Some aerangis beauties

bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)September 25, 2009

Hey everyone --

I was gone for several weeks, and found upon my return that several of my aerangis plants were in various stages of bloom. Took some quick snaps this afternoon:

Aerangis biloba:

This little Aerangis mooreana is a first time bloomer, although it's not quite as I expected. I received it several years ago as a just-deflasked plantlet, so I guess I should just shut up and rejoice that it finally bloomed!

This Aerangis kirkii actually bloomed late spring, but only a couple sporadic flowers that seemed to pop sequentially from various parts of the plant. I was thinking, wth is up with that? Now I'm much more pleased!

My mystacidii was too far beyond peak to bother photographing, but my distincta has three buds...looking forward to seeing it, although I hope I haven't jinxed it! : O


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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

I am speechless....I can't even describe how amazed I am at seeing these photos. What absolutely stunning and magnificent specimens. I have NEVER seen so many flowers on a biloba or a kirkii before in my life, whether in person or in photos.

Beautiful photos and amazing plants. Thank you for posting, Bruce - you're going to drive the ang nuts up the wall with pics like these.

(as usual, cultural tips, growing conditions and seasonal variations are MUCH appreciated :))

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 11:16PM
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bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)

Hi Calvin --

Thanks for the good words! I'm happy to share pics when I can...growing orchids is sort of a solitary hobby, and this community helps make it more enjoyable.

I suppose I'm more fortunate than many, as I can grow outside in a gh, but there are considerations and problems that go along with that. Keeping plants relatively cool and moist from April through October, and warm when the temps dip sporadically through the winter, is difficult to manage.

I can't grow all ang species, mostly because of the heat, so my collection has gravitated (largely because of attrition) towards warm-tolerant plants. My cool wall where they hang is perhaps a bit too shady in parts, and I need to replace the roof on my gh soon, so I may experiment with a less-dense shade cloth when I tear it all apart. Interestingly, when the biloba was much smaller, I had it in a brighter location and it produced inflorescences over three feet long (blooms spaced further apart). Now it's in the shadiest part of my gh, and the inflorescences are half that size and blooms closer together.

I know indoor ang enthusiasts have many frustrations, and I believe seasonal variations in cultivation is an important factor that's difficult to replicate inside. I don't even have to think about it in my gh, because conditions are dictated by the position of the sun, light hours, and temperature. All I change is the watering frequency. I have lots of moist air movement on my cool wall too, and only water in the morning.

I have microclimates in my gh, and temps can vary as much as 10F from intake side to exhaust, and floor to ceiling. The cool wall, of course, is the "coolest", but temps from June through September regularly reach 90F for two or three hours each day when the sun is not hidden by clouds. During those warmer months, nightly temps never go below 75-80F. (Next week we'll have some nightly lows in the mid 60s.) I have the timer set to water 45 minutes starting at 8am, on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The fogging heads in my air chiller run 30 minutes three times daily, at 11:00am, 12:30pm, and 3:30pm. The air chiller only works well at humidity values below about 55%, above that it doesn't do much. Especially in April and may, when humidity can be 15 to 25%, the temperature drop is substantial. In those cases when humidity is low, I can have cool wall temps lower than outside ambient temps.

This year, because of other demands on my time, I've spent the least amount of time with my plants. Sometimes days go by when I don't venture inside the gh, and I've probably fertilized three times this year from April through June. Last year I was better -- I kept up a weekly, weakly regimen from April through August or so.

I have two large fans, both an intake and exhaust, moving about 3500 CFM. The floor dimensions of my gh are 8 x 14, and I have approximately 900 cubic feet. That makes it sound like I should be turning over once every 15 seconds, but in reality it's probably more like once every 60 to 90 seconds. I believe that under-sizing exhaust fans is the greatest mistake gh owners make. Fans never operate under load at the CFM manufacturers claim they will.

Even though I'm pretty experienced at this point, I still lose plants. Sometimes angs just decline quickly for "no apparent reason." I had two Aerangis rhodosticta plants mounted on the same oak branch, and one of them (after blooming nicely this spring), died a few weeks ago. Similarly, after thriving and blooming well this spring, my fastuosa also quickly declined and died. My guess is that I'm just on the hairy edge of too hot, and all it takes is for conditions to sway just a bit more towards stress to overwhelm some species.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. One of the challenges with growing orchids is that when you want better success, you don't know what's wrong with your conditions nor what questions to ask...and when you finally achieve some measure of success you're not always sure why, or how to explain every detail that contributes to that success. Maybe something I've written here will prompt a key question that I've overlooked!


    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 1:07PM
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serenasyh(was 5/now Z 8-Kans)

What an unforgettable, lovely cascade of blooms; very dramatic and beautiful!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 2:55PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Thanks for the detailed tips. I remember our e-mail exchange and you mentioning that aerangis species rarely grow leaves and roots at the same time. I'm starting to observe this now in most of my plants - my question is, do you water more with active root growth, or leaf growth? I know the drop in watering isn't too severe, but I've heard that it's important for good blooming.

My biloba refuses to do anything except grow new leaves and's bloomed for me before around this time last year, so I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 8:12PM
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bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)

My watering is dictated more by season and temperature rather than what I observe my plants doing. I scale back watering from Thanksgiving-ish until about the first of March or so, when daytime temps and the position of the sun begin waking up dormant plants. I must be careful in those early weeks of spring, and only water on days that won't have exceptionally cool temps for at least a day or two. With two 1500-watt heaters, I'm only good for +18F or so, and I don't want plants wet overnight if I can't keep temps above 50F. Generally, with the air movement I have and low humidity in the spring, things will dry off satisfactorily in a few hours, but I don't like to risk it when there isn't a lot of growth yet.

During those winter months, I may go as long as two weeks between watering, even though a couple species may be blooming. If there is a concern about an individual plant being too dry, I may dunk mounts here and there. I should qualify this a bit, though. Even though I may not water often, humidity is generally pretty high and my mounts aren't necessarily "bone dry".

I wonder about the strength of your lights, as shading and distance from the plant can affect intensity. As biloba grows larger, those upper leaves may shade precious light from lower leaves, decreasing the plant's ability to produce energy for itself. In the wild, and in my gh, there is plenty of ambient light hitting the plant sideways, such that all leaves are "working". Perhaps a second auxilliary bulb placed at an angle may help things a bit?

My memory is fuzzy when biloba is mostly in root growth and leaf growth. As I recall, I think I've seen most of the root growth first in the spring, then that tapers off and the leaves start picking up late spring into summer. Since I start watering fairly regularly in March-April, I'm covering both phases. If I had to choose which was more critical for water, I'd lean toward root growth...because those roots will store moisture and sustain leaf/green growth during drier times. You want to encourage as much root growth as possible, and make sure the substrate is hospitable.

I'm guessing your plants receive more attention than mine do, and are fertilized well. The only potential weakness you may want to look at is light, if they appear healthy and otherwise sound. June 20th my plants receive filtered light from 7am to 4pm or it's more like 8am to 3pm. I don't know how critical these seasonal variations are, but it may be something you want to look at, as well as intensity and consistency from leaf to leaf. I know some indoor growers push light hours from 12 to 15 hours daily, but I'm not sure how beneficial that is.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 9:52PM
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mrbreeze(z6/7 OK)

Wow! That biloba is really something. You should get an award for that. Of course I have no clue what kinds of flower counts there are on awarded plants, but that's gotta be in the ballpark. Well done!

And thanks for the excellent descriptions of your conditions. It always helps us doomed insiders to have numbers to aim for. It sucks when you have to decide between moldy carpets and happy plants. :(

Thanks for posting! I love your plants.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 12:23AM
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That biloba is just gorgeous! What a display of blooms. Great growing on all your plants!


    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 5:22PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Thanks Bruce-I'll move my plants a bit closer...light could very well be an issue, since I had it 18" from T5s last year, and I now have it 8" from T8s which is quite the drop. I moved it because it's new leaves were very small, which I was told is a sign of too much light.

Just out of curiosity, how many fans is that biloba and that kirkii?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 6:03PM
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bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)

Thanks everyone for your comments! Calvin -- I just went out and counted. The biloba has two growths, the main stem has 10 pairs of leaves, and the newer basal growth has four pairs. I did my best with the kirkii! It's such a tangle of leaves, it's difficult to tell for certain. It looks like there's a main stem with five offshoots. I'm guessing the main stem has 10-12 pairs of leaves, and the offshoots from 3-6 pairs each.

As I was turning the mount this way and that, all of a sudden I realized there were four new long spikes to replace the three pictured above. That plant is one impressive bloomer!

It doesn't sound like you have to be overly concerned with light intensity as close as your plant is to the bulbs. Just make sure the positioning of the leaves is such that they're all getting good coverage. I'm not sure I follow you when you say that going from 18" away from T5s to 8" from T8s is a substantial drop. Aren't the T8s brighter? Are your lights arranged in pairs?

Sometimes I wonder if growing indoors lends itself too much towards consistent culture to get optimum results. This works well for hybrids, but I think when moisture, temps, light, and fert remain the same, the plant loses cues to initiate blooming. It's not so much the individual elements of cultivation, but how they interact together that causes unique stressors on the plant, i.e., seasonal dryness is also accompanied by lower temperatures, and changing angles of the sun hit plants differently, etc.

Biloba is the "easiest" of all the aerangis species. Yours may just be a little late this year, and will reward you in good time!

When you say that the leaves on yours are very small, how small is that? The newer leaves on my biloba are about 8".


    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 12:08PM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

I love seeing these pics. My biloba is spiking, and this will be the first time for me. I would love to see it bloom like yours, but there's no chance for me. For one thing, there's no room! I'm thinking that I'm going to have to move it to the larger terrarium, whenever I manage to get that going, but for now, it will have to make do with the space it has. My kirkii (the crazy one) did the same thing you are describing, a flower or two here and there, but mine bloomed multiple times in that fashion. It is blooming yet again, but more flowers at once this time. By any chance, did you get your kirkii from SBOE originally?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 3:05AM
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bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)

Best of luck with your biloba! Orchid hobbyist ingenuity being what it is, I'm sure you'll come up with a great solution when it's forming bigger spikes!

Yes, my kirkii originally came from SBOE, and was a division.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 3:15AM
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Charm(Z8 TX)


    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 3:53AM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Hey Bruce - T8s are less bright than T5s. The new leaves that are coming out are about 5 inches long, but under the old lights, they were only 3-4 inches...what's strange is that the old leaves on the plant from before it came into my care are longer, around 5-6". This was why I suspected I was doing something wrong.

You are totally right about missing the seasonal variation when growing really gives me a headache sometimes, but hey, you gotta make do with what you got!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 10:29AM
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