Clear Mountain Garden Treasures
 

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Calanthe

terrestrial
A plant that grows on the ground, like most plants do.Grows on or in the ground.
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evergreen
In leaf all throughout the year.
Leaves may persist for many years.
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deciduous
Shedding of leaves at the
end of the growing season
see also Plant Life Cycle.
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pseudobulb
A swollen stem found mainly in orchids
see also Bulbs, Corms and Tubers.
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inflorescence
A flowering shoot with more than one flower.
Inflorescences may be branched or unbranched.
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Calanthe

Calanthe vestita
Family Orchidaceae
Name Calanthe Spp.

Calanthe is a genus of terrestrial orchids that originate from Asia and Australia. There are two groups of calanthes, evergreen and deciduous.

Evergreen calanthes are usually hardy plants that bury their pseudobulbs underground. The shoots begin to appear in late autumn but will wait until the spring before they elongate and grow leaves. The leaves persists for some time on the plant. Flowers appear on new growth in the spring.

Deciduous calanthes on the other hand, tend to come from warmer areas and are not as cold tolerant as their evergreen cousins. The pseudobulbs grow above ground and are completely leafless during the winter rest phase. Growth begins in the sring with the appearance of new growths. These make rapid growth during the summer and autumn, maturing into new bulbs, then flowering in late autumn, at about the time when the leaves start to yellow and drop off.

For both groups, flowers appear on long inflorescences that may either be upright or arching. They are partly sequentially flowered, with buds opening at the top end of the inflorescences whilst old flowers fade on the bottom.

Evergreen and deciduous calanthes are genetically distinct and will not readily inter-breed.

Deciduous Calanthes

Deciduous calanthes make rapid growth in late spring, summer and autumn, growin a big bulb and flowering in late autumn. New growth appears at the base of the pseudobulbs around September. The pseudobulb can now be planted. Place the pseudobulb to one side of the pot with the new growths facing towards the centre of the pot. Pick a pot size to allow room for the new growths to form pseudobulbs.

Use ordinary potting mix to which chopped sphagmum moss and pumice chips have been added. The exact percentage is not critical, I mix an equal amount of pumice and potting mix, and half of sphagnum moss. Plant the old roots in potting mix and the base of the bulb on the surface of the mix. The level of the potting mix should be around 2cm below the rim of the pot. Mulch with crushed bark until the rim of the pot.

Start the plant in a conservatory, cool greenhouse or indoors. These new growths will not yet have any roots, and watering must be still kept to a minimum. A little squirt of water twice a week around the base of the bulb is sufficient. Once the roots have started to grow, more water can be gradually applied.

If grown indoors, around November, take the plant outside, and place somewhere bright, but away from direct sun. Alternatively, the plant be left to grow in a conservatory or cool greenhouse. Keep up the watering in the hot summer months, daily if possible.

Most potting mixes only have fertiliser that lasts 3 months or less. So, in the summer, apply a 5-6 month slow release fertiliser. Alternatively, feed at every week with a dilute solution of liquid fertiliser, say at half the recommended strength. It is important that the fertiliser strength be gradually built up. Start with 1/16 strength and increase weekly in 1/16 steps to 1/2 strength. Eg. Start in the last week of October at 1/16 strength, then a week later go up to 1/8 strength, then a week later to 3/16, and so on until you get to half strength.

It is important that the plant makes the rapid growth, so keep up the watering and fertilising. By autumn, the silver coloured pseudobulbs will have formed. These must be bing enough and mature before they will flower.

When the weather starts to cool, bring the plant indoors and keep a look out out for the emerging flower inflorescense. This will begin as a small swelling at the base of the new pseudobulb. Well grown plants may have more than one inflorescense per pseudobulb. Push a stake into the potting mix close to where the inflorescense is growing and as it grows, tie it to the stake.

At about this time also, the leaves will start to yellow and drop off. This is normal and should be allowed to happen. Reduce the watering and stop feeding altogether. If the plant is producing flowers and still have green leaves, some water may be given weekly. Stop all watering once all the flowers have expanded and when the pseudobulbs no longer have any leaves.

Stop all watering in June, regardless of whether the plant has flowers or green leaves. In some warmer years, green leaves may persist into the winter. If water is still given, the plant may not enter dormancy or enter dormancy late, and will not produce new growths in the spring. Stopping watering in June ensures that the plant enters domancy properly.

Enjoy the flowers, and when they fade, divide the pseudobulbs. Old, shrivelled or soft pseudobulbs should be discarded. Store the pseudobulbs dry, and in a cool, bright and frost free place to over-winter.

It is normal for calanthes to make a late summer growth on top of the new pseudobulb. This results in a pinched pseudobulb that is very brittle, so be careful when handling. Sometimes the new pseudobulb puts up new growths in late summer. These will not have time to mature and will only result in small pseudobulbs. The small pseudobulbs can be divided and potted up separately. They will flower after a few years.


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