Growing orchids as epiphytes indoors

hospadarJuly 31, 2014

Hi!
I've got a couple gift-orchids I've been nurturing for a while and I've recently become interested in trying to transfer some of them out of the pot to an epiphytic situation because:
a) I think they'd be prettier if their rooty tendrils were on display
b) Girlfriend just left for the peace corps and I've got waaaaaaay too much time on my hands.

I'd really like to build some kind of setup that automatically mists them, I'm handy and that sounds like a fun project.

What I don't know are things like:
1) How often to mist? How much mist?
2) What special considerations do I need to think about?
3) Anything special I need to do when transferring them out of the potting media and into the open?

I really don't know _too_ much about orchids in general, and extremely little about growing them epiphytically(is that a word?). I've done some orchid research and I've read a fair amount about potting them, so I'm not totally clueless, but nearly.

I'm pretty sure all my orchids are your typical flower-shop phalaenopsis.

Can anyone recommend any resources for someone like myself to learn more about growing orchids as epiphytes and setting up misty grow environments so I don't have to (forget to) water them all the time?

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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

You need to tell the posters where you are in the USA. State + Climate Zone.
Some Temperature and humidity readings are helpful. For example at the moment in this room it is 22.8C and the humidity is 38% and no! the Phalaenopsis sitting on top of the fish tank are not mounted.
Look up complete culture notes for Phalaenopsis on the net to get a feel for required temps, light and humidity.
Might be some helpful stuff on the Terrarium Forum.
Also, find old threads here in discussions by searches using the word mounted or mounting.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 5:07PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

hi
sounds like you're talking about an Orchidarium?? These are basicly terrariums with the emphasis on providing conditions for various types of orchids
They can be simple or very complex both work IF you select the right types for the situation you want to provide
Keep in mind that many types of orchids require dry periods ,air circulation and of course the correct amount of light . ,not to mention temp preferences .
In most cases you have to resort to mechanical means to provide the proper conditions No problem but it does get complex and expensive You're actually making a miniature GH lol
Phals are usually a poor choice for orchidariums because they tend to get stagnant , and too humid missing the dry periods . so they rot.
They are happy to sell you equipment to overcome any problem lol
You might google "orchidariums " and get and idea of just how many choices there are
There is a terrarium forum on GW but has been dead for years mostly bottle and dish gardens haven't seen controlled terrariums mentioned in years let alone orchidariums .
One site I must recommend "Dutch vivariums " these are works of art!!! The emphasis on "landscape" with all the stops pulled !!! gary good luck gary

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 3:30AM
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epiphyte78(9)

You can either attach them to a dead branch...or to a live branch. My vote is for a live branch. Some possible candidates...

Acacia
Albizia
Aralia
Araucaria
Beaucarnea
Caesalpinia
Cassia
Coffee tree
Dracaena
Elm
Ficus
Hibiscus
Magnolia/Michelia
Pachira aquatica
Pandanus
Phoenix roebelenii
Podocarpus
Polyscias
Radermachera
Samanea
Schefflera
Yucca

Clearly they aren't all equally suitable to grow inside and be everybody's phorophyte. But that's what experimenting is all about. At the last show I went to a random lady said, "if you're not killing plants...then you're not stretching yourself as a gardener".

Which of these possible phorophytes will give you the most branch for your buck? One "shortcut" is that several of them can be grown from fairly large cuttings. Another technique for greater girth is...if your climate is suitable and you have the space (and patience), you can plant the phorophyte in the ground and then dig it up when the branch is thick enough.

Perhaps for a typical Phalaenopsis the branch should be at least as thick as your wrist.

In order for the Phal's roots to attach to the branch...the orchid has to be very firmly secured. I use a slip knot method to maintain tension in the 20lb fishing line.

If you do it right...you'll be able to water two plants at once...the Phal and its phorophyte. If the Phal is thirstier than its host, then you can attach it with some moss. You can also give the host a faster draining medium. Then the orchid's roots would extend into the phorophyte's medium. Quite often bonsai growers use orchid mix as their medium.

You can always raise the phorophyte's root crown above the soil line. This will help hedge against rot and provide a bit more surface area for the Phal. Plus, then you can see two sets of exposed roots...the Phal's and the phorophytes.

In terms of watering frequency...it depends on several factors...the temperature, the phorophyte, its medium...and the quantity and type of moss you gave the Phal. Personally, I'd water the Phal as soon as I attached it...and then wait and see how many days it takes for it to look wilty. The next time I watered the Phal it would be a day or two before it was likely to show any signs of drought stress. Generally though, a newly mounted orchid will require more frequent waterings than it will when it has numerous roots (straws) crawling all over the branch. So at least initially, you'd want the phorophyte's medium to drain especially well.

It might take some tweaking to get the drainage balance right...but attaching the Phal to a live branch will definitely increase the value to space ratio. You'll get more value for the same amount of space.

Check out these nice blank canvases...

This post was edited by epiphyte78 on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 7:57

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 7:47AM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

The microclimate they are in is far more important that the phorophyte. (underlying live surface) I have a bunch of orchids growing attached to trees. I have a Catt. on an orange tree. Several on Oak. Several of my palms have orchids attached. I think the palmetto is liked the most by orchids because of the surface. It has shallow vertical cracks that the roots like to get into. I have a few on an avocado tree. Any tree or plant will do. I avoid coconuts because big fronds may cause damage as they fall. An orchid would grow there for sure. Also the wider the better. Especially for a big plant.

Fishing line for attaching orchids is a mistake. Wire is worse. It will girdle the tree. That means it will eventually cut through the bark and kill the tree as it grows. I use a plastic stretchy tape with no adhesive. It can't girdle the tree. It will stretch, rot eventually, and break. I believe it is called nurseryman's tape. Widely available. Or use panty hose. natural fiber twine, etc.

Another issue. The comfort level of humidity for humans in general is far different than the preferences of orchids. Also an environment like that could be damaging to wooden furniture.

This space would need to be large to accommodate host trees. It also would need to be segregated from the rest of the living space for reasons in the paragraph above.

With a large budget this could be a very pleasant space. Without a large budget it could be not so nice.

This post was edited by shavedmonkey on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 8:53

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 8:45AM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

If you built it in Costa Rica, not just anywhere, but there are some ideal micro climes that are perfect for man and plant. Build it there. There are places in the Caribbean and Polynesia also...

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 6:21PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

hi
If you lived in those areas why would you need to build anything?? After all they grow wild in those locations lol
of course your still limited to warm growers
An "orchidarium " properly outfited will allow you to grow
those way outside your climate . In my case I used it for "cool growers" without the expense of a GH
keeping things "cool " in florida is REALLY tough ?? lol
Certainly can be done but not sure it's worthwhile. gary

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 5:36AM
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