How the Precious Orchid Got So Cheap

A good article on how the culture  of orchids became widespread and its impact on exporting economies.

Dealing with the cold – per Martin Motes, December 2010

This is reprinted from an email sent by Martin’s son. Martin has always been generous about sharing information in the past and is in India right now so I can’t get explicit permission to reprint, but he has always said “yes” before when I asked…

Much of the information comes from Martin’s book, “Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month” which can be purchased at this link from the publisher.

Martin publishes a monthly newsletter to which you can subscribe at this link.

The newsletter and book are both highly recommended with information tailored to our South Florida growing conditions.

Dear Readers:

As you know, this week’s temperatures are dropping to dangerous levels for our beloved orchids. Martin and Mary are still in India, but they asked me to send out the relevant information from Martin’s book Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month.

The page numbers are included for easy reference for those of you who already own Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month.

Additionally, I have included an excerpt from the forthcoming
Cultivo de orquídeas en Florida — Mes por Mes, available this January, for Spanish speaking friends and family of our readers. Thanks again to Pro Translating for wonderfully translating Dr. Motes’s book into Spanish.

We’ve also added social media share buttons to the top of the email, so you can easily share this information with your friends via Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck with the cold!

Bart Motes

(Excerpted from Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month page 113, all rights reserved)

December can be cold. Frost has occurred in the first week of the month and unforgettably, the coldest temperatures ever recorded in South Florida were registered on December 25, 1989. If you haven’t taken some of the precautions outlined in the November chapter, get busy! Keep a close eye on the forecasts during this volatile month.
Remember that hard cane dendrobiums of the sections Spathulata and Phalaenanthe are the most sensitive of commonly cultivated orchids. They resent temperature much below 60 degrees F. Phalaenopsis are next most sensitive, then vandas. Protect all these genera more carefully.

For more expert advice like this, click here to get your own copy of Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month.

Cold Temperature Tolerance of Different Orchids

(Excerpted from Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month pages 117-120, all rights reserved.)

One major obstacle for neophyte growers is in understanding the diversity of cultural requirements of various genera of orchids. Orchids are such a vast group of plants which have succeeded in nearly every conceivable habitat on earth, that knowledge of a specific genus’s cultural requirements, rather than a general knowledge of what “orchids” like, is necessary to successfully cultivate the various types. Most cultivated orchids come from tropical regions but differences in elevation and other geographic features of their native habits can mean dramatic differences in the response of orchids to various external conditions. Most emphatically these differences can be seen in different genera’s toleration of cold. While some orchids are native to regions where frost is more the norm than the exception, others are hyper-tropical plants for whom 50º F (10º C) is far too cool. Knowing which is which is essential in a mixed collection of orchids. A great irony for beginners is to discover that their extra nurturing efforts to protect certain orchids have in fact done more harm than good.

For more expert advice like this, click here to get your own copy of Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month.

Dendrobiums are among the most confusing for new orchid growers. This huge genus, well over a thousand species divided usually into 15 sections, ranges over nearly a quarter of the planet. Found from western Indian all the way to Micronesia, dendrobiums inhabit an incredible variety of ecological niches. Ironically, the two sections most common in horticulture are diametrically opposite in cold tolerance. Section Dendrobium, the soft bulb or “nobile types” whether in their pendulous forms like D. anosum and aphyllum or in the upright types like D. nobile and its hybrids, positively relish the cold. Temperatures right down to frost are the best culture to produce the most prolific blooming of these plants. Without cold and drought stress in winter these plants will retain their leaves and produce an abundance of vegetative growths but few if any flowers. Stressed by cold and dried out properly these plants lose all their leaves and in spring the bare bulbs are covered in flowers. The opposite is truefor the “hard cane” dendrobiums of sections Spathulata and Phalaenanthe. Loss of leaf on D. phalaenopsis types is usually indicative that they have suffered from too much cold. Temperatures below 60º F (15º C) can produce this undesirable effect. D. phalaenopsis and evergreen types should receive the maximum cold protection.

Other sections of the genus have slightly different tolerances. Section Callista, D. farmerii, D. lindleyii (aggregatum) and their relatives can take temperatures nearly as low as the nobile types and will bloom all the better for exposure to temperatures in the 30s (3-5º C). Section Formosae, D. formosum, D. infundibulum and the new hybrids prefer slightly warmer conditions but are quite happy with temperatures in the 40s (6-9º C). Other sections of Dendrobium in cultivation such as Pedilonium, Latouria, and the Australian hybrids of section Dendrocorne have slightly different requirements and those growing these more “exotic” will succeed best in researching them. Try B. Lavarack et al. Dendrobium and its Relatives, Timber Press.

After the cold sensitive “hard cane” dendrobiums, Phalaenopsis are the most tender of commonly grown orchids. Phalaenopsis will be strongly induced to bloom by temperatures in the mid 50s (12-13º C). A few exposures to temperatures below 60º F (15º C) will produce the desired spikes and thereafter the plants will be happiest if they are kept above 60. One or two nights down to 50 or slightly below will do little harm but are to be avoided in the best kept collection.

For info on other sensitive plants get the book!

Vandas come next on the scale of sensitivity….

Oncidiums of the “mule ear” type with thick fleshy leaves (O. luridum, lanceanum etc.) have warmth requirements similar to vandas…..

With the exception of some species of Amazonian origin like Cattleya violacea, most cattleyas can take quite cool temperatures. Most growers have few concerns for them even in temperatures down to the upper 40s (8-9º C). They must, however be protected from both frost and freeze….

For more expert advice like this, click here to get your own copy of Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month.

Forecasts of temperatures below 40º F should stimulate us to action.

If it is not practical to bring all the Phalaenopsis, vandas and hard cane dendrobiums into the house or garage, think of using water to help protect them. Shade cloth or even patio screen like a lacy Mantilla holds in a surprising amount of heat. Under screen, a fine mist head (½ gallon per minute) attached to a hose and left running beneath the bench or plant rack will provide several degrees of additional warmth that will often sufficiently temper the chill and ward off any light frost settling in. Growers with swimming pools frequently turn on the re-circulating pump to keep a supply of warm water near the pool’s surface where it can add heat to the ambient environment. A few degrees of warmth frequently make all the difference to our sensitive orchids. In more open areas not protected by a permanent irrigation system, an oscillating sprinkler at the end of a garden hose is very effective. These are readily available at Home Depot and garden shops for a few dollars. On frosty nights, start the water at bedtime and let it run until the sun is up. The extra water once or twice in a month will do no harm to orchids that have been properly and judiciously watered the remainder of the month. In fact, these occasions present the opportunity to be sure that excess fertilizer salts have been leached from the pots and medium. A good work can be born of necessity!

Remember that Himalayan dendrobiums and “‘warm growing” Cymbidium hybrids will positively relish temperatures down to 32º F and a light frost is just the ticket for great bloom. Keep the water off these!


Ninth Annual Show and Sale Nov 19-21

The American Orchid Society invites you  to join us at Color Your World the ninth annual Show and Sale Nov 19-21 at  AOS headquarters in Delray Beach Florida.  The show is expanded to include 15 vendors and 7 Art vendors.

The show will highlight the collaboration with Hospice of the Sea, in displaying and offering for sale the works of renown artists Marjorie and Gerry Gotkin.  All proceeds from these sales flow directly to Hospice by the Sea.

We welcome bus groups of more than 25 persons with a $1 discount for all passengers.

Coalition for Orchid Species Symposium

Sunday, August 1, 2010 from 8 am to 4 pm

Four Fantastic Speakers:

  • Linda Wilhelm,Woodland Orchids, AOS Judge – The Wonderful World of Oncidiums
  • Paul Storm,MekeAloha Orchids –
    Schombo Love – Schombolaelias and Myrmecophila
  • Tom Mirenda,Smithsonian Institute, AOS Judge –
    Species Orchids,Their Pollinators & Symbionts:
    A Conservationist’s Approach
  • Lynn O’Shaughnessy – AOS Judge –
    Those Strange Pleurothallid Species

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
In the Garden Room
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables,FL

Orchid sales will be available during the day, as well as AOS judging.

$45.00 for COS members
$50.00 for non-COS members

Price includes lectures, raffles, continental breakfast, and buffet lunch.

Contact Erna Maxwell at 305-382-3055 or to reserve your space now!

July 2010

Progress of the Season: June
By Martin Motes (with permission)

June has been exceptionally warm and dry. This drought and warmth has given our sympodial orchids a running start free of pressure from disease on their newly developing shoots. It should be a banner year for cattleyas.

The dry weather has also staunched the abundance of snails generated by the heavy spring rains but beware they will be back! A patch of several contiguous rains in July will call for snail control whether by hand with a night patrol or chemically with bait (always thinly applied).

The same heat that has protected our cattleyas has rendered our Phalaenopsis more vulnerable to bacterial disease. Be sure to provide sufficient cooling with good air circulation or fans. Also the preventative spray program outlined in Fla. Orchid Growing pg.29-30 is particularly important this year.

Be careful with watering and build on the excellent start to the summer.

July in Your Orchid Collection

July Climate Data
Average high: 90.9
Average low: 76.5
Average mean: 83.7
Average rainfall: 5.79″

Although it mostly passes unnoticed to millions locked in their air-conditioned bubbles, July in South Florida is quite different from June. While the pattern of afternoon showers built from the moisture of the morning’s sea breeze persists in July, the thunder-storms are sharper and shorter. The clouds linger less and the foliage dries more quickly. Less quantity of rain falls in July than in June and periods of several days typically pass without a drop. This is good news for orchid growers. July (and August) allows orchidists to focus on the first essential of orchid growing, drying the plant out.

Frequently, neophyte growers ask “What if I go away for several weeks in the summer and there is no one to water the plants?” The response is “That’s wonderful”. Experienced growers use the break in the rainfall during July and August to dry their plants “hard”. Depriving orchids of water for several days until they and the media or baskets they grow in are bone dry is essential to good orchid culture. By drying the plants hard, one deals a severe blow to orchid’s natural enemy, fungus. Orchids have evolved to withstand drought because fungus can not. During severe drought fungus’ only defense is to cease all growth and retreat into a spore stage. Hopefully (and with good cultural management) these pathogens will not be aroused from this slumber until the first drizzle of September sets in, allowing our plants two months to mature and harden their growth making them less vulnerable to the September conditions which give some advantage again to the fungi.

Careful watering and judicious drying will do more than any other practice to ensure healthy plants. Drought is the orchid plants armor against disease. Be sure that your plants dry as completely as the weather of July permits. Nonetheless, as our plants are in full growth they need adequate water in July therefore after a hard drying, orchid plants need a thorough re-hydration. If the next rain fall is insufficient to saturate pot, roots and media, the grower should add to the natural moisture until he is sure both roots and media are saturated, using two or three applications of water spaced a few minutes apart. When the plants stop dripping is the time to apply the next dose of water. Don’t stop watering until the “heft” of the pot tells you that it is holding as much water as it can. More typically in July, orchidists should use these opportunities when more moisture is required to substitute fertilizer for water and saturate the roots and the media in the same thorough manner. In July typically think of fertilizing rather than watering. Weekly applications of a commonly available balanced fertilizer (20-20-20 or 18-18-18) at two teaspoons per gal. will supply the nutrients that our plants require in this period of lush growth. This balanced formula should be alternated every other week with potassium nitrate and Epsom salts (one tablespoon each) to supply the extra magnesium and potassium we now know are plants need on a regular basis. Even better (although not so readily available) lower phosphorus fertilizers containing extra magnesium and calcium with a formula like Peter’s Excel (15-5-15) have been shown to be the precise fertilizer our plants need. This formula is recommended year round. Hopefully such orchid specific fertilizers will become more widely available. Lowering the phosphorus intake of our plants is particularly important in South Florida because of our alkaline water. Always apply fertilizer in the same way as water, in two to three doses spaced a few minutes apart. Apply the fertilizer to the point of “run off”, IE. when the solution starts to fall off the plants; stop and move on to the next plant. Repeat the application a few minutes later when the plants stop dripping. In July more than ever, never, never follow the frequently heard and disastrously bad advice of watering before fertilizing. Always substitute fertilizer for water: now and at every season. Roots saturated with water cannot absorb fertilizer but the prolonged wetness can rot your plants. Don’t give fungus the upper hand by wetting the plant’s foliage and roots more often or longer than necessary. Careful watering is especially important throughout the rainy season.

The wise orchidist will have long since finished all of his potting of sympodials and the top working of his vandas but for the rest of us this is the eleventh hour. Autumn is closer than we think and vandas will need at least three months to settle in to their new baskets or pots before the first chill of October tickles their root tips. Unless you can protect them thoroughly from cold, Vanda top cuttings and keikies should not be made after the end of July. If you do take cuttings remember the “3 root rule”. Count down from the crown and make the cutting beneath the third or fourth root. Keep as many leaves as possible on the stump and you will be rewarded with a greater abundance of offshoots. Always slip the sterile knife or shears down between the stem and the leaves and then cut transversely to save as many leaves as possible. Be sure to anchor the cutting firmly in its new lodging. Tie them up and tie them down! There is no time for mistakes in July.

Thrips are much less of a problem in July as the rain tends to wash them away and doubtless there is an abundance of other lush fodder for them elsewhere in our yards. They can reappear in a prolonged patch of dryness, so if you need to think of watering in July it may be dry enough to worry about Thrips. A prophylactic spraying for Thrips in July will also put a damper on scale crawlers. If a second spraying with soap follows the first by seven to 10 days, the population of mites will be scotched as well.

You can subscribe to Dr. Motes’s newsletter at and get these updates in a more timely fashion 🙂

June 2010

Progress of the Season: June
By Martin Motes (with permission)

May has proved to be drier and a little cooler than typical. The swings of day to night temperature have been ideal for rooting most genera but vandaceous in particular have been exuberant. Without the typical heavy rains to wash them away and refresh alternate food sources in our yards, Thrips have also taken altogether too much pleasure in the moderate and dry conditions. If a week passes without rain apply the recommendations in Florida Orchid Growing to control Thrips.

The unexpectedly wet conditions of April have left an unusually legacy this year: an abundance of half grown Cuban garden snails. Remember, snail bait is very effective if applied properly. It is bait!  One small pellet per 2-3 square feet will do the job and pose no threat to domestic animals. Repeat in 7-10 days as bait breaks down and newly hatched or newly arrived snails will always show up. See Florida Orchid Growing pp. 178-180.

A dear friend and very experienced grower surprised me with the news that she had destroyed her entire Vanda collection because she could not control the “Thai Disease” Phyllosticata capitata. When she replaced the plants to her chagrin the disease returned. A better understanding of this disease and its control needs to be more widespread. The disease affects the vascular tissue of individual leaves and spreads upward in the plant by infecting new leaves as they emerge. It is not systemic but problematically can not be detected until the characteristic rough diamond shaped sporing bodies appear. Because of this life cycle infected plants can go undetected until the fruiting bodies emerge after the plant has been stressed by the cold of a Florida winter.

My friend’s reaction is extreme but understandable because of the elusive nature of this disease. It can be controlled and eliminated by the methods advocated in Fla. Vanda Growing Month by Month. Not buying plants that have been imported from Thailand is also too extreme; however the wise orchidist should ask: Has this plant come from Thailand? Has it been grown over a Florida winter? If so the buyer can be confident that the plant is free of this otherwise invisible disease.

[Note: this is an excerpt from Martin’s monthly newsletter. Subscribe at The “dear friend” mentioned above is our own Dot Henley.]

April 2010

Progress of the Season: April
By Martin Motes (with permission)

As we pull out of the coldest winter in 70 years, exceptional coolness persists. Dendrobium species, catasetums and other seasonally dormant sympodial orchids are slow to break into growth this year. Be extra careful not to overwater them particularly as the super size fronts that have given us so much cool air have also arrived with extra abundant water. Be on the look out for crown rot in vandas, as well as bacterial leaf spotting, which is best treated with a direct application of a slurry of equal parts mancozeb (Manzate or Dithane) and cupric hydroxide (Kocide).  If plants are still showing any reddening of foliage, another application or two of Epsom salts (1Tbs. per gal) is indicated. The wide swing of day to night temperature with highs finally climbing into the eighties will be stimulating vigorous root growth. This is one of the few moments when high phosphorus fertilizers prove beneficial. One or two applications of “Bloom Booster” formula can promote strong root growth.

Coming out of a March that seemed like February, we might well be entering an April that will be March-like. Water exceptionally heavily when water is called for and take advantage of the high drying potential by maximizing air circulation. The rainy season may well arrive while our sympodial plants are in an unusually early stage of growth. Be sure that newly emerging growths have plenty of light and air. Amidst all these cautions, don’t forget to enjoy the wonderful weather that surrounds us

Redlands program for this weekend

Redland International Orchid Festival is this weekend… thought you might like to see the schedule of lectures.

Friday, May 14
12:30 pm- Cattleya Orchid Culture- Melana Davison
1:30 pm- Leafless Orchids – Jim Watts
2:30 pm- Growing Your Orchids into Specimens – Jean Wilson

Saturday, May 15
11:30 am- Easy Growing Dendrobium’s for South Florida- H&R Orchids
12:30 pm- Philippine Orchid Species- Purification Orchids
1:30 pm- Potting/Mounting Orchids- Alex Lamazares, Orchidmania
2:30 pm- Orchid Pests and How to Manage Them- Dr. Catharine Mannion, Tropical   Research EC
3:30 pm- Introduction to Orchid Growing (Spanish) – Edwin de Jesus /or Axel Cahiz, Amazonia Orchids

Sunday, May 16
10:30 am- Vanda Culture- David Genovese
11:30 am- Potting/Mounting Orchids -Alex Lamazares, Orchidmania
12:30 pm- Landscaping with Orchids- Dave Foster
1:30 pm- The Orchids of Cuba (Spanish) – Betty Eber
2:30 pm- Diseases of Orchids-Dr. Robert McMillan, Kerry’s Nursery

Orchid Research Newsletter

Looking for a more scientific treatment of our favorite plant? Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, publishes the Orchid Research Newsletter twice a year. Download issues in either MS Word or Adobe PDF format from . Take a look at the latest issue and see several researchers’ ideas of the top  developments in orchid science from 2000-2009.

AOS Show November 19-21, 2010