarium plants well.
What you have written sounds like optimal conditions to me. I just use a bit of Rainmix fertilizer from Akerne instead of making my own (contains all the sulphur already) but yours sound very precise and might even be better.

Modern hybrids have been bred to continuously bloom. 6 months + is nothing unusual on the varieties sold in supermarkets.

If you were to buy yourself a neofinetia falcata or most other unhybridized species (even some phalaenopsis) then you might only get one flowering of 2 weeks per year. So the genetics will be the biggest influence you are experiencing compared to other orchids.

I truly believe with orchids any results in the first year of growing them will be mainly down to the care and nutrients they received in the year previously.

If the year before they could not grow a full leaf then a year later it won't have as much energy.

If the plant shop was caring for them really well they will be able to start flowering without any adjustment period straight away.

So my thoughts are - with orchids - 1 year is the equivalent to watching a dandelion grow for 1 week.

Making conclusion on orchids takes much more patience. Seeing results to our care takes a year to determine.

I'm sure your good care has contributed, it sounds like better results I have ever achieved so far so well done but an orchid does need to produce vegetative growth (leaves) eventually too. It cannot just bloom and bloom, it needs to produce new leaves too. So the biggest thing you should be monitoring is not how it is flowering, you need to see how many leaves it is producing.

Each new leaf = a new leaf axil = a new spot a flower spike can be formed

A phal should be producing a minimum of 1 new leaf per year. If it flowers all year and has not produced a new leaf in that time then it will take a year of rest to be able to do it all over.

It certainly sounds like a great result and doing the right research does give better results but with orchids it is very easy to make too hasty conclusions.

I'm glad you are doing well, most people would just use tap water.

What you have written might seem complicated to start with to some and I know it is but once one has the right knowledge it is just a weekly routine of sticking to watering and feeding them the same way from there on.

Considering the parameters you are giving your orchids I think you should be getting the best results possible (without pests or root problems)
I hardly even check my ph these days. 15 drops of ph down is what gets my rain water bucket in the right range of 5.8-6.2. Doesn't really fluctuate much throughout the year so I just add the same amount of drops every week and check it a few times a year.
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  #5  
Old 09-24-2021, 09:14 AM
rbarata rbarata is offline
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Welcome Davide. It seems you are doing things right!
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Old 09-24-2021, 09:45 AM
DavTom DavTom is offline
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Thanks Shade for sharing this.

I was indeed suspecting that Orchids are very much energy limited and what you see it not the current status of the orchids but it is the "status" of the orchid going back in time weeks or even months ago. This energy limitation seems to me also confirmed by what it takes to grow orchids seeds because they do not provide their seeds with any "energy" to start growing - it is like if women were not given birth to a fully developed baby but just to the embryo - crazy...Maybe a new challenge for the future to grow my own hybrids from seeds! ;-)

Yeah...I did not mention it before, but indeed I noticed that during the last year they have practically only generated flowers. Up to one month ago they grow just a little bit of new root and zero (yes zero!) new leaves. Now they have started to grow two big new leaves each...and it looks like that they have slowed down a bit with flowering.

and thanks for the info about the genetics of the Orchids found in the shops. Of course they have promoted hybrids that flower more easily to sell them better. I did not think about that before....

and yeas again. It sounds complicated to do what I am doing, but once you have planned it, it is very easy routine that requires very little time and effort (less than 30 minutes x week). The big barrier is to be enough patient and motivated to learn it as on Internet you get the truth mixed with a lot of wrong info in a proportion of 1:10.

By the way, I have now also these ones in the grow room in ideal conditions since one week. They are far from being mature to flower as I have bought them quite small, but hopefully by the end of the year I will manage to get (some of them) flowering:
- Paph. Schöne von Kaunitz x Hamana
- Bulb. Senne Frost
- Bulbophyllum dearei
- Cattleya aurantiaca
- Dendrobium griffithianum

Cheers,
Davide

---------- Post added at 02:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:32 PM ----------

Thanks ;-)
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  #7  
Old 09-24-2021, 10:21 AM
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Welcome aboard, DavTom!

Sounds like you are successfully applying your aquarium plant knowledge to the challenge of growing orchids. Orchid growing is a great (and rewarding) hobby that will definitely expand the knowledge base.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little "extra".
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Old 09-24-2021, 12:39 PM
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Old 09-24-2021, 02:45 PM
YetAnotherOrchidNut YetAnotherOrchidNut is offline
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Nope, you aren't normal. Normal is buying a phal, letting it flower and then throwing it away, or maybe trying to keep it alive, but just letting it die from poor care. What you are doing is about as far from normal as it gets.

The only thing i question is the 24 hour soaks. That sounds excessive to me, I bet if you experimented you would find the difference between 1 hour and 24 is minimal. But id love to hear if i was wrong too. I do long soaks as well, but usually its less than the hours of daylight in the day. :-)

Nice to meet you.
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Old 09-24-2021, 02:45 PM
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SADE2020 SADE2020 is offline
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wow love the approach! I think the lava and extra bathtime with the right nutrients is definitely a sign of success. I am into lava rock lately!

The lighting is for an area? or for a shelf? or how is the setup? ... you can share a photo is you'll like :-). You could as well share the brand ( I am always looking for a good lighting)

In regards to humidity, you may want to take into consideration that big flowers plants like Phals; the flowers themselves don't appreciate humidity that high. The plant developed roosts and leaves OK, but flowers tend to die, with humidity that high.
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