Small pots

mitzicos(11)February 29, 2012

Hi everybody,

I know I have asked that question before, but I'm really curious about the science and the myth of small pots for hoya cultivation.

Is really true that hoyas will bloom sooner in small pots than bigger ones? Which is the scientific concept of this?

Sorry for my English!


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My understanding was that with bigger pots, the Hoya spends more time sending energy into growing roots and filling the pot. With a smaller pot then, the energy can be used towards blooms and leaf growth.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 1:26PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

Roots are what supports all of the foliage. As the roots fill the pot, they struggle to support the increasing foliar growth. This stress can cause plants to bloom because it is better for the plant to dedicate its limited resources towards spreading seed to a more suitable location.

Personally, I try not to do this with my plants. It may result in more blooms, but it does so at the expense of overall plant growth. A healthy plant with plenty of root room will still bloom, and it will grow faster and larger as well. Using a sufficiently porous soil is even more important when growing in larger pots, though.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 2:21PM
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As a newbie to Hoya culture I try to read a lot about it, and as biologist have hard time agreeing with some statements I see. One would be that Hoyas bloom as response to stress; flower are part of normal life cycle for most of plants, to spread seeds, not as last resort when conditions are stressful. I would think that Hoyas aren't exception in this matter. The other is that root bound or not root bound question. In natural habitat (perfect conditions) if a plant is epiphyte (like a lot of hoyas), there is limited amount of medium and this creates kind of equilibrium; less nutrients, small roots small plant, more debris trapped around growing roots more nutrients more plant... But plant can spread it's roots as long as space where it grows allows it! And please remember, plants do die in nature when things go wrong. I don't believe that keeping any plant in tiny plastic box for years can be good. Don't get me wrong, I would not pot any small plant in gallon size pot, but when it has more roots than potting mix it needs to get bigger home, just a size up, but bigger. As long as mix is correct for hoya it will support normal growth (roots and leaves and flowers) not just some kind of roots only growing frenzy!
We are growing hoyas in artificial environment, with scheduled watering, feeding etc, trying our best to keep them alive, and expecting great looking plants with shiny leaves and flowers! Keep in mind that natural growing Hoyas get all they need and may look way less perfect then our windowsill grown ones!

Happy growing (and repoting)! :o)

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Excellent post, Aggie. Everything I wanted to say, and more!

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:01PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

" biologist have hard time agreeing with some statements I see. One would be that Hoyas bloom as response to stress; flower are part of normal life cycle for most of plants, to spread seeds, not as last resort when conditions are stressful."

Can't both be true? I don't think anyone is saying that Hoyas only bloom in response to stress. But stress induced flowering is a widely accepted idea among many other plant genera. I don't see why Hoyas would be an exception. Many of them are epiphytes, but as you said, even epiphytes can spread their roots far and wide in search of moisture and nutrients. When we limit them to a small pot, they reach a point where further growth is not possible. The only thing left to do then is bloom in an attempt to send their offspring to a better location.

I do agree, though, that Hoyas can bloom profusely as part of their natural life cycle. Growing them unrestricted by any factor gives them the resources they need to fulfill all aspects of their life cycle, including blooming.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 10:16PM
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I imagine they'd also bloom when ideal conditions assured survial of offspring.... Not just when stressed!

Maybe the logic of small pots is to prevent overwatering? A smaller pot would dry quicker... But I understand this is where you advise "Using a sufficiently porous soil..."

I think where the misnomer comes in, is ones like carnosa can talke 7 years to be mature enough to bloom... Therefore we wrongly assume it NEEDS to be root/ pot bound?

Maybe just a coincidence wrapped in misunderstanding!

Another great post, Thanks Pen! Food for thought...

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 10:46PM
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What a great discussion of everybody here. Thank you very much to enrich the thread.

Excellent posts. I just love the discussion.

I have a friend that is potting her hoyas in big pots like galloons, acording to her own knowledge that bigger pots will produce bigger plants.

I still potting my hoyas the way I've seen everyone else doing, so some day in the future we will see the results.

The only problem is that she grows outdoor and I grow indoors.

I noticed also that some hoyas took to the ranch developed twice faster that the same species left at my apartment, same plant, so this can make a huge difference.

Thank you very much for all the consideration here exposed, and I hope we can continue to hear some other experts!

I think the most important thing is the personal experience everyone have had.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 5:39AM
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Obviously in nature Hoyas do not grow in pots but for us to be able to grow them the use of pots is the most practical approach. Generalizing an entire genus by saying "Hoyas" or "orchids" never really works either because these groups of plants are far too diverse to make general statements about their cultural requirements.
Most Hoyas are epiphytes and this means that they grow attached to other plants such as trees. Epiphytes also will grow on rocks as many are not too picky but species that only grow on rocks are termed rupicolous instead of epiphytic.
If you look at this photo from Flick you will see a Hoya growing on a rock face in nature. You will notice that unlike our Hoyas which are rooted at very few points in a pot this Hoya is rooted at many points, virtually anywhere the plant makes contact with a surface. What you will also notice is that there is very little for the plant to root into as far as mosses or organic matter, this means that after a rain there is a relatively fast wet to dry cycle. when growing epiphytic plants in pots many require this fast wet to dry cycle to maintain root health and the use of an appropriately fast draining potting media helps accomplish this although using a smaller pot until the plant has filled it with roots is just as appropriate.

Hoya in it's natural habitat

If you look in the top right portion of this photo you will see a Hoya climbing the right of the beautiful Aroid form the genus Rhaphidophora. Notice also that the plant will be rooting into bark crevices, licken and mosses, as well as the root mats that are created by other epiphytes.

Hoya growing epiphytically on a tree

Having said that there are also Hoyas that grow in areas that are almost always wet or at least that remain moist instead of drying out. These plants will have root systems that are adapted to remaining moist and they are found in mountain habitats and mist or cloud forests. Having a potting media that remains open enough to allow for sufficient air exchange, while still holding moisture, is important for these plants. I know one thing and that is that my little Hoya microphylla would be dead very quickly if it were ever to dry out and because this is such a small plant it gets a tiny little pot and I check it for moisture every day and keep it in high humidity, as close to its natural conditions as I can provide.

Many orchid growers also insist on using the smallest pot possible and this makes sense because most epiphytic orchids also want to dry out quite quickly after being watered, too much room in a big pot just leads to problems. It's not that the plants need a certain size of pot to do well it's that growers often make less mistakes if they restrict that size of the pot they choose to use.

As far as stress goes I agree that it is an important factor in blooming many plants. Stress can be anything from drought, temperature swings, seasonal changes in light, and so on. These are environmental cues that the plants have adapted to or evolved with and they tell the plants when to flower. There are orchids that bloom in response to heavy rain showers and within days they will burst into bloom. Other plants need their dormancy periods and that can be a freezing cold winter for tulips or a hot and dry season for orchids or Hoyas in Northern Thailand. Many growers know that they can manipulate plants this way and that is why commercial production greenhouses can offer thousands of holiday cacti or Phalaenopsis orchids in bloom. The blooming of these plants has been perfected to a schedule of hours, chill to a certain temperature for so many hours and then buds set and the plants are shipped off to be sold retail. This is all manipulation of stress factors.

I think that most growers unless they are into finding the perfect potting mix to use in larger pots would be better off using a smaller pot just for ease of growth. If you are using a small pot and you notice that it dries out very quickly or that the plant has obviously filled the space with roots then jumping up a size if fine. From growing orchids for the last fifteen years I know that too big a pot is just asking for trouble, when the potting mix starts to break down and compact the plant will often go into a slow decline. Using extra sponge rock or large perlite, Diatomite, etc can help tremendously as can careful watering but why use a big pot for a small plant in the first place?

Anyways those are my thoughts. Don't generalize about plants, research and then make the needed adjustments to the potting mix. Don't keep plants soggy but if your plant comes from a monsoon area then sure water it like crazy while in growth and then let it dry out a bit when it's not. Most plants you can get away with just treating like you do all your other plants but it's the ones you have trouble with that you should dig a little deeper to find out how they would naturally grow. If your plants are not doing well you need to consider all aspects of their culture and that means light, moisture, nutrition, and temperatures as these factors are all important to success.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 6:38PM
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This is why, ladies and gents, that MD has such success in all he grows! ;-) Great examples and pics, Mike!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Ha ha... Thanks Laura. believe me there are some problem children in my plant collection to. I think one of the most important lessons I have learned has been to grow the plants that have requirements that I can provide. You will find very few cool growers in my collection because they do not do well. I have seen too many rare orchids die a slow and miserable death in the sweltering heat of summer to ever want to try again. The cool growing Hoyas have been easier but still they do not flourish like they would in a different climate. Another important thing to remember is that if it isn't broken then don't fix it. If your potting mix works for you and your plants seem happy then stick with you have been doing. The only time you should evaluate your cultural practices is when plants are struggling or not performing as well as the could.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 12:43AM
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Thank you very much for your perfect explanation!

This is the reason you are my hoya idol!!!!!


    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 6:37AM
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