Orchid Varieties

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Please note: These orchids and their hybrids are just a few of the many orchids that can be grown on the Mid North Coast, there are many others available to the grower. Contact the Secretary for more information on other orchids suitable for this area.

Australian Natives

These are mainly Dendrobiums, but also Sarcochilus, Phaius and various terrestrials. Tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions, and parentage should be checked eg. Den. Bigibbum from North Queensland and its hybrids require warmer conditions. They grow well under 50% to 70% shade cloth. Australian orchids can be watered heavily and let dry out between waterings. Heavy fertlising must be avoided. Use low nitrogen in, Oct, Nov, Dec at a quarter to third strength and sparingly. Fertilise with a high potassium fertilizer Jan through to flowering (generally July, August and September) to promote flowering production. Watch for insect pests, especially aphids, mites, mealy bug, etc., and treat in accordance with the spray manufacturers instruction. Pot most natives and hybrids (not terrestrials) in free draining bark mix, but slabs or mounts are also suitable, as is mounting on trees or shrubs in the garden. Some growers are using coconut fibre.

Cattleya Alliance

The Cattleya alliance is a large and popular group of orchids and includes Laelia, Sophronitis, Brassavola and combinations, best suited to intermediate conditions but tolerant of a variety of other temperatures. They are easy to grow and have the largest range of size, colour and shape of all orchids. Provide indirect or mottled light, 50% to 70% shade cloth is suitable. Water heavily but let dry out between waterings.

Fertilise with low to medium nitrogen regularly in the growth cycle, reducing in winter. Apply high phosphorus fertilizer approaching flowering. Clean away old flower and cane sheaths to prevent refuge for scale, mealy bug. Potting mix should be open, free draining, with the addition of stone or foam to the pot mix. Limit pot size to suit root volume and don’t over pot.

Cymbidium

Generally colder growing, but no frost exposure. Suitable temperature range 5 to 25 degrees and 50% shade cloth. Elevate to obtain good air movement. Larger pot size is often needed to accommodate root mass. Add coarse sand or peat bark to the potting mix to retain extra moisture. The pot mixture must also be moderately free draining. Water and fertilise frequently in the warmer months and the active growth period of the plant, reducing in winter with more emphasis on high phosphorus fertilizer about Jan/Feb. Feed with an 8-9 month slow release fertilizer in Sept and Feb. Retain healthy back bulbs, but clean away old leaf bases and any decaying back bulbs. A temperature drop of approx. 10 deg. for several days is required to initiate flowering. This can be achieved by watering with cold water late in summer afternoons.

Oncidiums

A very large family, and quite variable in cultural requirements. Generally yellow and brown colour combinations, they need a well-drained mix, eg. bark and charcoal, with small amount of stone and foam added. Water and fertilise (low nitrogen) regularly in the growing season, but allow to dry out between watering. Water very sparingly in rest period following flowering, until new growth is established. Oncidiums must have high air movement to obtain best results.

Miniature oncidiums (commonly called Equitant or now Tolumnia) generally require warmer and drier conditions but still ensure good air movement. Water only in mornings so that the root system is dry by nightfall.

Paphiopedilum (Slipper orchid)

Reasonably easy to grow orchids. Mainly intermediate conditions but several will grow either in warmer or colder location, check the parentage of hybrids to determine suitable growing conditions. 75% shade cloth is suitable with a minimum winter temperature of 8 deg. Good air movement is required to ward off insect attack and leaf marking. Potting mix should retain some moisture, don’t allow the root system to dry out completely. Morning sun and watering is best, avoid water retention in leaf axil. Fertilise regularly, half strength in growing season, but reduce in winter. Use high phosphorus fertilizer at flower spike. The plant should be re-potted every 1 to 2 years maximum. When dividing plants, the divided growth should have 2 or 3 mature growths plus have a new shoot. Grow plants in deeper pots to help retain extra moisture.

Phalaenopsis

Generally warm growing and often successfully grown as houseplants. Preferred temp. range 12 to 30 deg. but will tolerate lower eg. 7 deg. for short periods. Water and fertilise frequently in summer, reduce in winter, but do not let root system dry out completely. Select a potting mix and water regime that avoids the root system being saturated. Provide good air movement around plant all year, keep leaf axils dry during the night. Fertilise fairly heavily with a balanced fertilizer, provide high phosphorous near flowering. Take care in staking arching flower spikes to obtain best presentation. Use fungicide approx. twice annually to manufacturers instructions, water quality should be about PH 5.8 to 6.4.

Phalaenopsis also show a preference for regular re-potting eg. 6 and 12 month intervals are recommended.

Vandaceous

A very extensive and popular family requiring warmer conditions. Usually hung in baskets with very coarse potting mix, but also suitable for pots with coarse, extremely fast draining potting mix. Vandaceous orchids often develop extensive aerial root systems and care should be taken to minimize root damage when moving pots or baskets. Water and fertilise regularly during the warmer, growth cycle part ofthe year, with extra misting on hot days. Water early in the day on a rising temperature, avoid water retention in leaf axils. Vandas need higher light than average. Strap leaf Vandas need protection from cold winter winds. Terete leaf Vandas will tolerate lower temperatures and are suitable for external garden planting in full sun in a totally frost-free area.

Soft Cane Dendrobiums

Cool to intermediate conditions, but maximum winter sun will improve flowing. Provide very free draining potting mix and water heavily in summer, twice a day if it is hot. Reduce watering in winter to just adequate to prevent canes shriveling. Fertilise heavily with a medium to low nitrogen from Melbourne Cup Day to about mid March, longer if temperatures are still high. Don’t fertilise at all during late autumn and winter. Flower presentation can be improved by splitting leaves by hand and removing each section when the flower buds are developing. Plants can also be placed in hanging pots. Hang in a location with good air movement and sunlight on full length of canes.

Miltonia

These striking orchids are also known as pansy orchids, owing to their similarity to garden pansies. Light should be relatively shaded. Direct sunlight burns the thin leaves in a short period of time. Water must be plentiful and the medium must drain perfectly. When they are not getting enough water or humidity, the leaves have a tendency to grow with accordionlike pleats. Fertilize at the same level as other orchids: half strength, balanced fertilizer every two weeks. This can be reduced by half during overcast weather or in winter. A 10-30-20 blossom-booster formulation is beneficial in early spring when plants approach their flowering period.

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Ed Pearce (President)

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