Florida and orchids

jane__ny(9-10)October 18, 2011

Came down to Florida, from NY about a month ago. Brought some plants with me thinking they would be thrilled - not so. I'm having a tough time acclimating them to the conditions.

We are staying in Sarasota, which is on the Gulf coast. The house is on the water and there is a constant wind. Really lovely, although the weather was very hot last month, this month it is cooler with less humidity.

This is what I brought with me - 4 Phals (2 Equistris, 2 noids). 2 Catts (2 others died), Angraecum (1), Aerangis (1), Masdes (2), a few 'warm' intergenerics.

Lost a few plants due to the trip (car and autotrain). Heat was intense and I was surprised anything survived. Had a few large 'dirt houseplants' which survived the trip.

After getting settled, put all the orchids outside (except Masdes) in full shade. The weather was very hot and humid in September. I knew I was losing the Phals and moved them in the house.

Long and short, I keep moving everything around and nothing looks good. Masdes are fading, even in AC, Phals look terrible, Catts seem okay although they got sunburned and some rot. Now they just seem alive. Intergenerics are losing ground. They were spiking when we left NY but that's a distant memory! Don't expect them to make it.

The only plants which seem to be okay are the Angraecum and Aer. They aren't doing anything, but at least are holding their own. I haven't noticed any growth on anything.

I am find roots tips eaten as are some leaves. Not sure what is doing it as I don't see slugs. I do see small lizards (which keep scaring the hell out of me when they run out of the pots). Does anyone know if they eat roots?

My dirt plants are happy campers. Lots of growth and looking great.

I forgot, I also brought along two hard cane dens which seem okay. They are hanging in a tree and are still alive (which I consider good).

Sorry this is so long, but I would like to have a positive outcome. I actually told my plants I was bringing them to a better place where they would be so happy. I expected marvelous results, after growing in the cold Northeast for 20 years. I have never seen such miserable plants.

They are miserable! The Intergenerics are gonners, the masdes are close behind (I knew they wouldn't stand a chance), but the rest should adjust and do fairly well.

I am totally out of my realm. I had such high expectations. What a disaster this has been for my orchids. Its almost 2 months, I should have seen something positive by now. Any advice would be appreciated.


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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Hello Jane, "Masdies are fading" not surprising. They are on my do not attempt list. A challenge in warm climates!
A couple of thoughts, maybe you will have to rethink your potting mixes, generally the closer you get to the equator the more arid the mix.
Also, rethink your shading. Here, at latitude 34S, Two layers of 50% shade-cloth are needed in summer to prevent sun burn. Florida is 20 something North.
Hopefully, the locals will add to this and PS most lizards are bug eaters.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 1:22AM
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Wow Jane, I think I would run screaming to the closest Orchid Society meeting.This might be similar to someone trying to learn the difference of going from growing in a basement to a greenhouse? I don't know. Sounds like it would be a no-brainer but you're proving that theory wrong,aren't you?gb

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 7:51AM
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cjwatson(Z8 FL)

Lizards are harmless; they eat the bad bugs. Root tips are probably being eaten by roaches. Florida has some of the biggest roaches you've ever seen. Realtors selling houses call them 'Palmetto bugs,' we call them the official state bird.

Unless you have some of the rare warm-growing Masdies, those are history. There are many types of orchids which won't grow in S. Florida. Because of the heat, most of your orchids outdoors will require more water than they did up north, especially if they have a constant breeze.

Speaking of the breeze, you said you are on the water. Is it salt, or fresh? Few orchids tolerate salt spray - and salt spray can travel long distances inland.

I agree with ginnibug, join the local society -- probably more than one in the area.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 9:48AM
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gardenofthemuse(SW FL 9)

Hi Jane, welcome to Florida! I'm about 50 minutes south of you, but work in Sarasota.

The responses above have covered much of what I was going to say as well. The Sarasota Orchid Society is amazing, they meet at Selby Botanical Gardens and have culture "classes" before the regular club meetings. I have posted the link to their web site below.

Just to reiterate what cjwatson above said, I would be suspect of salt water spray. My fiancee's last home in Sarasota was right on the gulf and it was hard to keep them alive on his lanai, even ones thought to be well out of the way of any unseen spray/mist.

Another thing could be the water, maybe they are struggling with the difference or there is more salt in the water you are now using. I know that my own water straight from the well here has salt in it before being conditioned and I use reverse osmosis or my orchids would all be toast.

I grow some orchids that every one told me I was wasting money on, would not survive in SW Florida, such as cool Draculas and Masdies. I am happy to say they are alive and doing well but did go through an acclimation process where at first they didnt look so good.

Don't lose hope, I know the good people at the Sarasota Orchid Society will be able to help you further, perhaps you could even bring them a plant or two to look at and they could advise you better. Let us know how it turns out!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sarasota Orchid Society

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 1:34PM
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"Florida has some of the biggest roaches you've ever seen."
Thanks Cj! State Bird...love it.

I have seen them, almost packed my bags, orchids and all and started north. Most disgusting, frightening, alien creatures I have ever seen. Living all my life in NY, we've seen our share of roaches in NYC apartments, but nothing like this. Don't want to get into it, but it is playing into our decision whether or not to move to Florida.

Arthur, I'm holding off on repotting at this point because I'm not worried about my mixes staying too wet. The area is very breezy, they dry out quickly. I'll repot when I know which plants are going to make it. I have all plants under trees where they do not get any direct sun. Some are on a patio under a roof over-hang. No sun but bright. They did get terribly burned when we first arrived as I didn't know where the sun was. Even early morning sun was enough to burn.

We are staying at our daughters house which is on a salt-water canal. I don't believe there is any spray that I can see. Tide goes in and out, but I don't see waves.

Daughter has RO in her kitchen. Try to use that but sometimes use the hose. Her water is County, not well. It was hot last month and I'd spray all the plants frequently.

I intend to join an Orchid Society. Have visited Selby and love it. Florida has so many orchid groups and societies. I can't wait but haven't decided if we are making this permanent.

Thanks for the heads-up - as Ginnibug says, I thought it would be easy, a 'no-brainer.'


    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 2:06PM
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Hope your ailing plants will recover. Remember, critters are a lot less harmful than those darn humans. So don't give up the idea of coming to Florida. I have 300 + chids outside thriving with very little effort from me.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 4:48PM
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With all the info provided above, I'm certain that I would have problems too...gb

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 9:40AM
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cjwatson(Z8 FL)

Jane, being that you are living in coastal Florida, it would be a good idea to get a water analysis sheet (usually free for the taking) from the local municipality's water company. Many coastal areas in Florida have salt water intrusion into their city water. I know of a couple who had to stop after years of growing magnificent orchids in their greenhouse because the municipal water got saltier and saltier. Some plants are very affected, some aren't so much. This may or may not be a problem for you, but it always pays to be informed. I keep track anually of my city water up here in Pensacola for the same reason.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 11:13AM
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Thanks Cj, I am concerned about water quality everywhere. My daughter does have RO in the kitchen and I've been trying to use that for most waterings. During the very hot days, I did resort to watering with the hose.

We are still looking at real estate and I would follow your advice when we find a place. Florida wells emit the most horrid odor - smells like rotten eggs. Luckily, the Country water is treated and doesn't have a smell. I notice, when people turn on lawn sprinklers, I need a mask to breathe. Its horrible. Wonder if sulfur is good for plants.

I've heard Florida also has a terrible nematode problem. That doesn't make me feel comfortable about gardening here.

Gb, I actually see some new root growth on a Catt. George King. I only brought a few old friends with me and I hope they, and I adjust to this new environment.

Thanks for all the good advice,

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 10:57PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Nematodes are a pest on tomatoes, not every plant in your garden. I'm trialling marigolds next to my summer tomatoes to see if that works. Got a crop out of tomatoes planted in winter in sunny spots when the nematodes are supposed to be inactive.

Roaches, spiders, nematodes, centipedes, etc .etc might be downer, wamth all year is a plus.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 3:57AM
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cjwatson(Z8 FL)

Jane, you can't grow the standard northern annuals and perennials in S. Florida. Those would be your main nematode attracting plants. Many new Floridians try to grow them during their first few years (I did, long ago) and then give up and start growing the tropicals that love it down here instead. If you are very much into gardening, I recommend a visit to the public library for a few books on Florida landscape plants; most libraries in the state have whole sections on just Florida gardening -- which is different than the rest of the US. And to make some new friends and a wealth of information, join a local gardening club.

As a bit of unsolicited advice, when buying a house, try to find one you like that has at least a few producing fruit trees; you will enjoy them for years to come. Wait till you see all the fascinating and delicious new tropical fruits you can grow.

During the many years I lived in the Miami area, I had well water that was high in sulfur and iron; stunk to high heavens and stained everything orange, but was perfectly safe for plants and people. You just couldn't cook beans (legumes) in it; they turned black.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 9:48AM
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WELCOME TO FLORIDA !! I grew up in Miami, then lived in Canada for 20 years, couldn't wait to get back to Fla.... the long dark winters got to me!! If you go to Google and type in 'Nematodes in Fla.' also 'Orchid growing in Fla.', and/or any other topic you are interested in, play with it.... and see what comes up.... and ask ?? on Fla. Gardening Forum here on Garden Web, folks all over Fla. have already 'been there done that' with your queries and love to help.....as an aside, nematodes are not the problem they are made out to be, they are microscopic and eat the roots on certain plants, but they HATE compost and mulch.... they live in sandy soils and when you build your soil with organics and compost, they disappear..... and roaches ( palmetto-bugs) love decaying and damp places, cleanliness repels them.... it's all in learning to adjust.... and joining Orchid Societies and Garden Clubs is a good first step.... incidentally, I loved Canada, but the long dark slushy winters got to me !! sally

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 2:23PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I would recommend you visit the local ag center for lots of good plant info. I think solarizing the soil will kill nematodes. I don't like palmetto bugs either, but I've kinda gotten used to them. After 29 years of living up north and freezing my bunions off, I'm happy to be in Florida. I mean Georgia. We aer only 8 miles from the border. We had the stinky well water in Sebastian, Florida, but not in Vero Beach just a few miles away. It's not like that in the Jacksonville area and it wasn't like that in Punta Gorda either. Good luck with your orchids. I had to get rid of most of mine when we moved. Now I have been buying a few when I see them on sale when they are out of bloom.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 2:48PM
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I have grown orchids in Florida for over 30 years,in south FL and in central FL. I have finally learned that you cannot buy orchids from many other climates and expect them to acclimate themselves to where you live. Hawaii and Calif. raise beautiful orchids, but the shock of a mature orchid, mainly cattleya, arriving in Florida is sometimes too much for them. They are fine for a while, then go into a slow decline. Also, the potting medium is important. A mature plant potted in lava or coconut chips is not happy to be repotted in the bark mix most used here. I would really appreciate comments from other growers on this. I grow mainly catts.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 6:47PM
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Ellen 17 is right changing the climate can kill. I have bought orchids from Hawaii and they seem to decline till I figured a way around it. You might try to save some by vase culture. I have phals. growing in vase culture no medium just long fiber coconut husk put around to hold in moisture. When your plants are dying you really have nothing to lose but try things. I use RO water and make sure my TDS are around 115ppm or less . With this method I fertilize every few days with a very low rate keeping that TDS at 115ppm. You do need to water a vase plant everyday as it really has no medium. Being in a humid climate maybe you will just mist. I do not know. Right now we are cooler and I water the phals if the roots do not look wet. Vandas I mist everyday right now and cyms like phals only if they look like they are drying out.

I do live in a very low humidity area, dry as a desert sometimes. Under vase condition I have new roots coming out right and left and already some have spikes and flowers. Vase lets you see exactly what is happening and holds even moisture. I just do not know how this will work for you being in a humid area. I would post a picture, but I had trouble and the system kicked the file out. I tried to download.
Things I grow in vases cymbidiums (till I did this I could not keep them alive, never produced roots)( use large florist vases with long fiber coconut husk)now have lots of roots green tips, phals, vandas, phaps, phrags, The phaps and phrags both have stones halfway and then they are in a cypress bark, moss, and lava stone mix. I have roots like crazy and tall standing plants. I make sure after watering that I go back a few times and knock out all the water left at the bottom of the vase. Don't want rotten roots.

Again I do not know how this will work for you in a humid climate. You could maybe try one and see if you could save it. Hot weather I fill vases and soak a little . Cooler weather I just mist them and the coconut long fiber husk and knock out the water. Plants like vandas I remove the fiber before night fall so they can breathe.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 5:15PM
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Wow, lots of good information. Didn't notice the additional responses, - thanks all.
Mickey-minney, that sounds like a lot of work for you. But if it works, its good. My plants were grown in the low humidity of NY during winter. Now the weather here is dry and cool.

Phals look terrible, don't seem to handle being outside or in. The only plants which seem to be recovering are the Catts. Dens seem okay but are on hold. No spikes and they usually flower in Dec.

Insects or 'something' keeps eating leaves and roots of the orchids and my dirt plants. I brought down a large Pachira which survived the trip only to be practically defoliated by an insect I couldn't identify. I captured one and brought it to the local extension office where they identified it as the Sri Lanka Weevil. Said it was difficult to kill as it had no natural predators. Suggested soapy water, which didn't work. I finally doused the affected plants with Bayer spray for roses yesterday...hoping it does the trick.

Cj, its good to hear the 'stinky' water doesn't hurt the plants. I've been trying to only use RO on the orchids.

The disgusting roaches are outside, not in the house. When I walk outside at night, I carry a flashlight and a can of roach spray. I'm afraid to bring the plants back in the house. I'm not sure what to do if the weather gets colder. Between the roaches and the lizards, I'm wondering the best way to get rid of both before I bring in the plants. I don't want to kill the lizards...although make me jump when I move a pot or water. They seem harmless.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 9:23PM
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Jane, bless your heart, I feel for you. DH husband has told me a couple of times "Well you know we're gonna end up in Florida sooner or later, might as well make it sooner". I don't really want to go to Florida, I'm sure it's delightful..but...

Palmetto bugs are not my friends; neither are alligators, bears, pumas,or pythons. Anything that is big enough to eat my HUGE dog or children is not on my "GOOD THINGS" list.I think South Carolina or Georgia might be more my speed, although the thought of fire ants doesn't do anything to make me happy either. Hope you're starting to make some headway. gb (sorry I'm such a Nervous Nellie)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 12:00AM
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Ha, I feel the same way. Florida has fire ants too! The only upside, so far is the weather. My warm growing orchids seem to be responding well, except Phals which look like they are on deaths door. My dirt houseplants have tripled in size.

We thought of No. Carolina, which does have winters but much milder than NY. But family didn't go for that, so we are still here, not positive we'll stay. At least we will enjoy the warm winter.

Good luck, whatever you decide and thanks for the well-wishes.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:57AM
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