Blc Sea Urchin, shoe culture

orchidnickOctober 6, 2013

We put on a spring and a fall show which includes 'Orchids 101' lectures. Orchids are easy, orchids are fun. I start off by showing them the flowers of Blc Sea Urchin which is usually in bloom since that plant is nearly always in bloom. I only display one side of the plant.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Next I discuss the entire plant, 30 odd leaves, 7 flower spikes at this time, one open.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Next I twist the plant around and it begins to dawn on them that this plant is growing a little differently.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Now the 1/2 twist.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And finally the full Monty.

This plant has been growing in this old tennis shoe for 7 to 8 years without the benefit (or harm ) of sphagnum moss, bark or coconut. It was placed in there with nothing else other than air, water and occasional fertilizer. I tell people that I'm not encouraging anyone to grow their beloved orchids in old shoes but that there are some points here.

1) Orchids only need a pot or mount to keep them from falling on the ground. They are not parasites and derive no benefit whatsoever from the branch they are hanging on to other than support.

2) Orchids do not want bark, coconut or sphagnum moss around their roots that's why we call them air roots. Since we insist on it, they will tolerate it unless you kill them with over watering and suffocating them.

3) If this healthy looking vigorously growing Cattleya wil grow in this old shoes, they can't be difficult and literally will grow anywhere.

I use this to go into my lecture on orchid care. Much soul searching is devoted on these pages to the right vessel to place an orchid in and to the right king of medium. Remember this shoe in the future. There are exceptions, of course, terrestrials need soil, Phrags, some Paphs and some Phaelies may display better in pots. Bulbos and the cloud forest plants like wet moss although they also can be mounted. Never the less 80% of orchids will do OK in the shoe as long as temp, water, light and fertilizer is correct.

Finally I recommend white tennis shoes over black ones, 1/2 tops over full ones and FILA over the others because they last a few decades longer.

I've had fun with my 'Shoe Orchids'.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That is just absolutely awesome! and I do mean all of it - the orchid, the way you present it, everything. I only have one question. Is the orchid really growing in the shoe, or did the orchid pick up the shoe in the course of growing?? LOL!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 7:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I put a blooming size division of about 5 pbulbs in the otherwise empty shoe, attached a wire and have done nothing else other than take a few divisions for trades.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 7:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lol! Love it. I chronically overwater, so my happiest phals were the ones thrown in a large clay pot with a bunch of styrofoam packing peanuts and a handful of sphag.

Now I want to get a hanging shoe rack, and a bunch of assorted shoes from goodwill. :)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

""Never the less 80% of orchids will do OK in the shoe as long as temp, water, light and fertilizer is correct. ""

That is a lot of variables.

Unless someone living in the frigid North gets the wrong idea, canvas might hold some moisture and provide some humidity, I would not recommend trying this unless you have a greenhouse.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 5:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Correct on the variables. All have to be right on, or at least close. My point is that it does not matter if you put it on a pot, wooden basket, plastic or wire basket, branch, shingle or anything else as far as that goes. If your backyard looks like 'Sanford and Son', tie them to an old washing machine, they will do fine. Again, if these parameters are on target, they prefer to have their roots exposed to air rather than covered with all the usual stuff people agonize over in these posts.

Most of my 'potted' orchids are in empty pots, often a honeycomb of empty pots. The 'pot in a pot in a pot' routine works well for me. I start with a small plant and drop it into progressively larger, empty pots as it grows. The principle is always the same, roots exposed to air, the purpose of the structure is only to lend support to the plant.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 8:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Nick, that is incredible! What a great surprise! You have such unique teaching tools. I am sure that everyone there loved your technique and still remembers the lessons.

Also, what a gorgeous plant. The blooms are fantastic!

Carol in Jacksonville

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 9:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm developing another one. This is an Oncidium which I took out of it's pot and just ran a wire through the rootball. And so it hangs there, being watered and fertilized along with all the other mounted plants. I'm going to use it to enhance the message that orchids don't like to be potted IN things. They like to grow ON things with the roots free to the air, hence the name air-root.

None of that will really matter as people will continue to grow their Phaelies in bark or moss and try to stuff the roots into the pot when air-roots emerge. That's after all how we grow roses, petunias etc so why should orchids be treated different?


    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I really enjoyed this post. In a sense, orchids remind me of air plants. When i got my first orchid, i researched orchids and it struck me how different pot culture is compared to how they grow in the wild. Why would an orchid want its roots to be covered? Why was my orchid being grown in the equivalent of a rotting tree stump?

I guess houseplants in general grow and thrive not because of how we care for them, but despite it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
allymarie(zone 10, So. Fl.)

Very enlightening Nick!! That is how orchids grow in nature, attached to trees with roots exposed to air.I also enjoyed this post, learned something today.Thanks for the lesson.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 1:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What you said about house plants applies to orchids. House plants are OK with the way we grow them, it's orchids that grow and survive despite of the way we grow them. However if the bark is fresh and hard and we don't drown them in too much water they do alright.

That is true especially if they are stones like Blc Sea Urchin. On the other hand, no matter what I do, I can't make Dendrobium cuthbersonii grow. Maybe I need to attend Orchids 101 lectures to learn how.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 1:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

IMO a house is pretty far from a natural habitat for ANY plant. Though a greenhouse gets pretty close.

A plant that grows in nature, with no external help, makes it from seed, to seeding, to plant. Nobody 'places the seed' a certain way, waters it a certain amount, measures the light levels...plants have a will to live, and so they do :-) and even with this, your average person kills a fair share of houseplants. To me, that is indicative of a hostile environment!

I killed one last year. Or else, I couldnt figure out what was wrong with it. Went from a perfectly healthy THRIVING plant, to having some dry edges, to entire stalks dying, to ALL the stalks dying...and then, though it continued to sprout new growth, the young leaves all invevitably dried up and died in their infancy. I had to give up on that one. To this day, Ive no idea what happened. :-/ It seemed more like murder without a suspect, than plant suicide.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

A long time ago when I first started with orchids I treated them as any other plant. They struggled. The first big game changer for me was when I realized orchids, when potted, need to be on the medium and not in the medium. I was such a dummy! They are air plants!

I try to visualize how these plants will grow in nature. That helps me put the plant on the medium not in it. Some of the roots will dive into the medium. Others will not. Don't force them in the pot. The plant knows. It has had a millennium to figure it out.

The shoe is a great teaching technique!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 10:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Getting ready for the orchid society meeting tonight.

11 plants for the raffle.

9 plants for the benching.

There will be more than 100 orchids on the benches for the judging panel to assess. Pretty boring really because nearly all of those orchids will be in pots.

Why pots? Because they are easy to cart around. They are easy to use to make a display at a show. And, provided you get the mix right they require less watering frequency than mounts.

As for the death of houseplants versus orchids. The reason is usually the same, overwatering.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 7:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hear you loud and clear Arthur. Personally I think pot culture is the result of a grand conspiracy which puts the second gunman on the grassy knoll to shame. Orchid vendors cannot make a profit unless the plants are raised in pots. A small seedling goes in a 2" (50mm to the Aussies) pot (tube to the Aussies) and you can place 1,000 of them on a bench. Then as the plants grow you gradually move them up into larger pots until they are ready for market. Then as Arthur points out they are easy to pack and take to the show or wherever they need to go.

Mounted plants are irregular, unhandy, need to be watered more often and it is impossible to start with a tiny mount and enlarge it as the plant grows.That's the story on the seller's side.

On the buyer's side, no matter how many Orchids 101 lectures we give, as far as the general public is concerned, plants belong in pots with their roots covered. That's the way it works for roses, petunias, geraniums and any other plant you can imagine. It therefore HAS TO WORK for orchids also. The vendors have no motivation to change that attitude and the grand conspiracy is in place.

Of course if done properly it can work but getting them to treat the orchids different from the African Violets is a chore.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Nick, I'm with you on the pot within a pot and putting a mount into a pot with little or no mix methods. That is what i did for my B. nodosa when it threatened to overgrow its mount.
Still growing happily, virtually undisturbed with little maintenance on my part.

Different result when an equitant expert used a scalpel to divide and de-mount this orchid into two plants. Theory was that we wanted to share the risk of losing this valuable plant. Rip Tolu. Tom Wilson.

Mounting = more maintenance
That is why I have 350 of the little beauties in pots though they grow fine on a mount.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can say with relative certainty I have never killed a plant by overwatering. I dont kill many, so I remember the ones that die. One year though, I lost my entire collection of houseplants. It was a bad year. Very wet weather. Bad year for gardening. Fungal infections were rampant. After my favorite plant was stolen I lost heart long enough to lose all my plants but one.

My collection is a lot bigger now. And most of my plants dont go outside during the summer, so they don't get exposed to much. But there is always that worry in the back of my mind.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 10:23PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
orcid roots really short
do i need to worry alot about not getting the plant...
Katie Parker
Best way to grow vanilla orchid?
My vanilla cutting is starting get long so it's time...
Ice cubes explained
My neighbor who's an expert gardener said that 3 ice...
Orchid ID Please...
A friend gave this to me last summer (no blooms) and...
Laelia (Cattleya) Purpurata var anelata
My big purpurata blooms in May for me. It has one...
Boby Huffard
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™