Growing Orchids: March in St. Augustine
Based on AOS monthly checklists by Robert Scully and Ned Nash & James Rose, adapted to St. Augustine by local growers
General Orchid Growing Tips
Signs of spring abound with an abundance of emerging flower spikes and buds. The flush of spring growth will follow soon so plan your repotting program that should begin in earnest this month. The best time to repot is right before the new roots start growing so the plants will reestablish quickly. Watch for signs of mites, particularly on thin leaved orchids like the catasetinae and grammatophyllums, and treat any problems promptly.
Several species flowering now are C. amethystoglossa with its large heads of crimson and white blooms, C. aurantiaca that delights with clusters of small yellow to orange star-like flowers, C. skinneri carrying many clusters of lavender or white blooms or the natural hybrid of these last two C. guatemalensis. Soon sheaths will emerge on C. mossiae hybrids. Monitor their development so that moisture does not accumulate in the sheath causing bud blast.
Flower spikes are starting to develop and should be trained for their best display, although they are tender and easily broken. Arching or upright spikes display better if trained upward at first growth; some growers place a plant tag in front of the developing spike to guide it. Pendulous cymbidiums should be allowed to grow naturally and downward without any type of training.
Onc. papilio, the butterfly orchid, may be putting out the first in a series of many buds that will bloom through spring and early summer. Do not cut the inflorescence because it will continue to produce flowers year after year. Even though Onc. papilio has hard leaves suggesting it will tolerate a lot of light (like cattleyas), it is better grown under bright phalaenopsis conditions.
photo by Greg Allikas
The hybrid moth orchids seem to last in perfection for months. Certain species are starting to bloom like the pink Phal. schilleriana and spotted Phal. stuartiana that are both fundamental to many modern hybrids. If grown in New Zealand sphagnum moss, make sure the moss does not deteriorate before the flowering season because a healthy root system is important to sustain the many flowers.