We offer a number of our orchids mounted on sticks rather than growing in pots. While this may be something new to you, or something you may be reluctant to try if you grow your orchids inside your home, we want to tell you why we believe you will be surprised and delighted at how vigorous and happy mounted orchids can be, and how easy it is to care for them, even if you don’t have a greenhouse. Click on photos to enlarge them.
ITS THE MOST NATURAL WAY
Most, if not all species in the Cattleya Alliance (including Cattleya, Brassavola,Laelia, Sophronitis, Encyclia and the many other genera in this group) naturally grow as epiphytes, or in a few cases as lithophytes. This means that in their natural environment, their preferred niche in the landscape is firmly rooted to tree branches and limbs, or on exposed surfaces of rock outcrops. In these locations, orchids receive regular rainfall in the wet seasons, and nightly dew or mist in the dry seasons, but this moisture drains away quickly and their roots are dry for much of the day. Orchid roots are perfectly adapted to this situation by possessing a thick layer of spongy material around the actual root fiber itself. This material fuses to other objects very well, holding the plants firmly in place in the face of tropical storms. Often tropical showers are but brief downpours that last only a few minutes. But the spongy layer rapidly absorbs all the water it can during this quick shower, and holds onto it until it can be absorbed into the pseudobulbs and leaves where it is stored for use by the plant. In order for the roots of the orchid to stay healthy and viable, they must dry out almost completely on a regular basis, as would normally occur in the warm tropical sunshine and natural outdoor air movement between showers. Roots that stay constantly wet will rot and die, becoming useless to the plant. One of the most common ways that orchid hobbyists kill their plants is by over watering them so that the roots cannot ‘breathe’ and therefore die, leaving the plant shriveled because it no longer has a way to take in the water it is being given! Healthy roots are absolutely vital to healthy, happy orchids.
NO MORE GUESSING ABOUT YOUR PLANT'S HEALTH
When orchids are grown in a pot, you cannot see what is going on below the surface of the planting media. Even though the pot looks dry, too much moisture can be collecting in the bottom creating a problem that is not yet seen. The media may be breaking down, decaying and turning to mush, smothering the roots and killing them before you are aware there is reason for concern. By the time the condition is obvious, drastic measures may be required to save the plant, and even if it survives, it may be set back badly and require months or years to recover to its former healthy, blooming state.
Mounted orchids grow like they do in nature, and tell you everything you need to know about their condition at a glance! There is no question about whether the roots have dried off sufficiently to need more water. What’s more, because the water drains away within minutes, it is nearly impossible to over water a mounted orchid. If the plant has healthy, happy roots, you will see them. No guessing is required!
MANY ORCHIDS GROW BETTER MOUNTED
While some of the species and hybrids in the Cattleya Alliance may grow equally well in a pot or on a mount with the proper care, there are many orchids that will grow far better on a mount (or in a wooden basket) than they would in a pot. It is primarily these orchids that we offer mounted, because we know it is the best method for keeping them healthy and happy. For instance, any cross we do that has Cattleya walkeriana, Laelia anceps, Broughtonia sanguinea, Brassavola nodosa either as an immediate parent or within the past few generations of its ancestry will definitely perform much better under mounted culture. However, we have mounted up crosses with none of the obvious ancestors that prefer mounting and still found them to perform better than their siblings in pots. Almost any orchid that we mount will immediately sprout copious numbers of new healthy roots within a couple weeks or even days of being mounted. The inset photo above shows one of our crosses that we normally offer potted that was accidentally mounted because it was mis-labeled as a Broughtonia hybrid. Even though it was subjected to 'typical' Broughtonia culture, with more light and less water than most orchids, it outperformed is potted siblings in growth, and has far more healthy roots than those that are potted!
TIPS FOR GROWING MOUNTED ORCHIDS
In general the requirements for success are the same as with potted orchids, with the right balance of light, temperature, water, humidity, air movement and regular feeding that will produce strong healthy growth and blooming. Mounted orchids will need to be watered more frequently, with a minimum of two or three thorough soakings per week. Additional misting or syringing in between can be beneficial when humidity is low. In the home, the best method is simply to dunk the entire plant, mount and all into a container of water and let it soak for a few minutes. This gives time for the roots to absorb all of the water they possibly can before removing the plant and allowing it drain. This method of watering also makes fertilizing a breeze, since it can be added to your water once watering per week at ½ the recommended strength on the label.
CREATING THE RIGHT HUMIDITY THE LOW TECH WAY
In the home environment, sufficient humidity is usually the most challenging essential element to provide your orchids, especially in winter when central heating systems can drop the relative humidity to 20% or lower. This is far too low to keep orchid plants happy for any length of time, no matter how often you water them. One of the simplest 'Low-Tech' solutions to this challenge would be to purchase an inexpensive ‘cool mist’ room humidifier and place it underneath your mounted orchid plants. A small plastic fan from the dime store could help propel the mist from the humidifier across your growing area. Not only will this greatly benefit your orchid plants, but it will make your own living environment more comfortable as well as the mist dissipates across the room. This small extra effort will make an enormous difference in how well your plants grow inside the home. There are many other methods that will work. The goal is to keep the humidity between 50% and 70% around your plants while also making sure there is some air movement at all times.
SUMMERING YOUR ORCHIDS OUT OF DOORS
During the warmer months, if you live in a part of the country that experiences the heat and humidity of summer, it is easy to rig up a place to hang your mounted orchids out of doors, where nature will take care of the humidity for you and a dousing from the garden hose can supplement natural rainfall. Just remember to choose a spot with dappled shade during the heat of the day and continue to dunk your plants in diluted fertilizer water weekly. Mounted orchids generally hang out of reach of the ravages of slugs and snails that can destroy potted orchids sitting outside for the summer Once nights begin dipping below 55 degrees, most cattleya types will be happier back inside. However, Laelia anceps and its hybrids are generally fine down to 40 degrees and are actually grown out of doors year round in coastal California where they experience occasional light freezes without harm.
KISS RE-POTTING CHORES GOOD BYE!
We mount our orchids on very long lasting materials, typically Eastern Red Cedar and Crape Myrtle. Many of these plants can stay on the same mount for many years to come. The plant may completely obscure the wood it is growing upon, but as long as it is happy and growing around the mount, it can be left alone. If the plant becomes so large that it is overwhelming its mount or grows further and further away from it, you could simply attach it to a larger mount or set it inside a wooden basket allowing it to continue to grow undisturbed. Always choose long lasting types of wood when making your own mounts. In addition to the species mentioned above, other great choices are: Western Red Cedar, Redwood, Manzanita, Atlantic White Cedar, Sourwood, Sassafras, Juniper, Douglas Fir, Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, Locust, and many others. You may prefer to weather your mounting materials for aesthetic reasons, but the plants themselves don’t care and can adapt to a fresh, smooth, flat board as easily as a piece of driftwood!
Although growing mounted orchids may require a bit of ingenuity to adapt your growing area to their needs, you will find that once you do, their care is very straight forward and your likelihood for growing happy, healthy, blooming orchids that only improve with time is much greater than with typical potted orchids.
1. Mounted orchids are growing as nature best adapted them to do.
2. Mounted orchids will grow healthier, more copious roots, essential to vigorous orchid plants.
3. It is easier to assess the overall health of a mounted orchid than a potted one.
4. It is easier to spot and treat common orchid pests on mounted orchids.
5. Watering, fertilizing, and providing adequate humidity, light and air circulation for mounted orchids is straight forward with many easy solutions possible the home orchid grower.
6. Mounted orchids can stay as they are for many years with no need to worry about repotting them.
7. Mounted orchids are easier to care for out of doors in the warm season and less likely to suffer from the common cultural mistakes of potted orchids. It is very difficult to over water them.