Monday, April 8, 2013

Stanhopea Growing Media

It has been stated by several orchid growers that Stanhopea will grow in almost anything.  This includes rock and pumice and other non-organic materials to organics. Barney Greer wrote that another grower used pure horse manure as growing media for Stanhopea.  I usually avoid using rock and pumice because this adds weight to an already heavy basket – especially for large trophy Stanhopea.  That being said I have found Stanhopea to grow best in a few types of growing media including orchid fir or redwood bark seedling mix, and medium or Cattleya mix, and New Zealand moss.

Fir and Redwood Bark Seedling Mix

I use this mix for smaller unbloomed Stanhopea or ones that will be moved into their first baskets.  I also use this mix to top off baskets that I have of mature specimens to keep the upper layer of the basket moist in my dry environment.  The seeding bark mix is a mixture of 60% 0.25 inch (0.63cm) fir or redwood bark, 25% 0..25inch (0.63 cm) pumice, and 15% activated charcoal.

Seedling Redwood Mix

 Fir and Redwood Bark Cattleya Mix

This mix is used for most of my medium to large Stanhopea that are grown in 8 inch (20 cm) and larger baskets.  This mix holds moisture but allows enough air and prevents overly moist conditions for Stanhopea that need a dry rest period during the winter months.  The Cattleya mix is a medium bark that is 60% of the mixture with 0.50 to 0.75 inch (1.3 to 1.9 cm) fir or redwood bark, 25% 0.25 inch (0.63 cm) pumice, and 15% activated charcoal.

Cattleya Redwood Mix

New Zealand Moss

I use this moss to provide consistent moisture in and around the remaining roots and base of the pseudobulb. This moss is especially useful for bare root plants that I often receive as imports or from divisions.   Most imports are  bare root, so it is important to keep the remaining roots moist to facilitate new root growth from the pseudobulbs.  I also use this moss as a first potting medium for 1-2 year old seedlings that have small fine roots and need constant moisture to remain viable in my dry environment.  This moss is a little more expensive than other types of mosses, but it is worth the extra cost for the consistency of the medium, and for the superior water retention.  If you have the extra money to purchase this moss and have difficulty in keeping your Stanhopea moist, then you can use this as the sole growing media for your orchids.

New Zealand Moss

Green Moss

I use green moss to line the baskets of most of my Stanhopea.  It has a consistent texture, and is attractive.  It is also relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain.  The moss also allows the inflorescences of Stanhopea to pass through easily and mature.  This moss holds the growing medium in place in the baskets, while also preventing dessication of the roots because it does hold moisture in after watering.  I usually place approximately 1 to 1.25 inch (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thickness of the moistened moss around the basket and make sure that it is thick enough to hold in the growing media firmly. 
Green Moss Basket Liner

Other Basket Liners

Several other basket liners can be used for Stanhopea.  If you have the money you can always use New Zealand Moss to line baskets and it has similar properties as green moss for this use.  Pre-manufactured coconut fiber liners are also available and are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Just drop the coconut liner right into the basket and you are ready to start placing the media and Stanhopea in.  Remember to buy the non-plastic lined coconut fiber liners so that this will allow the inflorescences to pass through the liner easily.  Other liners that have been used include a few sheets of newspaper.  Though I have not used newspaper for this purpose, I understand that the raw look of the paper fades with time and still allows the inflorescences to pass through the paper.  I find the look of the newspaper to be a little unnatural, though it is more ecofriendly to recycle in this fashion.  Stanhopea growers in Australia have used paperbark from Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, and Tristania trees to line baskets.  If done properly and not applied too thickly, this allows the inflorescences to pass through the gaps in the bark while still holding in moisture and the growing medium.  I am currently attempting a few baskets lined with Tristania paperbark so see if it works for me as well.  The paperbark is more natural looking than newspaper and is relatively accessible from landscape trees in southern California.  I am fortunate to have a large Tristania tree in my landscape that provides rather nice quality paperbark for free.

Coco Fiber Liner

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