Phaelanopsis experiment

orchidnickJuly 20, 2014

I have a few Phaelanopsis species mounted, gigantea, schilleriuana for example, that grow well. The other, routine hybrids we usually talk about, linger in a corner and struggle to stay alive. They do grow and bloom but after listening to an expert like George Vasquez, I realize they could do much better.

I have 3 daughters and a daughter in law who like to decorate their homes with them so I asked George to bring me a bunch of unbloomed plants. For $5.00 each, how can you loose. He did and I decided to make a little experiment. Since I am not willing to change my growing conditions for them, I mounted/potted them up in 8 different ways and will observe for a year to see which truly works best in my greenhouse.

Starting points are healthy robust Phaelies, with tags, in 4" pots in moss. I normally don't do well with them in moss but after listening to George, I will try again. The trick is to water sparingly once a week. I have to handcuff my hands behind my back but will do it this time.

Here are some of the ones in moss.

Nick

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orchidnick

This one is in medium sized orchiata bark with a little coconut and 1/3 lava rock. It will get watered once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:52PM
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orchidnick

Next, same size pot, plant is in hygroton. Water will be once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:53PM
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orchidnick

Next, same size pot only semihydroponic. Also in hygroton. Notice the little drainholes near the bottom. There is no bottom drainage, the plant will sit in 3/4" of water all the time. Will also get watered once a week. All 3 potted plants will sit in the same location and enjoy the same light, air ventilation etc. I'm looking forward to look at them in a year to see which method is liked best.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:56PM
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orchidnick

All the rest will get watered wither daily or every 2 days along with the cattleyas. I found shady spots for them but they'll be treated like bare-root cattleyas. The first one is in a pot with a few large rocks to stabilize it and the pot but is basically bare-root.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:59PM
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orchidnick

This one is in a net pot with medium sized Orchiata bark.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:01PM
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orchidnick

This one is in an empty wooden basket, no moss or bark.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:03PM
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orchidnick

Mounted on a shallow wooden basket (1") with moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:05PM
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orchidnick

Mounted on a shallow wooden basket with moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:06PM
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orchidnick

The last 5 will be watered often, every 2 days, The first ones, moss, hygroton regular, hygroton semihydroponic and orchiata will be watered once a week. I'll keep an eye on them and observe for a year. After one year it should be obvious which method works best. Some will linger, others will thrive. Hopefully, for the first time I'll get a good handle on these buggers.

If I forget to report, remind me.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:16PM
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philpet

Nick, it should be interesting to see which ons does best, maybe we could make it a bit more intersting by betting on the one we think will outgrow the others. We all grow them differently so we could chose the method we have had the most success with and bet on that one, what do you think? Velleta

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:02PM
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orchidnick

I know which have the potential of doing best. IF and only If, I water them correctly, the ones in moss will do best. Correct watering does not come natural to most of us who over water them and fertilize them excessively,. George Vasquez had 5 year old plants with decent looking moss and no green algae or green moss on the surface of the media. I usually get everything covered in green moss, a sign of over fertilization, according to him. For me it's a sign of a healthy humid greenhouse.

The size of the first new leaf will be the give away. Should be pretty decent in the potted plants but only about 1/2 the size of the last one in the mounted plants. After mounted plants get fully established, a year or so, they should be able to catch up. Until they establish an extensive root system, they'll lag far behind the others.

Semi hydroponics is another story. Usually all the roots that go into a new SH preparation are lost, rotted out. New roots form which are designed for the new environment. I predict that the SH pot will lag behind the other 2 pots until it gets fully establish but then catch up.

The pot with the large rocks holds the most interest for me. That's how I grow my Catts, Oncidiums, Encyclias etc. Everyone will tell you that you cannot grow Phaelies that way. I predict you can, we'll see.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:54PM
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orchidnick

I added a couple more. This one is mounted in the saddle of a branch exactly how you would mount a Cattleya. Will get watered often.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:02PM
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orchidnick

This one will follow the 'Pot in a Pot' concept. Squeezed into a smallish empty pot which sits in a slightly larger empty pot. Will increase pot size if roots begin to wander.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:04PM
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orchidnick

I've selected a strong one and flagged it. It will remain in moss and serve as the comparison plant.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:06PM
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orchidnick

And last but not least, growing in NOTHING. Just a wire run through the rootball and there it will be, dangling in the breeze, frequent watering. All this talk about moss, bark, coconut, lava rock, hygroton and what have you is just a conspiracy to get us to spend money. These plants don't need anything. Let's see how this one does.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:44PM
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orchidnick

I've added a few more plant trays in order to separate them. They were so close that their leaves would have obstructed water from reaching them. Now they spaced so all will get watered every Sunday morning no matter how much they beg and plead for earlier and more frequent watering. I will seriously try not to mess with them and just leave them alone no matter what to see what happens. Tough love coming their way.

The following preparations are now waiting to be compared:

1) In moss, as Zuma Canyon grows them
2) Potted in bark
3) Potted in Hygroton, normal drainage
4) Potted in Hygroton, semihydroponic
5) Potted bare-root with several large rocks
6) Potted in 'Pot in a Pot' concept
7) In an empty basket
8) In a net pot with bark
9) On a shallow basket with moss

  1. On a shallow basket, no moss, bare-root
  2. On a branch, bare-root
  3. In nothing, just dangling in the breeze.

I'll try to report on their progress as things change. Root formation, new leaf formation, suicide, spikes etc. Probably every 3 month.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:45PM
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philpet

Ok so now the waiting begins, and we are off... :) Velleta

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:12PM
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orchidnick

Not yet, I keep coming up with new ideas. Anyone else have any suggestions?

This one is growing in water, just like a water lily. Water level will be maintained to the top, water changed when it gets grungy. Expect all of the roots to rot out and new roots forming which will dive into the water like a Pelican. This is unlucky #13, let's see how it does. Should put all the books on orchids care to rest if it does well.

Tomorrow I'll do #14 but I need some horse apples. Just have the regular ones here tonight, they won't do, need some fresh, steamy horsey ones. Makes an excellent media. Stand back, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The purpose of this whole thing is to have fun, am I right?

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:26PM
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orchidnick

Things that cross my mind for tomorrow include lava rock, Aussie Gold, marbles, shredded tire, rockwool, osmunda, coconut matting and I haven't even taken my medicinal Cannabis yet. After that a few more thingies will come to mind. It's a good thing the plants were cheap, with regular priced plants one could not do this.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:53PM
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westoh Z6

Nick,

Got any more old shoes laying around :)

Always fun watching your experiments, something to do with your 'training' maybe? I've always been more of a 'tried and true' kind of person.

Good luck,

Bob

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:42AM
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orchidnick

Had a busy morning and completed the project. I did not like the way the Phaelie in the empty, shallow , wooden basket was sitting so I redid that. Here is the picture. In a year we may possibly be comparing the plant to today's state. Daily watering.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:23PM
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orchidnick

Horse manure. In a pot, weekly watering. Potted it wearing my invisible gloves, nothing offensive about it. It's mostly undigested hay. For those of you that want to know more about horsey doo but are afraid to ask go to:

http://www.ehow.com/how_8470796_grow-orchids-manure.html

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:27PM
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orchidnick

By the way, for those of you who think the water culture a few plants ago is a joke check out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijaNLDAmHrw

There is quite a bit written about water culture which actually does work.

The next plant is in lava rock, also will be watered once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:33PM
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orchidnick

Next is 'Gorilla Hair' teased redwood fibers. This is a favorite of James Rose from Cal Orchids, he has many of his plants growing in it. How a Phaelie will like it , I have no idea. Time will tell.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:35PM
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orchidnick

Coconut coir with a little Perlite. It is different from regular bark.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:36PM
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orchidnick

Osmunda fibers. Don't know if they'll like this will plan to water once a week, The above coconut will also be watered once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:38PM
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orchidnick

PET cubes from the semihydroponic people. P.E.T stands for the chemical name of the substance they are made out of , nothing to do with Fluffy and Bow Wow.Could not find anything specific about them but this is similar:

http://www.amazon.com/Bulk-Loose-Case-Stonewool-RW91002/dp/B0055F40V0/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1406144511&sr=8-7&keywords=hydroponic+grow+cubes

It basically takes the place of sphagnum moss but does not deteriorated and does not retain as much water. I will have to water this one less that the other potted plants but more than the Sphagnum moss plant.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:46PM
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orchidnick

Rock wool was popular 100 years ago. One can get it from hydroponic store, too far to drive so I got something similar from HD., Also takes the place of SM but I don't know how much water it will need. Probably similar to SM. I'm standing by to rescue the plant if it does not do well.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:49PM
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orchidnick

Coconut webbing. Tore it apart and stuffed it into a pot, similar to SM but retains much less water. Probably will need to be watered more than once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:51PM
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orchidnick

Aquaculture bio-discs. They are not really discs, just a name that stuck. Little plastic dingies with a large surface area for bacteria to grow on. I have a bunch of them laying around, why not trey them. Again will rescue the plant if it does not do well.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:53PM
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orchidnick

Aussie Gold. Was a fad years ago, don't hear much about it any more. I have some left over, works well for Aussie Dendrobiums. Phaelies??? We'll see. Again rescue units standing by. A little coconut added. Water once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:56PM
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orchidnick

Marbles. Knew a guy once who loved to grow orchids in marbles. Don't know of any advantage but why not. Will water daily as they retain no moisture.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:58PM
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orchidnick

A shallow basket with 'Green Moss'. Popular for growing Stanhopeas in. Don't know how much a Phaelie will like it. Retains much less water than SM so will probably water twice a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:00PM
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orchidnick

Empty Vanda basket. Really no different than growing bare-root anywhere else but just for sake of completes. Will hang below the Vandas and get watered daily.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:02PM
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orchidnick

Right now regular life is intruding, will pull all of this together tonight and make a list. Am looking forward to see how they do over the course of a year.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 4:03PM
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bob8_gw

Great experiment Nick. Can't wait to follow the results. Personally, I just got back into phals. about a year ago. For me they grow best in tight sphagnum moss, but the darn trick is to not overwater them. I hope to put all my phals together in the fall and water them separately. I've gotten really interested in the novelty phals. but they are expensive to experiment on. Do you have any novelty phals? I've got about 8 flasks planted out at the moment and a few years from now hope to have lots of extras to share.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 6:42PM
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orchidnick

I'm not into hybrid Phaelies, only grow them for my family. The ones I'm using here are all big honking plants, no novelties.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 6:51PM
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orchidnick

There is one more thing I'm going to do tomorrow. I have a few leftover, all tightly packed in 4" pots. One will stay like that for the year, one will be moved up to a tightly packed 5" pot and one will be placed into a LOOSLEY packed 5" pot. All in moss that is. Let's see if after one year there is a difference

If anyone has any other ideas, now would be the time

Nick

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:06PM
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westoh Z6

Nick,

I grow a couple species phals on slabs of cork bark...

Also, isn't there a peat based mix (ProMix) used by a lot of phal growers. I never liked the ProMix, always ended up washing out of the bottom of the pots for me.

Great stuff Nick!!!

Bob

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:15AM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

The promix is used by the big commercial growers that ship in mass quantities to the big box stores. They ship well and hold their blooms with the peat mix. But by the time the bloom is done they are on their last legs. Bad mix. No drainage.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:30AM
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shuffles_gw

Nick, I don't think I saw charcoal. Then there would be the question of what size? It will be interesting to see how your experiment works out.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:50AM
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orchidnick

I'm not a fan of charcoal, never use it and don't have any. It is a commonly used agent so I';ll get a little and put a plant in it just for completeness.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:21AM
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orchidnick

Continuing on, Charcoal.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:40PM
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orchidnick

50/50 charcoal/moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:43PM
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orchidnick

50/50 bark/moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:44PM
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orchidnick

50/50 Lava/moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:45PM
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orchidnick

50/50 coconut/moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:46PM
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orchidnick

The original version. That's how I got them all. This is the only one that will remain unchanged.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:49PM
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orchidnick

Up-potted to 5", moss very tight.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:50PM
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orchidnick

Up-potted to 5", moss loose.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:52PM
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orchidnick

That's it, I'm out of plants. I need to summarize this so it will be easier to make the comparison 1 year from now, but other carbon based life forms are intruding with unreasonable demands on my time so that will have to wait.

The plants are all the same except the one in Charcoal/moss which only has 3 leaves and is half the size of the others.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:57PM
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westoh Z6

Nick,

That's 30-40 phals and medias, what a great experiment. I'm jealous...

Good luck!!!

Bob

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:13PM
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orchidnick

I finally have some peace so I'll summarize it both for my benefit and for anyone who is interested. All pots are 5" except the first one which is the original 4".

1) 4" moss tightly packed, the original, untouched
2) Up-potted to 5", moss tightly packed
3) Up-potted to 5" moss loosely packed
4) Orchiata bark with a little lava rock
5) Lava rock
6) Coconut choir
7) Redwood fiber, 'Gorilla Hair'
8) Hygroton
9) Hygroton, semi hydroponic

  1. Osmunda
  2. PET cubes
  3. Aquaculture bio-discs
  4. Rock wool like substance
  5. Coconut matting, shredded
  6. Aussie Gold
  7. A few large rocks
  8. Pot in a Pot concept
  9. Marbles
  10. Horse Manure
  11. Charcoal
  12. 50/50 bark/moss
  13. 50/50 coconut/moss
  14. 50/50 lava rock/moss
  15. 50/50 charcoal/moss
  16. Empty wooden basket
  17. Empty plastic Vanda basket
  18. Hanging net pot with bark
  19. Basket with green moss
  20. Mounted on branch
  21. Mounted on shallow wooden basket, no moss
  22. Mounted on shallow wood basket, with moss
  23. Wire through root ball, no media or any other substance
  24. Water only

In reviewing the pictures and the methods there is a mistake and confusion. Picture #8 is of a plant mounted in a shallow basket with moss. That needs to be replaced by picture #15, plant mounted in shallow basket, no moss. If I could I would eliminate picture #8 but I cannot do this. Other than that, things appear to be on track.

The tightly packed moss will be watered weekly, very sparingly.
Some will need watering twice a week
Most of the potted ones will get watered once a week with a good drenching
The mounted ones and most of the ones in baskets, large rocks, Pot in a pot etc will get watered daily while it's hot, less so as conditions change.

If a plant appears to be doing poorly, I'll try to rescue it before it gives up the ghost and put it into a more benign media. The success will be measured by:

1) The number of lost leaves
2) The size of the new leaves in comparison to the last old leaf.
3) Flower stalks next spring
4) Quality of new roots

I'll add a tag to each plant which will have the number of the preparation and the name, eg #15, Aussie Gold and will record on the tag pertinent information such as lost leaves etc.

In reality the chances of this actually taking place is no more than 43% and there is only a 27% chance of that happening. I'm too disorganized. But, I'm really interested in seeing how some of these things will work out and I'll make an effort to see it through for at least a year. It will probably take 2 years for the jury to be in on all of them. Some, like Ausiie Gold, I don't think will work out too well but you never know. Others, like the one in water, will take a major dive, loose all of it's roots, then recover with new root formation. The first new leaf will probably be 1" in size, then it will make progress, I hope.

Wish me luck and keep me on the ball be reminding me to post progress reports occasionally.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:19PM
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orchidnick

Almost done. As I said I ran out of plants. 5 more are coming. I'll replace #24 which is sub-par and make a couple of new additions. Shaved Monkey pointed out that lava rock works best for him in 3/4" size. I got some of that and will use it. While poking around the building supply store I found something I have not seen in years. Crushed tempered glass. Used to be a potting media. Got a small bag of that. Then I googled shredded rubber and found out that Home Depot has tons of it. Brown 1/2" shredded rubber, sold for flooring of children's play areas or just plain ground cover. It also was a potting media in the past. I got a little of that.

After I get the additional plants, I'll complete the project and rest on the 7th day.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 3:21PM
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petrushka

well, i was thinking about all this awhile and here're my questions:
some stuff works best when used in semi-hydro, like lava rock, coco chips, marbles and even shredded rubber.
i rooted ZZ plants (succulents usually grown very dry - produced tubers and great roots!) in marbles in semi-hydro. what happens is when there is a 1-2" of water on the bottom the humidity BETWEEN the marbles is high - roots love it! but there is no water at all between the marbles! but unless you have that 1" of water in the bottom - it won't work. unless you drench very often to supply enough moisture.

lava rock is inert but organic in my view and it absorbs water while rubber and marbles don't.. so you can soak it and it will release water/vapor slowly and create higher humidity for roots between lava nuggets.
coco-chips are more similar to lava rock then to bark, i think, because they are easy to wet and release moisture faster then bark.
i think lava rock and coco-chips and plain bark are more similar in wetting process - need to be soaked to be useful, UNLESS they are mixed with smth easily wettable like LF sphag (provided it's not dry of course ;).
what i am getting at is watering methodology - it probably should be different based on media. these pots need to watered in diff ways, not all the same. what are your thoughts on that?
also you don't mention fertilization. clearly sphag being organic will release some nutes, whereas marbles/rubber will have to be fed 100%. coco-chips need some extra calcium and pure bark needs extra nitrogen.
so what were you planning to do with ferts? differentiate or not?
and at last i'd like to have some idea of your temps day/nite and humidity levels day/nite. at least approx, let's say weekly avg?
you can get very extensive data on var. meteorological sites . wunderground is one of the best - they have complete historical data, in case you don't keep notes.
however, your particular location micro-climate might be different from general weather station readings.
so it would be helpful to get some climate data at least when there are significant fluctuations. because naturally diff media will be more/less beneficial in diff conditions.
your being in ca will be significantly different from smbody in fl or mid-west or north-east. so to apply your results for other locations we need to have an idea of environmental growing conditions too.
i know it's too much to ask, but may be some rough notes at least?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:34PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Petrushka,
The experiment has some relevance (I suppose) but it is all related to the growing conditions that NIck can provide.
In the growing conditions that I provide for my small collection of Phals, Coconut chunks were a disaster.

Apart from Data from met. offices you have to take into account the micro climate of your growing spots.

You are asking Nick to do proper scientific trials where he would have to have bigger number for each type of mix and method and ensure that all the plants were at the same level in the glass-house and so on.
and and keep meticulous records of sunlight, humidity, temperatures. light levels, Ph of the mix and so on ...eeeck.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:42PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

Rubber in Florida would burn the roots. Gets too hot as does any type of plastic.

Nick, how big is your growing area??? How the heck can you have so many plants? Does your greenhouses cover an acre??

I am amazed how much room you have. Starting to think you live in a 10x12 room and the rest of your house is plants :))

Jane

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:16AM
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orchidnick

Actually I sleep under one of the benches. I have a corner lot which is large. Warm and cold greenhouses are both about 360 square feet. Both are only 75% full. The warm greenhouse has many Cattleyas in it which can be kicked out and live outside if more room is needed. The lath house (under shade cloth with no other protection) is also about 400 square feet. Also 75% full but the Dendrobium speciosums are taking up more and more space.

Petrushka, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I'll try to address some of them. The plants are sitting in 3 groups on the bench. Weekly drenching, biweekly drenching and weekly very little water for the tightly packed SM. All the mounted ones and the one in large rocks and the 'Pot in a Pot' one get watered daily.

20-10-20 Grow More is the fertilizer which will be given on days when the weekly and biweekly ones get watered. The rest of the time there will be no fertilizer.

Temp is kept below 90F by a swap cooler at this time. By November it will be time to heat. 70F during the day and 60F at night is the setting of the dual thermostat. This seems to work as the Phaelies I am growing bloomed satisfactorily. Light is the same for all of them, probably more than Phaelies need.

Some are out of the loop like the one in water, the one with the wire through the root-ball and nothing else will have a message. If it grows as well as the ones mounted on 6 different tings, that should be noted.

My goal is not to provide optimal conditions for 35 different plants, the entire point of this exercise would be lost. The aim is to have as many plants as possible under similar conditions and then see which one does best.

I talked to George Vasquez about this as I ordered 5 more plants, let's just say he was amused. In the end this may prove very little as we each have different growing conditions and have by now figured out how to grow them. Arthur is a good example, I doubt that anything here will alter his culture.

I hope the one in Horse Manure will bloom, it will go to my daughter in Orange County. I don;t know if they allow horsey doo in Orange County but I won't tell her about it until afterwards. Right now the run-off is brown, horse tea to be exact, within a couple of weeks that will stop and it will have clean run-off. I have grown in HM before, it actually works well.

Different atmospheric conditions are a moot point as what I described above is what it is and will not be changed. The plants usually adapt (or not).

Nick

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:52AM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

Very interesting. Thank you Nick! Arthur makes some good points. To be perfect a lot more plants would be needed to rule in and out harm and benefit. But due to Nicks many years of orchid experience the data improves. Also, some of Nicks training in academia describes and teaches about blind studies. This is an antidotal study, not absolute of best practices on growing phals. But due to Nicks experience and background I'm confident that although this can't be completely absolute, the results could be very influential. At least for me.

Thanks for the effort Nick and I will be following your comments.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 10:04AM
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petrushka

i wasn't suggesting keeping actual detailed notes - as of course that would be very time consuming.
i just did not know nick's actual growing conditions as well as some of you. and i thought it would be nice to document them here in the same thread.
i understand now better what nick is doing. i think it's great.
but i am also already thinking how this could be applied to other locales.
often data about 'not a good thing to do' is just as useful if not more useful!
and i am particularly interested in any mix with sphag in it and how diff ingredients will influence the growth.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 10:44AM
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saldut

This is fantastic! I found I have more troubles w/Phalies than anything else, and lost a lot, all I pay is $5. but it can add up... what works for me now, is to pull out that packed moss, leave just a bit in the middle, add some Styrofoam in the bottom and some bark.. it seems to work best to keep it open... now mine are living and actually growing well, out on the front porch w/good light.... I'm really anxious to see your results it's going to be very enlightening...thanks....LOL, sally

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 5:19PM
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James AKA lumpy_j

I never thought I'd see an interesting thread on Phals.

My guess is that you will have good results with almost all of these. First because you are watering differently depending on the media and potting situation. Second because you are starting with healthy plants. Third because you are setting them up and then leaving them alone.

I don't think the rubber mulch will work. I read somewhere that the rubber, which comes from old car tires, contains some zinc which will leach out over time. I've seen orchid roots attach to everything except metal.
I also have my doubts about the water culture one. The hurdle is getting the plant to survive the transition.

My favorite phal mix is PET fiber cubes mixed with bark. The PET isn't solid and holds some moisture so it keeps air pockets in the mix as the bark breaks down around it and provides some moisture between watering.

A few days ago i bought 2 mop heads, one regular cotton strands and one with synthetic strands. I've cut pieces and added it to bark and tried wrapping a strand around the inside of a pot, filling the center with bark. I left a few inches poking out of the drainage whole to wick water into the mix.

My request is for you to try cotton somehow, Mop head, cut up blue jeans, old socks?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 8:28AM
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orchidnick

I remember cut up women's nylon stockings were used once. PET cubes mixed 50/50 with bark might be worth a try. A mop is another thought, I'm going to have to get a few more plants!!

Nick

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 12:16AM
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petrushka

i use 1/4 " braided nylon rope with polyprop from HD for water wicks, but usually for larger plants. it does not rot.
it'll last for a year easily.
cotton would rot. you could use acrylic yarn - 2 or 4 ply (2 or 4 threads twisted) - that is how african violets are wicked.
acrylic works for smaller pots up to 4-5".
but the mix ratio that is recommended for wicking usually contains 40-50% perlite and at least 30% peat.
in my experience bark does not wick, but can be used up to a 3rd of the mix. and it should be on a smaller side.
i actually wick my orchids provided they are in very good light/sun when i cannot attend them for many weeks while away.
since i usually have more then 1/3rd bark for orchids i aid wicking by lining the pot with cocofiber matting (you called it webbing), sides and bottom and running the wick on a circle on the bottom and up the side on a curve sideways to the top to allow max contact with matting.
wick drops into a water reservoir with liquid feed - so it's semi-hydro in effect.
the bark though dries up on top rather fast. it helps to put some webbing on the surface as mulch - air is not blocked but evaporation is reduced.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 10:48AM
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orchidnick

Got a few more plants and potted them up. After posting this I'm definitely going to rest even though it is not the 7th day. Don't want to pot up another Phaelie for at least 3 months.

Plant #23 50/50 charcoal/moss only has 3 leaves, I replaced it so that all plants now have an identical starting point.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:38PM
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orchidnick

#34 Acrylic (I think) mop. Feels soft like cotton but I don't think they use cotton for anything any more. My daughter's mop is now not nearly as big as it was 24 hours ago, let's see if her house keeper notices it.l

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:42PM
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orchidnick

#35 Swamp cooler matting. An fiberglass/nylon webbing which can be shredded and would make an excellent eternal
Spagnum Moss if it works.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:44PM
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orchidnick

#36 50/50 bark/PET cubes.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:48PM
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orchidnick

#37 Large (3/4" plus) lava rock.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:50PM
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orchidnick

#38 50/50 large lava rock/moss.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:51PM
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orchidnick

#39 Pine bark. It is different enough from Orchiata that I thought it deserved a spot.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:54PM
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orchidnick

#40 50/50 pine bark/moss

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:55PM
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orchidnick

#41 Shredded rubber. It retains no moisture and has enough airspace that I'm tempted to water it daily. Will have to see how wet it is tomorrow.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:57PM
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orchidnick

#42 Crushed tempered glass. Retains no moisture but is fairly compact, I think it will stay quite moist in the middle and am planning on watering twice a week or even only once a week.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:59PM
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orchidnick

Here is the final list. There will be no further changes until there is peace in the Middle East which of course won't happen in our life time.

1) 4" moss tightly packed, the original, untouched
2) Up-potted to 5", moss tightly packed
3) Up-potted to 5" moss loosely packed
4) Orchiata bark with a little lava rock
5) Lava rock
6) Coconut choir
7) Redwood fiber, 'Gorilla Hair'
8) Hygroton
9) Hygroton, semi hydroponic

  1. Osmunda
  2. PET cubes
  3. Aquaculture bio-discs
  4. Rock wool like substance
  5. Coconut matting, shredded
  6. Aussie Gold
  7. A few large rocks
  8. Pot in a Pot concept
  9. Marbles
  10. Horse Manure
  11. Charcoal
  12. 50/50 bark/moss
  13. 50/50 coconut/moss
  14. 50/50 lava rock/moss
  15. 50/50 charcoal/moss
  16. Empty wooden basket
  17. Empty plastic Vanda basket
  18. Hanging net pot with bark
  19. Basket with green moss
  20. Mounted on branch
  21. Mounted on shallow wooden basket, no moss
  22. Mounted on shallow wood basket, with moss
  23. Wire through root ball, no media or any other substance
  24. Water only
  25. Mop
  26. Swamp cooler matting
  27. 50/50 bark/PET cubes
  28. Large lava rock
  29. 50/50 large lava rock/moss
  30. Pine bark
  31. 50/50 pine bark/moss
  32. Shredded rubber
  33. Crushed tempered glass

Originally I just wanted to compare the SM to bark as I don't do well with SM, how did I end up with this monstrosity? Special attention will be given to the one in horse manure as I definitely want to place that one on my daughter's kitchen island when it blooms.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:09PM
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petrushka

oh, h-mm, my guess you are not telling her what's in that pot!?
this is very-very impressive. and pretty mind boggling ;).
i take it no vacations for you?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:51PM
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orchidnick

I have some one who can water, only problem is that he'll drench everything.

I will tell her what's in the pot after it finishes blooming and I take it back. Uptight, button down, conservative Orange County may never be the same.

My biggest problem is to guess how much moisture is retained in certain pots thus determining the required watering interval. I may have to unpot a few to see how wet the interior is.

Actually James Rose from Cal Orchids gave to answer to all of the above. I bought some plants from him and asked whim what I should pot them in. 'Anything you want' he said, 'it ALL Works as long as you water correctly for the situation.' That's what will be my challenge in the next 2 weeks, determining how often some of these plants should be watered. The fact that it gets close to 100F with very low humidity does not help.

Nick

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:52PM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

Dont unpot. Just take a pot in question and fill a pot with that same medium and no orchid. Side by side. Or several the same then you could unpot them at different intervals to check the moisture.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 5:46PM
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velvetCrochet

You could also try a watering alarm (like this one: http://www.adafruit.com/product/1965). You set the 'dry point' on the monitor and whenever the soil gets to that dryness again it will chirp, letting you know it's time to water again.

Can't wait to see the results of this experiment!

Here is a link that might be useful: Chirp! Plant Watering Alarm

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:54AM
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ReptileAddiction

Wow, that is a lot of plants! I can see almost all of them working as long as you water them correctly. I do not see the one in the water coming through the transition phase though.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 12:07AM
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orchidnick

Here is a little update. All, except one, are doing Ok. sort of in a holding pattern. Some root activity beginning to appear. #13, the one in the insulation mush I though resembled rock wool, turned one leaf yellow. As I tried to pull it off, all the leaves fell off, the entire plant had rotted out in a very short time. I kept that one fairly dry with minimal watering as it did not seem to dry out. Oh well, scratch that one.

The one in water (#33) had a change in the water which turned brown and yucky. I changed to water today and pulled the dead part of most of the roots in water. That was the source of the water discoloration as most of these roots rotted. But not all of them, a couple survived and there are 4 green nubbins where new roots are forming. This is all under water, the above water roots are inactive. You can see some of the above water roots on the right lower corner of the picture. I have the plant sticking out of the water by about 3/4", that's where these roots are from. The water plant seems well on it's way to adapt.

Everything in the picture except the lower right corner has been under water since the beginning.

Nick

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:04PM
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orchidnick

The plant growing on nothing, or in air, #32 seems to be at a similar stage. It has 2 nubbins of new root formation about the same size as the underwater plant. Most of the other bare root ones show similar development. This is a picture of the one mounted on branch without moss, #29.

Nick

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:10PM
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janartmuse

Whoa! What a lot of trouble! I am amazed. it DOES sound like fun. i take it you have a greenhouse? Some of those things, like growing on nothing would not work in a regular house, especially once the heat comes on in winter. You didn't mention Perlite, did you? I have always wondered if it would be a good growing medium. A couple of my plants are in a 50/50 perlite, small bark mix (lycaste, oncidium).

How about Leggo blocks? That just for everyone's amusement.....

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:15AM
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orchidnick

100% Perlite would have been a good idea. If I get hold of another plant, I'll put it in it. I didn't do Lego blocks but I did marbles. Styrofoam peanuts would be another one but in reality all of these are basicaly bare-root growing as there is no real benefit of the media.

I'm doing this for 2 basic reasons. One, I have too much time on my hand and like to mess with things. Second, I'm not really interested in growing hybrid Phaelies but have 3 daughters and a daughter in law who can't get enough of them for their homes. It's for them I'm growing these things.

I've also become a rescue station for bloomed out HD or TJ Phaelies, my internist's office, a friend and a couple of relatives send me bloomed out Phaelies all the time. About 50% have deteriorated, black roots but quite a few are worth saving. I have a lot of room but soon will reach the point where I won't want any more of these. Then those poor things will have to be discarded which is what their growers in Taiwan intended all along. Buy them for cheap, toss them in the trash after bloom and buy more. Disgusting.

Nick

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 10:43AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Hi
I grow almost all my phals mounted mostly on trees but some on cork and tree fern
Wife brought home a miniature phal so I tried an experiment ,attached to cork but upside down supposedly to increase drainage . Has grown two new leaves both right side up ,also reflowered with stems upside down but flower is right side up lol Also added a bit of sphag to increase moisture roots are growing in the opposite direction lol Worth a shot ?? lol gary

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 4:11AM
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orchidnick

In nature they grow somewhat pendulous so there will never be water accumulation in the crown leaf. I have a few mounted upside down, they like it. The flower spikes start out heading down but quickly make a u-turn and then go straight up in the usual way.

In my opinion, my mounted Phaelies grow best for me but that does not work when my daughters want to display them in their homes. It is for them that I grow them in pots. If you look at the list of the different methods, #16 and #17 are essentially bare-root. In other words mounted on pots. That also works well for me and they can sit on a dining room table.

Nick

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:28AM
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orchidnick

The one in water continues doing just as well as the others. Way too early to pass any judgement but other than the one immediate and total failure, all seem to be thriving. The one whose roots are totally immersed in water has completely rotted out all of the old roots, nothing left of them but it's actively making new roots, under water and not only maintaining it's leaves but also making a new leaf just about in lockstep with the others..

Tomorrow, I guess today, I'm giving a series of 'Orchid 101' lectures at our fall show. I'll take the one in water and the one in air and show the newbies examples of how adaptive these plants are. But how do you explain the one in water after making such a big deal out of the necessity of getting air to the roots and not over watering? That one is a stretch, I hope they don't ask me embarrassing questions.

Nick

    Bookmark   September 20, 2014 at 5:59AM
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janartmuse

I am amazed the one in water is doing ok! Truly amazed! All my best! J

    Bookmark   September 22, 2014 at 10:54PM
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philpet

Ok so now I am really amazed. I have always heard don't over water.so how does that not equal to be grown in water??.would the logic be that grown in water equals water roots, thus these roots would not survive in media?and then grown in media would not adjust to water, which would make sense as stated the old roots rotted and new roots are developing.so my logic tells me new roots would have to develope in any given situation for the plant to adjust thus thriving. Goes to show plants are much more adaptable than we could ever imagine, they have a drive to survive and thus modify themselves to survive.Amazing.Velleta

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 10:57AM
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orchidnick

I have done this before so I know what to expect., The old roots, which were used to SM, disappeared and new roots, used to being submerged, in water are forming right now. There are 5 of them, one over 1" long. One year from now there will be a gaggle of roots under water equal to what you'd expect if the plant were growing in moss. If at that point you take the plant out of water and start growing it in moss or bark, the water roots will completely deteriorate and new roots will form which will be used to the new media.

The plant simply produces roots suitable for the environment it is in. What I don't understand is why this process does not happen if you over water a plant in tightly packed moss. If you over water that one, all of it's toots will die. So far similar to the water grown one. But now there is a divergence as no new roots suitable for the new situation develop and instead the plant dies.

Must relate to some chemical process inside the SM.

Nick

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 11:16AM
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westoh Z6

Nick,

Interesting observation.

Is it possible the spagh gets extremely tight because the roots have grown and pushed everything tighter? So tight that new roots can't push through so the plant just dies along with the old roots?

Chemical process does make sense too.

Just some thoughts..

Bob

This post was edited by westoh on Wed, Sep 24, 14 at 6:39

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 12:59PM
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philpet

Or could it be that the plant is in two different situation at the same time? Media plus water, so it is confused as to which it should grow roots for? Thus it does nothing and the roots die.leading to the entire plant dying?just trying to figure it out.Velleta

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 1:45PM
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allymarie(zone 10, So. Fl.)

There are a few videos on You Tube about growing phals in water.They seem to adapt very well and even bloom beautifully.

Allymarie

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 6:58PM
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badanobada(10A)

Hi Nick,

Blast from the past if you remember me- me and my old friend eva use to visit you and the chids years ago when you lived (perhaps still do) in south bay...

Great experiment, albeit a little too fun!

I believe there has been criticism for SM over the years to be too acidic but it's exactly the acidity that also keeps certain bacteria and such at bay. But because it is dead, sm after excessive amount of watering does lose it's acidity as it breaks down, acquiring a different sort of acidity, ie the kind of breakdown of carbon does, which allows flourishing of other bacteria, ie rot.

Growing a plant in full water is different in that there's no breakdown of organic materials, or air pockets in organic materials that can harbor bacterial growth (aerobic anyway)... so I'm thinking it's possible for roots to grow itself accordingly and adapt without threat of bacteria/etc.

In nature I also then guess that exposed roots is more what the plant genetically can handle, with any certain percentage buried in leaf litter, bark, etc... so it's more able to handle a certain amount exposed than completely covered (like in moss drenched)... especially than compared to terrestrial plants.

Anyway, that's my musing, whether useful or not, on this thread... for now anyway.

Looking forward to seeing what you find...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2014 at 7:17PM
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orchidnick

Badalotus, is that not what you called yourself then? Nice to hear from you. You are so right, if the SM is handled right it can last 5 years but most of us don't handle it right.

The plants are beginning to make their pleasure, or displeasure known. The one in water made a new leaf and is now starting the next new leaf. This means it's finished with the previous new leaf which was a grand total of 2" long. Should have been 8". My grade on the report card then is a D-, which is better than an F. It's alive and we'll see how much the leaf length increases as time goes by. Some have new leaves 1/2 the size of the last one others are doing better. It's early, next spring will tell.

I'm living in Lakewood now and am mostly interested in cloud forest plants, going to San Francisco tomorrow for the Pleurothallis Alliance meeting which is taking place at the Hawk Hills greenhouse in Pacfica. I know I'll survive the trip, my bank account on the other hand, will be on life support after John Leathers unloads his latest crosses on me. How can one say no to such a deal!

Nick

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 12:34AM
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badanobada(10A)

Cloud forest epiphytes? wow all the way from bulbos... the warm wet growing bulbos... weren't u growing a bulbo phalaenopsis? or some other monstrosity? well, there are cooler growing bulbos too from cloud forests... yeah, the cloud dwellers had been the bane of my existence in years past but i was living in balmy santa monica... pleuros were coming out of the walls... do you get some coastal breezes coming through lakewood? I certainly don't in hollywood, but I do live in hills, so a tad cooler...

good luck with the meeting... just reading he grows masdies in firbark... never heard that before... and treat yourself to a trichosalpinx of some sort, such an easy pleasure every one of those I've grown.

Back to phals, I'm always amazed at how dry they can grow, meaning humidity wise, and still bloom year after year. My humidity levels are in the 20's and I don't bother to put even humidity trays for the few I have... maybe these GMO's may not be a fair assessment for growing medias... lol.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 1:18AM
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orchidnick

Massive application of machinery and money is making it happen. I have a 380 sq foot cold greenhouse with 2 swamp coolers, a humidifier and of course an RO system. Draculas would not thrive otherwise. It never exceeded 80F all summer and I push it down to 55F at night. The Bulbos are alive and well in the warm greenhouse. The Mexican hurricane gave me a scare but it proved to be no problem.

The main interest on the warm side remain the Bulbos. There was a guy named Bryant who was also into the macrobulbos, are you still in touch with him?

Nick

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 2:30AM
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nuts2

Wow! you have had some great ideas here - anything to do with the medicine I wonder! I just flowered my first one in about 15 yrs - all the rest gone to that big greenhouse in the sky. Look forward to seeing the results in due course. Just watch the ones in moss or getting too wet - this seems to have been my problem for 15 yrs!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 8:48AM
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charles1979

Nick I have 10 Phals, and 8 of them are growing on bark with clay pots and the other 2 are just left alone in it's root ball with moss (see pic). I have been growing the bark ones for about 3 months now, and new healthy roots have grown and leaves but not as many leaves as yours. Ironically the 2 phals that were left alone in its root ball are more recent (1 month since the last flowers fell off), and on one of them there is a spike growing already off a node (will upload pic next). So I am kind of doing my own experiment as well, but not as amazing as yours. Let me tell you that ALL of your plants look great, the leaves look amazing, abundant and healthy. Good luck to you and I hope you have a fantastic, colorful collection of orchids soon amigo.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 9:23PM
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charles1979

New spike.. will keep you posted on any changes. Nick, do you have any suggestions as far as growing more leaves?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 9:26PM
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orchidnick

Good culture is the only suggestions for growing new leaves. I don't encourage secondary spikes, they usually are sub-par. I break the main spike off at the base and am done with it.

Nick

    Bookmark   September 28, 2014 at 11:15AM
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badanobada(10A)

charles, looks like your spike may have scale on it, you might want to check plants and get them off...

Nick, i can't get over the marbles...

I personally love seeing phals mounted, their roots are sooo cool when you can see them... really one of the things I love about orchids is how you can enjoy seeing the roots!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2014 at 2:12AM
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