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davidg 03-23-2020 10:14 AM

Growing Epiphytes on Trees - zone 9/10 Mediteranean Climate
Hi, I live in a zone 9/10 Mediterranean climate in the south of France - similar to San Diego, I think. Orchids are new to me, and I have gathered about a dozen I hope will grow on a tree in my garden. The conditions are perhaps not ideal, but 'nothing ventured', right?

The tree is a very large and old Oleander, plus there are some Ligustrum, but it's probably too shady in that part. I was going to mount them right on the bark, but some came mounted on cork, and I started to wonder if it would be better to mount them all on pieces of cork, and then screw the cork pieces to the tree - I am worried the bark is too smooth and hard for them to take hold well, but lack the experience to know. Has anyone done that, and what do you think, is it worthwhile, or should I just mount them directly?

I also read that epiphytes with thicker roots do better on smooth wood, and ones with thinner roots on rougher wood. As all my plants are fairly young, how can I tell which will have thicker roots? I can put up a list of what I have if anyone who knows wants to check it over.

DirtyCoconuts 03-23-2020 10:33 AM


what kind of orchids are they and please post a picture of the tree.

What kind of light throughout the day? is it direct all day (on the tree) or does the tree get shaded at all?

davidg 03-23-2020 11:10 AM

Plant list and tree picture
1 Attachment(s)
Hi, and thanks for responding.

This is the list of plants. I am attaching a picture of the tree. It gets overhead sun in summer, with some sideways direct sun in spring and fall for a few hours a day. In winter it is totally shaded by buildings to the south (I know, that is when I need sun!) So the trunks are basically shaded, but bright during the growing season. Some sections are brighter than others, so I can put Dendrobiums there, and maybe thin out the overhead crown a little if I need to. Here is the list. Some may not be ideal, but I am limited by what European suppliers have (e.g. no Californian Laelia anceps hybrids)

Brassia (maculata x verrucosa) X (verrucosa x gireoudiana) Rex
Cattleya bowringiana
Cattleya intermedia var. aquinii
Cochlioda noezliana
Dendrobium chrysotoxum
Dendrobium lindleyi
Denrobium nobile var. virginale
Dendrobium victoria-reginae
Coilostylis (Epidendrum) parkinsoniana
Laelia anceps var. veitchii
Laelia pumila
Lycaste skinneri ‘Alba’

DirtyCoconuts 03-23-2020 11:31 AM

very nice collection!

I would probably not mount them but id rather hang them in the lower canopy....then you can move them in and about the tree as the seasons change. in the winter you might even find yourself putting some one the ground on flipped up pots to get more light

i love mounted orchids but if you have that kind of seasonal variation you might want to try it for a few years to make sure the orchids agree

---------- Post added at 11:31 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:30 AM ----------

so is that fence on the south side of the tree?

davidg 03-23-2020 01:41 PM

The fence is on to the north-east. That is my apartment, and on the south-west is a row of 3-story houses that make the winter shade - I wish they weren't there. The Platycerium has been growing on that tree well for a year now, but the Spanish Moss is new, so I don't know if it likes it.
I used Robert Friend's book, 'Growing Orchids in Your Garden' as a guide for the collection - thanks! We will see how they do!

I like your idea of growing them on cork bark pieces so I can move them around. I can get curved pieces that I can attach to the trunks. If I find some are doing well in certain spots, do you think they would grow off the cork on to the tree in time? Also, seeing the list, do any of those fall into the 'thick roots' category I mentioned at first?
Thanks for all your expert advice - I appreciate it. I know gardening and plants, but not orchid growing.

DirtyCoconuts 03-23-2020 04:32 PM

hahaha, i am not kind of expert at anything orchid related...

I am very happy to help.

The key to the moving is that you can do some trial and error, just watch the plants and remember that nothing happens fast for orchids.

to your question about the mount mounting itself over time, almost assuredly yes as long as the plant is happy. I have seem many mounts that have become part of the landscape so to speak.

SouthPark 03-23-2020 04:36 PM


Originally Posted by davidg (Post 914770)
Hi, I live in a zone 9/10 Mediterranean climate in the south of France - similar to San Diego, I think. Orchids are new to me, and I have gathered about a dozen I hope will grow on a tree in my garden. The conditions are perhaps not ideal, but 'nothing ventured', right?

Good luck and all the best david. I agree with DC - about hanging the orchids - for making them easily moveable - in case weather (temperature etc) changes to conditions outside the recommended orchid-growing range.

Nothing ventured is true. We all have to start somewhere, definitely.

If new to orchids, my usual recommendation is to read up a lot about orchids, and read up a lot on what their requirements are, and what accessories to purchase (pots, media, tools, treatments, etc - and purchase various accessories) ------ all this done before acquiring any orchid. That's to give the orchids the best (or great) chance of surviving. In particular, read up a lot about the particular orchid that you would like to grow - the requirements, the behaviour, potting methods etc.

Once we have the orchid growing accessories and pretty-good idea about approaches ----- the next recommendation is to start off with a few orchids --- eg. 1 to 3 orchids maybe, to make sure we can get these to grow well for a long time. And then build up once we got the hang of it.

davidg 03-23-2020 05:05 PM

I would agree, but I have been growing plants for decades - retired horticulture prof - but not orchids since my days in greenhouses a long time ago. I did a lot of reading and research on what I bought too, within the limits of availability. We have good nurseries in Europe, but since there are so few areas where outdoors is a possible option, there are perhaps fewer suitable species available than in Florida or California. I have a good feel for plants, and I got that many to get a broader idea of what might survive (or not) I appreciate the suggestions, though, and it's definitely good advice to start small with something new.

DirtyCoconuts 03-23-2020 05:28 PM

at least you live somewhere Nice.....:rofl: i know i know its a terrible joke but im a dad so it is allowed.

what do you use to water and feed them if you don't mind me asking? after looking at, shockingly, an actual globe, you are quite a bit further north than i thought...how cold are your winters? you might not be able to keep all of those outside without some serious sun, maybe, i am only going off memory.

what is an average winter for you?

---------- Post added at 05:28 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:15 PM ----------

sorry, i overlooked the root question and i also see a question about the surface of the tree.

Here is my observation from only my limited research and anecdotal experience with maybe 50-60 mounted orchids.

it is most critical that:
1 the bark not be the type that sheds, no painted eucalyptus mounts
2 you mount them securely as nothing breaks any type of root as much as movement and
3 mount them when new roots are growing

i don't know about thin and thick roots, i think all roots are awesome and they pretty much all look thick to me, at least compared to terrestrial plants in general.

perhaps if you had more to expound on that like what is a thick root in size? i know some of my vanda roots approach or exceed 10mm in diameter and i think that dendrobiums have the thinnest i can think of with an average of about 2mm but they get fat up to 4mm~

and these plants can hold onto pretty smooth surfaces too.

davidg 03-23-2020 07:34 PM

Yes, this is the most northern Mediterranean climate in the world - zone 10a, roughly. I am within a few hundred yards of the ocean, and Nice is sheltered from the north by nearby very tall mountains. It's a little enclave of relative warmth in Europe. So winter lows are mostly about 10 centigrade, but we can get nights that are colder. Summer highs are about 28, but it can get to 32 (sorry, I think in Centigrade). My sheltered garden is always a few degrees above the official winter lows, and most winters are frost-free, but it can briefly touch minus 1 in the open. Summers are dry, and most rain is in fall and spring. Very different from Florida! I am not sure if any orchids can survive long-term, but I have had a Zygopetalum outside for 3 years, and it bloomed twice, and the Cattleya bowringiana overwintered this last winter with no problems. The Platycerium bifurcatum is growing well, and I have a P. grande that also overwintered OK, and they are more cold-sensitive. I think keeping things dry in the cold is important.
As for water, I was planning to use our local water, which is ozone treated, but slightly alkaline. I reckoned rain outdoors would flush excess salts, but what about using de-ionized water that you can buy for irons? Have you ever used that? I am going to use a product called Orchi-Fit as fertilizer. Buy Orchds online now - Roellke Orchideen. I used this grower for some of my plants.

I guess I am a bit callous - it is going to be 'survival of the fittest', which is why I have a longish list of plants.
So I think I will take your advice and go with the cork mounting, and get pieces that will wrap a bit around branches, so I can leave them in place in time. With that I can bring them into some shelter if there is a very cold winter night, at least for the first year. The bark on the Oleander is non-flaking, with a slight roughness, so it sounds like it should work. If I can get them growing well this summer then we will see what happens when winter comes! I am a pretty good grower generally, so I hope I (or rather the orchids!) can rise to the challenge.

---------- Post added at 12:34 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:29 AM ----------

Not sure about this root size thing - I saw it on the site I gave the link to. It's probably not a big thing.

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