Orchid Culture - Motes Notes
Monthly advice for orchid growers in South Florida. There's lots of information pertinent to North Florida growers too. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter so it will be delivered to you via email each month.
by Dr. Martin Motes, from his monthly newsletter and book Florida Orchid Growing
Progress of the Season
An exceptionally wet June has more than made up the deficit of rain in May. Coming in the expected pattern of late afternoon thundershowers, the heavy rain often followed by bright drying sunshine has been positively encouraging to our orchids in the midst of growth. The prolonged drought of May continues to yield benefits in the reduced development of disease pressure. This boon can be extended later into the summer by careful cultural practices.
Restraint on watering is chief among these. Our plants are getting all the water they need in a generally favorable pattern. Any opportunity to dry them "hard" by withholding water even when the thunderstorms have managed to miss our plants for several days, should not be missed. Spacing plants to ensure good air movement and rapid drying suits the weather we are getting. Bright light is important as well. Plant color should be a bright apple green. Too dark a color indicates plants that are too shaded and at greater risk of disease. Those of us who have initiated the spray program recommended in Florida Orchid Growing should be experiencing disease free growth. Remember it is never too late to initiate the disease prevention program set forth in Florida Orchid Growing.
Rain water contains low levels of nitrogen but also has the ability to wash away nutrients. Any time that a respite in rain yields an opportunity to water, think of replacing the water with water soluble fertilizer. The Michigan State formula or other low phosphorus blends are recommended. We at Motes Orchids find Peter's Excel 15-5-15 a satisfactory, readily available substitute. For hanging vandas, empty tea bags (for sale on line) can be filled with the low phosphorus formula of Dynamite fertilizer available at Lowes. They're great.
While we enjoy the cool air that those afternoon showers yield up, our enemies the snails are more enamored of the silver paths the rain gives them to our flowers and soft new growth. Snail bait is very effective when applied lightly and frequently. One pellet per square foot suffices and the smaller the pellet the better.
Those cooling afternoon showers give a head start to the overnight cooling which makes early mornings in July so delightful. Don't sleep through them.
Although the nursery is not open this summer due to our travel and lecture schedule, you can shop our online store 24/7 by visiting MotesOrchids.com. To celebrate the Fourth of July, all of our own Made in the USA hybrids are 25% when you use code USA2019 at checkout. Order fast, sale ends Sunday night!
We hope everyone had a great Fourth of July and wish you Happy Growing!
President, Motes Orchids
P.S. We've been uploading videos to Youtube on growing orchids, with more to come soon. If you're not caught up, check them out here.
January is somewhat like December but in reverse, with each succeeding day bringing longer hours of sunlight until days are long enough that afternoons return at the end of the month with extra sunshine to warm us after the extra sharp cold snaps. January, like December, is cold and dry, in fact even colder and drier. Dry is good, cold can be very bad. We need to accentuate the positive by especially... read entire article
Despite the bloom on the avocados and the burgeoning new leaves on the live oaks, February is not spring in South Florida. Danger of freeze continues past mid month and frost can occur still into March. Even if the weather is balmy, it's too early to let down our guard or take down any protection we have mounted against the cold. The trend however is toward the positive as each lengthening day brings extra hours of warming sunshine... read entire article
Whilst March never comes in like a lion in South Florida, occasionally it slinks in like a bob cat. Frost is not unheard of in the first few days of the month. The more cold sensitive genera, hard cane dendrobiums, phalaenopsis and vandas may well need some protection even into the middle of the month. Overall, however, March brings us some of the most ideal orchid growing conditions... read entire article
Far from the cruelest, April is the kindest month to South Florida orchid growers. The weather in April is definitely settled into warm, even deliciously hot, with passing cold fronts only adding the delight of a pleasant change in temperature. The clean, bright days brimming with abundant sunlight and the low relative humidity create the high drying potential that orchids love... read entire article
May is a month of transition in South Florida. Early in the month we can expect the driest weather of the year. Because of the clarity of the air and lack of cloud cover, temperatures rise rapidly in the late morning and can reach the upper eighties or nineties by mid afternoon before cooling substantially in late afternoon. Fortunately, over night radiant cooling rapidly dissipates the previous day's... read entire article
June is the most dramatically tropical month in South Florida. As the southeast Trade Winds blow cool moist air off the Gulf Stream daily, as surely the heating effect of the center of the peninsula percolates up massive thunder heads. The increased cloud cover drawing a veil across the afternoon sun provides much cooling relief for our plants... read entire article
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... read entire article
July and August are the two most similar months in South Florida. Most of the advice on watering, disease and pest control in last month's calendar still apply but subtle changes are taking place. Although it may not seem so, as temperatures climb into the low nineties most afternoons, summer is in retreat: each day a little shorter, each night a little longer. With shorter days the importance of watering as early... read entire article
September looms as the only truly dismal month in South Florida. Even without the prospect of the unspeakable 'H' word, September disheartens since it is easily the dampest, dullest month in the year. Although more inches of rain fall in June, more hours of rain occur in the often slow, seemingly endless drizzles of September. Frequently a day or two can pass without so much as a solid hour of truly bright... read entire article
We usually receive our first cold snap around Halloween, so if you are growing outdoors, this is the time for you to make your winter preparations. Check your winter structure, test fire your heaters and start cleaning your plants. With the shortening days and cooler temperatures, your plants require less water and fertilizer now. Observe the rate at which your plants dry out after watering and make adjustments, gradually adding days in between your normally watering cycle... continue reading
In November we can no longer afford to be dominated by the illusion, so easy here at the northern edge of the tropics, that summer will never end. Although Indian Summer persists for the whole winter in South Florida, November is the month to prepare our plants for those short sharp blasts of cold which are inevitably coming as each successive cold front pushes the overall temperature a little lower... read entire article
December marks the beginning of the serious dry season in South Florida. While this additional dryness provides relief from the autumnal rains that can bring so many fungal problems, December is also the month of shortest day lengths. This contracted period of light, on the contrary, reduces severely the drying potential for our plants. Nature thus both gives and takes away from us in December. We must... read entire article