Cattleya root growth and mesh pots

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This past year I’ve been experimenting with different pot types for my catts. The mesh pots, especially the tiered transparent ones, have been extremely successful at promoting root growth when put into a slightly larger opaque one.
see first two photos. This is the select hardyana that was an import two years ago and needed some TLC to recover last year. This year it produced three nice blooms and as you can see in the photo, is now working on two more new growths. The base of the opaque pot is now a solid mass of growing roots.
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The second example is an unflowered lueddemanniana clone in a similar mesh pot. It went in last year and this spring produced two growths from the front lead and a smaller growth where I had cut the rhizome further back. It’s now producing a second growth from both the front and rear growths. Root growth here is not quite as crazy as the hardyana but still very good for me and my conditions.
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I’ve had to repot a large number of my catts this summer and what has struck me is how easy it is to overpot them and produce poor root growth due to waterlogged conditions. Its very difficult to do so with these tiered mesh pots. There isn’t much space in them for bark and there are air holes everywhere. So roots dry out quickly and have access to abundant oxygen at all times. The roots grow through the holes and spiral down and around the bottom of the pot. Here they get watered regularly but being in the dark, take their time to dry out as well as having access to plenty of oxygen at all times. It seems to be perfect conditions for root growth and if these pots were not so expensive, I would look to pot all my plants into them. So I‘ve found some much cheaper mesh pots, 12 and 16cm across, similar to those for water lilies on Amazon and am giving these a go. They don’t fit quite so snuggly into a larger pot, so may not keep the roots wet for quite so long, but let’s see what happens.
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David
 

TyroneGenade

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My experiments with mesh pots also shows the mesh pot needs to be inside a larger pot for best results. If not, the roots extended from the mesh pot tend to shrivel and die. I dont know how translatable this is to other growing conditions but in my drier air home conditions this seems to be the case. On the other hand I have mounted Tolumnia and Mystacidiums whose roots are fine. Catts might be more sensitive.

Thanks for the photos and information.
 
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Terry,
I think this is the one drawback of this system as the roots have grown through the mesh. You either have to destroy the roots or the pot. One reason to try cheap mesh pots. I’d rafter destroy a pot than the roots.
David
 

StefJ

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This has been a problem for years with slitted, slotted, holey pots. Some of my best sellers are the rimless pots with the slits in the side, but if you're careful you can sort of squish the slits to open them up and then slide the root out, other pots, including mesh pots, are much more difficult to extract the plant with intact roots. I'll be curious as to your results with the lily pots. I have a Cattleya Portia that has outgrown its 14 inch plastic (home depot) pot and I'm actually considering putting it in a dollar store laundry basket next!
 

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Hexagonal tapered baskets work well also. Re root damage: I tend to treat the mesh pots and baskets as expendable and cut them up to free the plants with minimal if any root damage.
This has been a problem for years with slitted, slotted, holey pots. Some of my best sellers are the rimless pots with the slits in the side, but if you're careful you can sort of squish the slits to open them up and then slide the root out, other pots, including mesh pots, are much more difficult to extract the plant with intact roots. I'll be curious as to your results with the lily pots. I have a Cattleya Portia that has outgrown its 14 inch plastic (home depot) pot and I'm actually considering putting it in a dollar store laundry basket next!
The laundry basket should work fine, lots of holes and has handles. Try to pick a nice subtle color…
 
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I really wish I could find some sturdy rimless clear pots, not slotted for catts. My problem is that the roots grow down, then are caught by the rim and grow together into a fused mess circling the pot. A real bear and very time consuming (even after I soak the plant for at least 1/2 hour) to separate without undue damage when repotting. I use the little gizmos fold by Quarter Acre Orchids in the bottom of all size pots for aeration. Basically turns any pot into a super aircone, so my centers tend to dry well.
 

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Hi David,

I've personally come to the conclusion that trying to grow species cattleyas in bark, in plastic pots and watering once a week is on the hairy edge of disaster with regard to root health and proper hydration. I'm inclined to paraphrase Ray that the problem most orchids experience is not too much water, but too little air. I've been growing more of my catts mounted, in wooden vanda baskets, in clay pots with an inverted net pot in the bottom or in a net pot placed in a clay pot, all of which dramatically improve root exposure to air. The net pots and vanda baskets definitely make repotting more difficult, but the roots grow way better. I think one of the ideal ways for in home growers with lower humidity is to have a round net pot inside of a square plastic pot or in the case above, a square net pot and a round outer pot. This allows slower evaporation, but great air flow. The overall cost of a pot vs. the time to rescue and sanitize it really isn't worth it. I just cut up the net pot to save the roots and then recycle the plastic. This requires more frequent watering in the heart of the growth season, but my plants are growing way better.
 
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Thanks Geoff, after this growing season I am coming to exactly the same conclusion. For me it’s clear that net pots within a larger pot is the way to go. Just what sort of net and larger pot you use may not matter a great deal and just be what convenient locally or on Amazon or eBay.
As I said, I repotted a large proportion of the catt collection this summer and things became very clear. The plants that may have been over potted initially never produced a good root system In subsequent growing season. They just occupied part of the pot close to the lead bulb, usually down the edge of the pot. Several times most of the new roots were above the bark and wound round the edge of the pot. This should have told me something, and eventually it did. Some of the more vigorous plants like purpurata or the hybrids may well do better in pots but for me it’s clear that many of the species need more air than is available in a plastic pot filled with bark.
 
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abax

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Why plastic anyway???? Why not slotted clay pots that can be soaked, cleaned and reused? Clay pots are
cheap and reusable. If soaking fails, one can always use a hammer and use the broken pieces for bottom drainage.
 

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My home depot sometimes has the slotted clay pots, but they are not nearly as available as they used to be. They are also difficult to ship without breakage, so are not a choice for online vendors.
 

abax

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StefJ, try Lowes. I buy clay pots with lots of holes all the time there.

David, perhaps importing is the problem with clay pots. The clay pots I buy are made in Mexico. Import problem?
 
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Angela,
maybe the air freight costs from Mexico to the Uk would be a bit prohibitive!
Pete, glad to see that a very similar system is working for you as well. Good luck.
Im going to extend this method to some of my hybrid phrags. I have a seed tray of seedlings that are growing extremely well, following the method of Tom Karina and his species besseaes. All roost are growing in a very thin layer of leca and rockwool. There are no holes in the tray, I just tip out excess water.
They are only 15 months from being deflasked but now need to be potted up. Good going for me.
I think my plants would benefit from more air round the roots even when grown in rockwool. I see several of my plants with most of their roots in the top half of the pot or very close to the surface.
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PeteM

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Angela,
maybe the air freight costs from Mexico to the Uk would be a bit prohibitive!
Pete, glad to see that a very similar system is working for you as well. Good luck.
Im going to extend this method to some of my hybrid phrags. I have a seed tray of seedlings that are growing extremely well, following the method of Tom Karina and his species besseaes. All roost are growing in a very thin layer of leca and rockwool. There are no holes in the tray, I just tip out excess water.
They are only 15 months from being deflasked but now need to be potted up. Good going for me.
I think my plants would benefit from more air round the roots even when grown in rockwool. I see several of my plants with most of their roots in the top half of the pot or very close to the surface.
View attachment 36301

David, I also agree on this front for phrags. I have been using tall net pots on all my phrags. The mix is large rockwool perlite and charcoal with a heavy dose of oyster shells and styrofoam peanuts at the bottom. In this mix I’ve managed to bloom kovachii and other seedlings that I have struggled to grow for years. I have been migrating all my phrags to this setup over the past year.

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Thanks Pete for the confirmation, those phrags look to be very happy!
The phrag seedlings are a sib cross of two exceptional clones of Lovely Lynne, both parents are supposed to be 4n, so the outcomes could be superb. Fingers crossed! There should be bloom in about a year.
 

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I cant recall seeing a 'recycle' symbol on plastic pots. I believe that means they would be 'culled' to garbage.
 

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