Multiple plants in one pot.

orchidnickJuly 18, 2009

I bought a plant on Ebay with 15 bbulbs. It was shipped in its pot and as I do with all new plants, as soon as I got it, I took it out in order to clean the roots, inspect for parasites and then repot or mount it in fresh surroundings.

This plant, which looked like a normal, strong 15 lead grower, immediately fell apart into 2 equal halves. Apparently 2 small plants were started off back to back to arrive at the current state of affairs faster.

I complained to the seller and offered to send it back and accept a similar plant that was again being offered. That offer was accepted. Then on a whim I responded again and requested that the new plant be mailed bare-root in order to avoid a repeat performance. The answer was that no doubt this also would be 2 plants, would I agree to keep the 2 I have and accept a 50% refund. That seemed reasonable and we are done, everyone, at least at this end, is happy.

Obviously this grower/nursery knew that this method was being used to create larger looking plants in a shorter period of time. They were fair about it so I won't identify them but it behooves everyone who receives new plants from any source to unpot them and start with fresh whatever (coconut, bark, moss etc). Gives you a chance to view the roots, check for bugs and discard old bark. Also tells you if you have more than one plant.

I got a Dendrobium once, in a basket, which when it bloomed, had different colored flowers on 2 sides of the basket.

The disadvantage of having 2 plants side by side is that they may not be exactly the same, may not bloom at exactly the same time and are ineligible for awards. 2 small plants are not as strong as one large plant.

I must admit I am guilty of this also, the most glaring instance was a big floofy cat, BLC White Eagle 'Eagle King' where I stuffed 4 young plants in a pot. When they grew up, they had a perfect bloom one year, just in time for our fall show and with 14 beautiful flowers close together won 'Best of Show'. I did not say anything and took my trophy home. I hope I won't burn in orchid hell for this. I also have several groupings of young plants right now where I'm doing this on purpose to create an effect.

If you do it on purpose for your pleasure its one thing, when you buy a plant and instead of one large you actually get 2 small, its not OK. Something else to watch out for.


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hello, Nick, my experience with doing that was not good. in both instances, i found that one plant was stronger than the other and so used up water faster than the other. so one plant was either over watered or underwatered. I had to separate the plants. i lost one plant and another one is very slow in recovering.
i find that with some vendors, i don't have to repot or inspect the roots. there is one vendor in our society whose plants i find i have to check. i should stop buying from him but he sometimes has ones that i cannot find anywhere else and so i take a chance, and another chance; but enough is enough: no more.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 12:35PM
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whitecat8(z4 MN)

Nick, good thing your checked. At least the vendor settled with you. Another reason to unpot new arrivals.

Sue, I put 3 Phrag Hanne Popows of the same color in one pot, and they thrived. Because my Phrags are in a saucer of water, maybe they do better than those that get watered the usual way.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 10:03AM
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cjc45(9 Mount Dora FL)

Sometimes the multiple plants is caused by previous poor growing conditions so that the pseudobulbs separate. Also not a good thing.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 3:04PM
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In this case it was obvious done on purpose. I don't know if they grow their own plants or buy them from a grower but there was one other specimen for sale with 17 bbulbs which was offered to me in exchange. When I requested that they bare-root it at the source the response was "I'm sure it also will be 2 plants, let's work this out some other way." They most likely know that this is what they are selling so a certain amount of deception is present. They quickly put out the fire by making me happy.

Its commonly done even by well reputed growers. After 5 years the roots are so intertwined that you cannot tell. I got a Dend miyakei once that was so grown together that when one half bloomed yellow/orange and the other side bloomed blue/purple, it was impossible to divide them. I took it back to the vendor of high repute where I got it (no sarcasm intended) and he and I had a good laugh about it. I used that plant as a demonstration at our society talks.

I buy 'Plug trays' of Cattleya clones from Carmela orchids and I would guess that one out of 10 plants is a double. That is obviously not done on purpose as it decreases their profit to sell 2 plants for the price of one, it just happens when they divide a crowded community pot.

Most of the time its a 'No harm, no foul' situation but I'd just as soon know what I'm getting hence the suggestion to unpot new plants.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 4:12PM
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For any nursery - be it vegetables or orchids - it is more cost efficient to plant two seeds/seedlings to a pot in the beginning. At least one will grow and there will be no waste of effort/material on a pot/medium etc that would otherwise go to the dumpster as lost money (esp with orchids as they require more sterile care).

Once they get some age on them, most places divide them up when the plants go to repotting. Its the easiest most financially advantageous time. The nursery now has two plants to sell.

I, on the other hand, love the second plant in one pot. Buying two for one has its good points. As I purchase mostly mericlones, both are the same. Having two of my favorites is wonderful. And my extras are great for swapping - I have some lovely plants collected that only cost me the price of postage for those extras. And they are good to just sell outright. For me, there is no disadvantage to the extra plants.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 9:32AM
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Under most circumstances I agree with bullsie however there are exceptions. The huge Catt I mentioned which got 'Best of Schow' a few years ago has been a bust ever since as the 4 different plants never again bloomed at the same time. So you have what looks like one large plant with only 4 flowers, a number of developing buds and some faded flowers. Even though it had its moment of glory, I took them apart and now grow the plants individually.

Some D speciosums are very slow to bloom, I have a D spec capricornicum which grew 15 canes before it finally bloomed. Having 2 with 7/8 canes each would mean extra years for first bloom vs one 15 cane plant.

As I said 'usually no harm no foul', I usually have no problem with it and actually like it but there are exceptions and I just thought I would make people aware of it so they can make their own decision.

The vendor who sold me the plants is a first class jewel and I intend to buy more plants from them. I have no criticism of them and gave it a good review after it was handled the way it was.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 10:08AM
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It isn't unusual for "regular" plant nurseries to pot up two or more plants to insure at least one survives the transplanting. I would have thought it would be wonderful to get doubles!

Still got lots to learn, I guess...

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 11:51AM
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Sometimes you can't separate them as they rooted together on a piece of coconut or have entangled themselves in a wood basket. I know, made the mistake of trying to separate and lost so many roots. Been burned a few times.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 6:47PM
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