What is an acceptable mortality rate in collections?

ifraser25(z11 Brazil)November 12, 2011

I read recently in another thread that orchids are, in theory anyway, eternal, so I guess everybody's rate should be 0%. I know in practice, however, that is not the case, so I wondered if anyone could help me make some honest comparison. I have about 300 plants in my collection and I guess I lose on average about 20 a year, which is about 7%. I make up the number with purchases and propagations/swaps etc so the number is stable.I think this figure is too high though and I do what I can to reduce it by cutting out the crass negligence etc. I also bin a good number because I don't like tending failing plants, which pushes the figure up, but I reckon you have to do that. What are other folks achieving?

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Sounds about right. I don't "bin" any until they are truly gone for good---let the pot sit with it for several months or more. A score shy of 300 plants, and I count 15 that are on the way out unless a miracle happens. These are usually the ones I HAVE to have even though they are not really suited to my hot climate in Miami. They are just OK during the first year, and then start a real decline by the 3rd year.
Of course, the other factor is going on vacation for TOO long and over watering of the "sitter", or my not bringing some catts in during weeks-long deluges.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 7:22PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

My goal was always O fatalities!!! lol Never achieved that but finally quit trying to grow those that I can't provide conditions for lol Fatalities dropped drasticly after that.lol
Due to illness I'm at the opposite side of the hobby.Drasticly downsizing.Have less than 50 now, 10 of these I've had for over 30 years. Growing "au natural" on trees still appeals to me and my climate is far from ideal
but it's always an adventure lol. agry

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 6:35AM
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A lot of people I know keep their tags and as the lost souls accumulate, the depression increases. I know one guy whose 'dead tags' have to be measured in cubic feet. I throw away dead tags and remove all evidence of the existence of the lost plant as I don't want to be reminded. In the movie 'Moonstruck', the professor who had water thrown in his face also said to the waiter: "Remove all evidence of her".

I have a master list and there the mistakes remain visible. After each funeral I place 3 xses in front of the name (xxx). After a while it becomes evident that certain genera don't like me very much and I stop buying them. Once your collection is limited to plants the like you, the yearly fatality rate becomes very low. I'm at that point now and have a very low fatality rate.

There are exceptions. I had to buy 3 Maxillaria sophronites before the current one is thriving. Killed the other 2 but knew that was a possibility, that plant does not like me as much as I like it. I also just purchased a Maxillaria speciosa which has a reputation of being difficult. If I loose it, I will get another one.

Once you reached the point where you know who your friends are and you stop banging your head against the wall, the mortality rate should be way less than 5%.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 8:18PM
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westoh Z6

Heck I'm not proud... If you consider the total # of plants I've purchased or was given over the last 10 years, and the # I have now, it is pretty sad. Probably an 80+% mortality rate, but I did lose @150 in a 2 month period a few years back, that raised the % greatly. But, over the last 2-3 years probably less than 10%.

I keep a 4" pot of all of the dead soldiers too. It's chocked full :-(


    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 6:59AM
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cjwatson(Z8 FL)

I'll chime in. I don't know how many orchids I have killed over the past 40 years. A lot! All I know about specifically are the ones I have killed over the past ten years or so since my ISO ("insignificant other") wrote me a computer program to keep track of my plants -- he thereby assumed the status of SO ("significant other") for at least a year or so while I luxuriated in finally having a decent computer log.

The log keeps a separate section of plants I no longer have ("inactive"). Some died in my possession (dimp) and some were give aways or trades to friends or my society's auctions, a very few were sold. From a total of 633 plants, about half dimped -- let's say 300. I keep the growth and death data on all the departed 633 just to have it, for me or for someone else.

Of the dead ones, many, especially earlier on in the program, were jungle-collected newly imported bareroot plants which were rescued from roadbuilding and other projects in their respective countries and arrived with no roots, dessicated, etc., and never roused from their comas. The attrition rate of these ranged from 30-50% under the best of conditions. Those probably account for about 100 of the dead plants.

The next batch tossed, about 50, came last year when I went on a virus-testing binge. No miniatures were tested, only the big space-hogs so that if I had to tearfully toss the plant, at least I had a lot newly-available space in the greenhouse to buy several to replace it to cheer me up.

So I guess that leaves about 150 or a bit more over the past 10-12 years, which rates my dimp rate at about 15 plants per year out of about 500 that I keep, or roughly 3%.

The reason it may be that low is because I am very cautious at what orchids I choose to buy. I do not buy orchids which will not like my conditions, such as cool-growers when I can't provide 'cool' in the summer. I research every purchase before buying. And I don't choose to kill an orchid just to experiment to see if, well, as a long shot maybe it will survive here. I don't like sorrow and pain; I prefer my hobby to be happy. There are plenty of species and hybrids for me to choose from that like my conditions. And it is infrequent now that anyone is selling bareroot jungled-collected plants, unlike a ton of them available just 10 years ago. Not saying there aren't any legally available anymore, but they are no longer as available as they once were; I can count the vendors on one hand -- and most only show up once year for an occasional orchid show.

I'm still bleary-eyed and on my first cup of coffee, so if I don't make sense, please tell me.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 9:44AM
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You make a lot of sense. Buy what likes your conditions and your mortality rate should approach zero, assuming you give reasonable care. This brings on another point. What kind of care giver are you? I over water and barely, if ever, repot. Dry loving plants rot in my care, plants potted in bark tend to get unhappy after 5 years in the same bark.

Solution: I avoid plants that like it really dry. All my plants are either bare-root or growing in rock which doesn't deteriorate. The cloud forest plants and the Bulbos are in Sphagnum Moss which I religiously change once a year. Result is encouraging, very low mortality rate usually a virus discovery or black rot during Jan and Feb when it gets really cold and wet around here.

Knowing your shortcomings and habits is important in influencing the kind of plants you should buy.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 4:49PM
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