Orchid Wise

From the Orchid Wise Shade House…..Light and Fertiliser are King!

Every now and then we take a walk through the Orchid Wise Shade House to see what has been flowering or what else of interest might be happening. The Orchid Wise shade house is overflowing with all sorts! From species and primary hybrids to modern show bench hybrids and everything in between. You just never know what you’ll find! And this week it’s the importance of light and fertiliser…..

Today’s Cymbidium orchid focus is: The Importance of Light and Fertiliser

So today whilst walking through the OrchidWise shade house I did a little sorting, and a little spacing. This gives my plants more room to grow and spread out. And the fruits of my labour over the Winter and Spring were on full show!

My mission this year was to provide my Cymbidium orchids with more light over Winter. And the result was an amazing success!

I’m lucky in that I’m able to easily remove the shade cloth on my shade house. This year I removed the eastern and northern sides shade cloth. For those in the northern hemisphere that would be the southern and eastern sides. I did this for the second half of Autumn, Winter and Spring, and replaced it at the start of Summer. In all, for just over 6 months.

Winter was reasonably mild but Spring in Adelaide 2023 has been a cracker! 3 full months of bright sunshine in the mid 20’s C, no cloud and no rain to speak of. Amazing growing conditions.

The lack of rain also gave me the chance to implement a very thorough and consistent fertilising program.

What resulted was the most successful growing season I’ve ever had. By far! Every single plant has at least three new leads (even the really small ones). And in most cases many more, and on several plants, as many as nine! Both my modern hybrids and my species and primary hybrids have benefitted from the light and food. The species and primary hybrid plants probably benefitted even more. They look fantastic!

I’ve always known light and food are vitally important to grow awesome Cymbidium orchids, however this year has proven just how important is it for good growth! And the bonus is, light is also vitally important for flowering too.

So what was my trick this year?

Number 1 – Having my whole collection receiving full and direct sun until about 2pm, and then a shady afternoon under 50% shade cloth. I made sure this happened for over 6 months – May until November in Australia (November to May in the northern hemisphere). The light levels seemed to almost double in the morning in the shade house without the cloth on the Eastern side. The intensity wasn’t too strong and seems to have been perfect. My plants are still a lovely shade of light green indicating the light levels were spot on.

Number 2 – A regular fertilising program. I fertilised every week, at about half to two-thirds strength of the recommended doses. Using a combination of Neutrog Strike Back for Orchids and Wains Orchid Excellence provided a bit of variation and balance with the different nutrients. I also mix in a little Neutrog Strike Back for Orchids pellets in the orchid mix when they are repotted for some longer term fertilisation for the wet periods when I can’t water much.

My growing medium is pretty course with not a lot of water retention happening in the pots, which allows me to water and fertilise more regularly in Winter. It also diminishes the risk of root and bulb rot. On the flip side, it creates a bit of a problem in the Summer as they dry out very very quickly, so they need to be watered every couple of days.

Providing that much light and food during Winter has created a situation whereby my plants kept growing through Winter without much of a dormant period. Although the temperature dropped, more light meant more heat in the pots during the day, and I believe more nutrient helps with extending the growing period.

I can’t wait to see how all of this translates into the flowering season next year!

I’ll be repeating the exercise again next year with the light and feeding regime, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the light levels into Spring, so they don’t get over exposed and burn.

I cannot emphasise the importance of good light levels and a good fertilising regime.

Your plants will love you for it, and reward you with faster growing bulbs and better flowers, year after year!

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