Sunday, 18 August 2019 12:36

The Vale of Arryn

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Introduction (click here to skip introduction)


If you have not already done so, I suggest and strongly recommend going through the presentation on un-potting and dividing an orchid that can be found here.  Divisions do not fall from the sky, they come from breaking an over-sized orchid into pieces.  If you are just re-potting an orchid, follow along below.


Gather the items you will need.

  • Clean pot
  • New, washed bark mix
  • The orchid to be re-potted
  • a friend that also has orchids that need re-potting


The Orchid Pot:  I could go off on a complete tangent here discussing the orchid pot, choosing the right pot for your orchid, clay versus plastic, tansparent versus all black, tall, short, fat, etc., etc.  However, I am afraid that if I did, by the time you got half way through with that discussion you decide it be so much easier to re-pot orchids but setting them at the curb with a side that reads "free" and someone drive by and make re-potting on your part a lot easier.  Simply because they no longer be your orchids.  So I will skip that tangent.  Instead, I will suggest the following;  bring the orchid you plan on re-potting to an orchid meeting and ask experienced growers for their advice.  If you cannot bring the orchid, take a picture and bring that instead.


This is also where I ease the tension starting to build on the faces of experienced orchid growers about the topic of "sterilization".  I'm just not going to get into it.  The hobby grower is not going to care.  They should, but it is not important to them.  Experienced growers know that any orchid they purchase before being introduced into the main collection is isolated  like a quarantine until it is properly tested.  I agree, this is a good practice to get into, but for the hobby grower, it is beyond their need.  In the future, I might do a focussed discussion on sterilization.  In the meantime, if you are curious, just ask any experienced grower about this practice to prevent the spread of virused orchids.


Bark Mix or preferred potting medium:  You guessed it, another minefield in the culkture of orchids, and another seperate discussion to be written and linked here.  Once again the solution is ask experienced growers their advice on this topic, when you have your orchid or picture of your orchid in hand and seeking advice.


The orchid to be re-potted:  Ah-ha, something I can include here without a seperate discussion, and it should also be obvious.


A friend:   This might be a surprise, but other than the orchid to be re-potted, this is perhaps the most important tool you will need.  This is not work if you share re-potting with a friend.  It is also a great way to perhaps trade any divisions as a sign of gratitude.  A friend can be that extra pair of hands when dealing with a cantankerous orchid


If you are new to re-potting orchids, consider this rule of thumb - each orchid from un-pot to completing the new pot, takes about 45 minutes for the beginner.  So don't start thinking you will get 10 orchids done at a single potting session, unless you are really dedicated.  I speak from experience on this - after 4 hours the frustration can start to set in.  At first, focus on maybe 2 orchids per potting session, you will be much happier for it because re-potting can cause unexpected surprises.  Not anything major, just be aware that some orchids are very easy and then there are those that were born to be a challenge.


One last comment regarding re-potting an orchid - nobody always gets it right the first time, but do not be surprised if third time is the charm.  Once again I can speak on this from experience.  Between level of the orchid to the level of the medium in the pot, and the position of the orchid relative to center or a side with new growth facing a specific direction, at times it seems you need 3 sets of hands.  Now you see why a friend is so important.  Many times I think "this time I got it right", only to dump everything and start again.  It is not like I am a perfectionist, but seating an orchid just right means a great deal to the orchid.  New growth is free to expand, the orchid is almost floating on the potting medium versus sinking into it.  So much to consider, no wonder people bring them to a society and pay (I mean donate) to have someone else do it.


I do my re-potting in the kitchen sink with a drain guard to prevent those big chunks of debris from going down the drain and doing damage to my sink disposal blades.  You can also use a large dishpan or even a cardboard box to capture the debris and make cleaning much easier.


At this point, we are starting with an orchid that is ready for re-potting.  It has been cleaned, trimmed of any dead material and ready to move into its new home for the next two years.





The Process (18 August 2019)


This division is the part of the prior orchid that was growing up and over the edge of the pot.


Above is the "front" (left) and "back" (right) of the new division.  Their are plenty of good roots and one the back side an area of dying or dead roots.  Along with the roots that are "programmed" to grow into a potting medium are aerial roots.


What is the purpose of aerial roots? Well, a great many types of orchids, including the most popular household orchids—Phalaenopsis—are epiphytes, as are Dendrobium, Oncidium, Vanda, Cattleya, and many many more. This term is used to describe plants that grow attached to other plants, trees, branches, stumps; in other words, epiphytes do not grow in soil. Rather, an epiphyte’s roots are exposed to the air (hence the term “aerial roots”) and cling to the surface of tree trunks and other organic matter while soaking up water and nutrients from the plant’s environment. These roots form the building blocks of the orchid and are absolutely vital to its ability to thrive.  (Source:   Worth a read regarding aerial roots, they are natural, nothing to worry about, might be ugly to look at but they appreciate a misting.  If you are a "neat freak", you can remove them.)  I will leave mine until they start to shrivel  from old age as nothing last forever.



In other division discussions, I mentioned that the grow pattern of the Oncidium is similar to walking upstairs, and above is a perfect example.  Each new growth is a little higher then the previous growth.  Don't be confused with the new growths in this division coming up from the bottom.  This is where the rhizome has branched and eventually the growth pattern over a few years, these will start to climb upstairs as well.


As for potting this division, I balanced the level of the multiple new growths compared to the oldest growth.   The oldest growth at the bottom of the stairs might not produce any further new growths, but the bulbs will provide water (if you forget to water the orchid) and nutrients to the rest of the division.  You can bury it further below the surface then you would normlly and the next time for re-potting, might consider removing it.  My goal is to do everything possible to arrange the obvious new growths to be even or just barely below the surface of the medium.


The rhizome is placed at the back edge of the pot, and potting medium slowly added and tapped to settle around the roots until it is just below the rim of the pot and supporting the floating base of the new growths.


I know that in the pictures above the new growths might appear to be a little lower in the medium then desired.  After about a half dozen waterings, the clay pellets will settle a little more.  I am not worried about excessive moisture promoting rot around these young growths for the these areas will only be wet during and immediately after watering.  They will dry out in a few hours.


ABove is the view looking down on this division.  the plant tag on the above-left is at the bottom and on the right it was rotated to the top.


To the left, the potted subdivision showing roots along the edge of the pot.



(September 2019)



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F    the Vale of Arryn (The Eyrie)

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