How do you feed your orchids?


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As orchids are generally (in my limited experience) potted in very loose mixtures, such as bark, any water that is added runs straight through and out the bottom. I water mine by sitting them in the sink and running loads of water through. I let them drain (take about 10 seconds usually) before putting them back in the ceramic pots.

That's fine for plain water. I live in Manchester, so water is never in short supply, but if I want to feed them, how would I do it. If I mix up some plant food and pour it in, it will run straight out the bottom, and the plant will hardly see it.

Any tips? Thanks.

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We use a large container of water that has fertiliser in it and dip the pots, or hanging orchids in that.  A tip we got from a grower was also don't water for a while, then fertilise so the roots soak up maximum amount of fertiliser/water.  Foliar feeding also works but best done early morning.

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Thanks for the tip. As it happens, I tried dipping them on Friday. Seems like a sensible way to do it.

The local community hall opposite us had their annual flower sale last week (always pick up something good for a good price), and they had some beautiful orchids. All identical, with four or five flowering stalks on each one. Being weak and unable to resist temptation, I bough three! Given that they are (as far as I can see) identical, it might be interesting to try different watering/feeding techniques on each one and see if it makes any difference.

I know you can't prove anything from such a small sample size, but it might be worth a try. That's assuming a) I remember what I did to each one so I can be consistent, and b) that I remember to water/feed them at all!

Thanks for the reply.

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On 6/2/2017 at 6:27 PM, manders said:

A tip we got from a grower was also don't water for a while, then fertilise so the roots soak up maximum amount of fertiliser/water.

Forgot to ask, how often do you water? Hard to tell with orchids, as the bark looks dry almost as soon as you've finished watering it! I'd like to try your tip, but have no idea how often "don't water for a while" would be.

Thanks again

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Yossu, if you have only one orchid, dipping in water is a good way.  But if you share the water for multiple orchids, it is a sure way to spread virus.

It is ok if they dry out quick, it is better since it is easier to control the quick-drying media than retentive ones in that way.  I'm not sure what kinds of orchids, but roots get killed if they are continuously wet (due to lack of oxygen).

Most people just top water with fertilizer.  Many of the common ones are epiphytes.  So the velamen cells, dead outer (epidermis) cells, act like sponges, and capture the water and minerals quickly.

Many of us use fairly dilute fertilizer for almost all the time when you irrigate.  I use around 20-30ppmN every time automatically injected to irrigation water via Dosatron.  If your water is hard, this may not work.

The frequency of water depends on your media and environment.  If you have medium bark, and the relative humidity is around 60%, you'll be probably watering around every 3 days (assuming Phalaenopsis).  If you don't know how to water, you can keep a bamboo skewer in the pot.  Then you can pull it out and feel it to see if it feels cold (wet) or not.  Make sure to put it back in the same spot, so you don't have to damage the roots.  By doing this, you can know how long it will take for the inside of the pot become completely dry.  Then you can adjust the interval.  In many orchids, it would be good to water at the day it becomes completely dry or 1 day before it.  After a while, you can tell how dry the pot is by weight.

 

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Wow, what a great answer! Thanks very much.

Given that all my orchids sit next to each other on the same windowsill, is the virus issue relevant? I would have thought that if there are any viruses around, they would spread from pot to pot anyway, so dipping in the same water wouldn't necessarily make things any worse. Or am I way out on this?

Thanks again.

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Viruses typically spread by pruning with un-disinfected tools.  

There are other infectious organisms that can be spread in water, although weve not been troubled by them.

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5 hours ago, Yossu said:

Forgot to ask, how often do you water? Hard to tell with orchids, as the bark looks dry almost as soon as you've finished watering it! I'd like to try your tip, but have no idea how often "don't water for a while" would be.

Thanks again

Depends on the potting mix or whether they are mounted etc, some of our orchids we never let dry out, so theres no easy rule.  If you talking about phaelenopsis then i would consider using full water culture, its by far the simplest method.

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Thanks for the replies. Do I presume that when you say "full water culture" you mean dipping the pot into water? Sounds like the easiest way to do it.

Thanks again.

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Full water culture is growing them in glass vases typically with water up to at about half way up the roots.  No compost.  Works well for certain orchids, like phalenopsis.

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11 hours ago, Yossu said:

Given that all my orchids sit next to each other on the same windowsill, is the virus issue relevant? I would have thought that if there are any viruses around, they would spread from pot to pot anyway, so dipping in the same water wouldn't necessarily make things any worse. Or am I way out on this?

The ones (ORSV, CymMV) which we worry about are not air-borne virus fortunately.  It is believed that they are primary transmitted by sap sharing which could be done by human or insects.  Insect vector is somewhat specific to virus and insect species.  Fortunately ORSV and CymMV is less likely to be transmitted by insects.  But others like  BYMV, CMV, CymMV etc can be transmitted by aphids.  OFV can be transmited by some mites.  So unless you have sap sucking insects in your grow area, neighboring plant may not be infected.

According to:

Inouye, N (2008). Viruses of orchids : symptoms, diagnosis, spread and control. Netherlands: Blue Bird Publishers

he irrigated CymMV and/or ORSV infected Cymbidum and Cattleya and analyzed the pour-through water under the electron microscope.  Also, he carefully extracted the potting media without damaging the roots.  In both cases, he recovered virus.  Further, he used these extracted virus on tester plants, and confirmed that they are capable of infecting.  Roots die in the pot, and the virus can be exposed.  ORSV is extremely stable, so the water which goes through the pot can be infectious for a long time.

Most of the studies just show the potential transmission mechanisms, and it is difficult to gauge what is the main mode of the transmission.  As manders suggested, human caused mechanical damage is probably a big portion of transmission, but I would consider that irrigation based transmission has a high potential to be a vector. 

Some people goes paranoid about virus, but it is best to consider that each plant is infected and use good sanitary measure within a reason.  If you are not too familiar with plant virus, you might want to take a look at http://staugorchidsociety.org/culturepests-viruses.htm

 

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16 hours ago, manders said:

Full water culture is growing them in glass vases typically with water up to at about half way up the roots.  No compost.  Works well for certain orchids, like phalenopsis.

As my late grandfather used to say, cut off both my legs and call me Shorty! I never would have thought that would work, I thought you had to be careful not to have them sitting in water as the roots would rot.

I have a couple of orchids that were flowering beautifully last summer, but the person who looked after our plants while we were away only watered them very sparingly (we had a real scorcher of a summer), and when we came home, they were dry and withered, having lost all of the flowers. The leaves are looking fine, but I ahven't seen any stalk growth (and so no flowers) since then. I might try full water culture with one of them to see if it helps it.

Thanks very much

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4 hours ago, Yossu said:

As my late grandfather used to say, cut off both my legs and call me Shorty! I never would have thought that would work, I thought you had to be careful not to have them sitting in water as the roots would rot.

I have a couple of orchids that were flowering beautifully last summer, but the person who looked after our plants while we were away only watered them very sparingly (we had a real scorcher of a summer), and when we came home, they were dry and withered, having lost all of the flowers. The leaves are looking fine, but I ahven't seen any stalk growth (and so no flowers) since then. I might try full water culture with one of them to see if it helps it.

Thanks very much

If you try it you may find the older roots do rot off, any new roots which grow into the water should be fine.  Another approach is to just put the tips of the roots in the water.  Also, if the temperature is cool/cold in winter, then keep the water level very low, or let it dry between waterings.

Think of it a bit like hydroponics, if the roots have oxygen they will usually be fine, its rotting bark/compost that causes the most problems.

Heres the equivalent in nature with Phal. pulcherrhima

KaoSamoorPoon 146

 

Edited by manders
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On 06/06/2017 at 3:09 AM, manders said:

If you try it you may find the older roots do rot off, any new roots which grow into the water should be fine.  Another approach is to just put the tips of the roots in the water.  Also, if the temperature is cool/cold in winter, then keep the water level very low, or let it dry between waterings.

Think of it a bit like hydroponics, if the roots have oxygen they will usually be fine, its rotting bark/compost that causes the most problems.

Heres the equivalent in nature with Phal. pulcherrhima

KaoSamoorPoon 146

 

Surprised there's not a lot of moss growing around those roots. Was it too exposed to full sun?

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On 06/06/2017 at 3:09 AM, manders said:

If you try it you may find the older roots do rot off, any new roots which grow into the water should be fine.  Another approach is to just put the tips of the roots in the water.  Also, if the temperature is cool/cold in winter, then keep the water level very low, or let it dry between waterings.

Think of it a bit like hydroponics, if the roots have oxygen they will usually be fine, its rotting bark/compost that causes the most problems.

Heres the equivalent in nature with Phal. pulcherrhima

KaoSamoorPoon 146

 

Surprised there's not a lot of moss growing around those roots. Was it too exposed to full sun?

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It's fairly normal habitat for this phal species.  It's a lithophyte, usually growing in full sun on bare rock.  If you have any phal hybrids with this as a parent they often like a bit more light than your typical phal.

 

KaoSamoorPoon 116KaoSamoorPoon 075KaoSamoorPoon 445KaoSamoorPoon 121

 

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It prompted me to consider planting some around a fountain I have. I checked some of the Phal. species online and found quite a few that could be good contenders, particularly some that grow on limestone cliffs. Problem is that although there are a lot of Phals being sold in nurseries and big stores here, they're mostly just labeled "Orchid", no chance of finding out what they're hybrids of.

gw-n-17031502.jpg

 

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