From flasks to blooming plants, part 1: lessons learned

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Bjorn

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I am about o receive a shipment of 19 flasks, and in that context I thought that perhaps I should sum up a bit of my activities in that field over the last few years. It all started in 2011, in March when I received several flasks of different things, among which were emersonii, hangianum, druryi farrieanum alba and randsii. Not knowing how to treat these things I planted the flasklings into trays and placed them in the greenhouse.
This is how the randsii looked like:


And here are some hangianums.

Well I said that they were placed in the greenhouse; and that was not a good idea. Some of the plants succumbed rather quicly, like the randsii, others are still on a slow decline, with hardly any growth at all, succumbing to diseases and pests. The plants were potted after a year and I still have a fair number of emersonii and hangianums that are slowly dying. The feirreanums took a quick escape, only 1 or two left now. No growing. The randsii population was entirely wiped out.
Today, after two years, I have a few druryi that looks ok but not great, and perhaps five emersonii and hangianums that look ok. The numbers are shrinking though, they seem prone to all sorts of rot.
I soon realised that growing flasks did require other measures than growing mature plants (even if the latter has been greatly improved since then as well IMHO). This requires some special measures and I postulated some "rules" to follow for sucessful growing
i) flasklings are tender. They should be treated with great care. I normally wash away the agar in luke-warm water(30C?) and place the plantlets in rows in trays like shown in the pics. After placing themalong the edge of a ditch in the tray the compost is carefullymoved to cover the roots, while creating a new ditch for planting. Do not break roots! It is better to plant lumps of plantlets than to divide if they are difficult to get apart.
ii) flasklings are tender and prone to infections. The story of my first flasks(above) tells it all. This means that flasklings must be protected against infections. Which again means that 1) they should be raised in a protected environment away from potential infection sources (like greenhouse conditions). 2) Everything that gets in contact with the plants should be sterilised. Trays etc are either not used before, or has been washed thoroughly in rather strong bleach solution. The compost is sterilised. I use the microwave oven, fill a bowl with moist compost and microwave until its hot enough (boiling). After cooling down its ready to use. Flasklings are not planted in the greenhouse, kitchen or similar is better.
To take care of requirement 1) and 2) above, a special growing cabinet was erected with artificial light and heat and the flasklings were nursed in "windowsill greenhouses". This takes care of the requirement of high humidity (first weeks the vents are closed, later open) and also prevents cross contamination just in case. The cabinet and some growing results have been presented in another thread,http://www.slippertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=28212 so if there are repetitions please bear over with me. This is the cabinet with its front removed. That is my door and the photo shows how it looks inside

More info in the other thread.
Okey, I talked about requirement s for clean conditions, well its not 100% sterile. I use the water for watering from the greenhouse and as such it may get contaminated. I collect rainwater in a tank with a heater and of course many things end up there. I have found toads swimming around and also dead mice. More common is debris from trees, particularly during the autumn storms. To keep infections at bay I do buble with ozonised air. I am not sure if it is effective, but so far things look as if the water is clean.
Watering of the flasklings is of course necessary, and I use the same water as in the greenhouse. This means that it is always fertilized at some 200ppmTDS level. And it is alwas tempered. In one of the pictures above you see my watering can, that gets filled after being empties and let inside the cabinet to temper until next watering. Never use cold water. Temperature is maintained at approximately 17C at night and 26C during daytime (16hours). The first round in this new setup were some charlesworthii, regular and album, esquirolei album, sanderianum venustum and hangianum topperii and roth. They were placed in the cabinet in the middle of May 2011. Recently, the venustums flowered, here they are together with some of the other plants of that lot, mostly charliesboth types. A few survivors of the first load are seen as well. This picture was taken 6th of Jan 2013.

Since then, growth has commenced again and some plants rare really showing fast growth these days.
It may look as if everything is fabulous with my set up. That is not the case, so now I will touch the not so sucessful flasks. If we consider the above picture, I would rate the venustums as being very sucessful, the charlies are successful but not that much as the venustum. The lot contained other species as well, the topperii has been quite sucessful, the plants have aquired a size of some 15cm leaf-span. the roths are more mixe, here I believe that the choice of compost was not optimal, actually not good at all. Most of my plants have been potted in mixes very high in marble and dolomite chips. For some plants this is exellent the roots love it, for other species its not. For Micranthum and vietnamense it seems perfect, for esquirolei its not. Charlies seem not to care. Roths are not liking it either i suspect. Topperii is so, so. I do not really see differences in growth here. So, to sum up, the choice of substrate may be important. The sanderianums are btw. no sucess, but some of the plants seem to grow, although slow.
The next lot of plants came one year later in March 2012; and contained jackii, anitum, tigrinum, a new randsii, tranlieanum, micranthum.eburneum, two vietnamense and one malipoense.
Out of these, the micranthum, vietnamense and malipoense have been potted now. Some of you may have seen the pictures before.
The picture was taken Feb. 20 2013 and shows vietnamense in the middle, tranlieanums to the left micranthum eburneum to the right and one sole malipo from that lot to the right. All of them are significantly stronger today. I would say great sucess for those.

What happened to the rest? Surprisingly the jackii did not prosper, actually the opposite, most of them died, so now only a few are still alive. I suspect that i had an infection of phytophora in the tray. The anitum, seems to grow, but does it prosper? hard to say its sooo slow. I guess the compost is wrong and I will replant those seedlings into something acider.
What regards the randsii, I split the original into an acid compost and one with marble. Checking the roots of the plants after 3/4 of a year I discovered that they were quite bad in the limestone mix. They were planted together with the remaining jackii in a bark based mix. Tigrinum is notoriously difficult. Most of my population is now gone, out of 20 I have 3 left. They were together with the jackii so I guess its pytophora that got them. Extremely slow to establish though. I placed them together with the randsii and jackii and there are good hopes for the tree surviving tigrinums. This picture tells it all: tigrinum in the middle, one jackii lower left and in the back randsii. Picture was taken today March 27 2013.

close-up, note the tiny root coming! indeed a good sign! I did not see the snail until now, have to get rid of it asap!! How on earth did it get into the compost!

Randsii, seem to start to take off! Lets hope that it really IS randsii....none lost so far.

In October 2012 , I received my hitherto last flask consignement, this time another micranthum eburneum, helenae album, stonei and armeniacum.
Now, almost 6 months later, evrything seems to be ok with them all, the armeniacum and micranthum were quite small but comes along, and the stonei is pushing new leaves as well. Micranthum and Helenae album here;first a picture taken in January 14 2013

then one of today March 27 2013, visible growth during these 2 months, or am I fooling myself

Helenae close-up

Due to size limitations I will continue with Part 2 in another thread .http://www.slippertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=29236
 
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Justin

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That's great, i love growing flasks too and enjoy seeing others' strategies. I grow them inside the house, which i thinks helps with avoiding pathogens.
 

mormodes

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Thanks for talking about both your successes and failures. I've been unsuccessful with the flasks I've purchased for the same reasons you mention. Growing them in a greenhouse just isn't right. I finally moved them to the kitchen where they are doing a little better - well at least they aren't dieing. I'm sure all the professional growers are scratching their heads wondering how we can be so ill informed, but its not like this subject comes up very often.

Nice set up!
 

The Orchid Boy

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Nice informative thread. I deflasked for the first time just a month or two ago, some Paph. liemianum flasklings. For the ones that did well, about how long were they in compot before you potted them out? I'm thinking of trying a sanderianum, emersonii, or something flask next.
 
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Trithor

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I tend to buy most of my plants as flasks. Partly because getting adult plants into South Africa is somewhat problematic, but also because my greenhouse is pretty full, and seedlings don't take too much space for the first two years.
I have found the following two methods work quite well for me with an average of better than 80% success;
I obviously break the flasks if they are glass,
I rinse as much of the agar away under the tap with tepid water or cold water, provided that it is not ice cold,
I separate the plants if they come apart easily, but if the roots are too entwined, as frequently is the case with multis, I then plant them as a whole flask,
Of the single large seedlings, I either pot them three to a pot using a mix of fine pine bark (3parts), chopped sphagnum (1part), coarse perlite (1part)
Or I plant them individually with pure sphagnum in a multicavity tray with small cavities.
The 3 plant pots I use a plastic cold drink bottle with the bottom cut out. This fits nicely over the pot and encloses the plants in their own mini greenhouse. I water these with normal tap water, and place them on the tiled floor of the greenhouse under the benches. I only need to water them about every two weeks. I unscrew the cap after about three months so that the climate is more protected than general greenhouse, but the seedlings start to harden off. A word of caution, as soon as the cap is off slugs can get in, so I tie a piece of cotton wool around the bottle neck.
The individually potted shag seedlings are placed in a covered bench. I have found that they grow quite well and can be potted up into the same bark mix as above without the plastic bottle greenhouse.
Clump seedlings get potted in the same bark mix in a shallow dish type pot. These are more problematic, as it took me a while to find a clear plastic cover that fitted nicely. I eventually found a cheap plastic food storage container at our local supermarket.
The only reason why I started on the multitray was to further save space. I can plant out two flasks into a tray measuring 22cm x 44cm (50 seedlings)
I have found that some seedlings tend to do better with the one treatment as opposed to the other. So I tend to split each flask to each treatment.

I will try and take pictures of each of the processes to illustrate the above. I have had good success, with very little over-thinking the process.
 

Bjorn

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Obviously a lot of similar procedures and reasons. I realise now that it may seem as if my sucess rate is low, but frankly, with a few exceptions like the tigrinum, the sucess rate is normally more than 80%. However, how do you assess the sucess rate. Is it plants out of 'rated plants'? By that I mean if you get 20 plants out of a flask containing nominally 25 plants, then it is 80%. Alternatively the number of plants out of the total number? The latter is probaly more correct, but also more difficult. Particularly micranthum has had a tendency of getting delivered as clusters of plants. I have had flasks yielding 30-40plants from a 20 plant flask because of that. In principle I do not bother if I lose a fair number, my space is rather restricted and sale is difficult where I live. The real loss of plants happen gradually after they are potted, not during the flat-stage. And summer poses the biggest challenges being wet and hot.
 

Trithor

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Sorry Bjorn, my reply was not intended to appear as if I had a better way of doing things, or a better result, simply a very simple alternative with what I believe are fair to good results. It requires little expenditure and preparation. The majority of losses are due to simple lack of attention, and of course my birds in the greenhouse. As I pointed out elsewhere, if I don't supply them with nesting material (tilandsia unecoides works well) , they steal my seedlings for that purpose. Imagine finding your most expensive seedlings missing, only to find them dead and dry as part of a Gouldians finch nest a few months later.:eek:
 

ehanes7612

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i think with a greenhouse you have to be very careful about ensuring proper air movement everywhere..fungal and bacterial pathogens exist everywhere, you just have to be careful not to give the pathogens the right conditions
 

Bjorn

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Sorry Bjorn, my reply was not intended to appear as if I had a better way of doing things, or a better result, simply a very simple alternative with what I believe are fair to good results. It requires little expenditure and preparation. The majority of losses are due to simple lack of attention, and of course my birds in the greenhouse. As I pointed out elsewhere, if I don't supply them with nesting material (tilandsia unecoides works well) , they steal my seedlings for that purpose. Imagine finding your most expensive seedlings missing, only to find them dead and dry as part of a Gouldians finch nest a few months later.:eek:

I didnt feel offended either, just tried to point out that there are similarities and the problem with these statistics. In my greenhouse, I could never had the flasks under the shelves, it is simply to mucky and dark. By removing them out of that area the problem gets delayed and the plants more robust.;) I understad that you must be careful with those birds, I bet they prey on FCC plants:poke:
 

Paphman910

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Sorry to hear about your tigrinums. They are generally hard to grow from flask! It is not your fault as it doesn't like to grow roots in the agar medium for some unknown reason which leads to very high mortality. Found this out the hard way!
 

Bjorn

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Nice informative thread. I deflasked for the first time just a month or two ago, some Paph. liemianum flasklings. For the ones that did well, about how long were they in compot before you potted them out? I'm thinking of trying a sanderianum, emersonii, or something flask next.
I normally have them in the compot for six months to a year, but it can be longer as well. Depends entirely on their progress. With sanderianum and emersonii, you might expect longer. Bu as I said, it all depends.

Sorry to hear about your tigrinums. They are generally hard to grow from flask! It is not your fault as it doesn't like to grow roots in the agar medium for some unknown reason which leads to very high mortality. Found this out the hard way!
Yes, if you search this forum, you can read things that make my tigrinum flask sound as a sucess story;)
 

paphioboy

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i think with a greenhouse you have to be very careful about ensuring proper air movement everywhere..fungal and bacterial pathogens exist everywhere, you just have to be careful not to give the pathogens the right conditions

I find this comment interesting and thought-provoking. In a natural situation, most paph seeds are likely to fall onto the forest floor (excluding the strict epiphytes), which have all sorts of detritus (dead/diseased leaves etc are definitely more abundant than in the treetops). Therefore, how do paphs even survive if they are so prone to infection? Is it likely that out of millions of seeds, most germinate but then die rapidly in the early stages so that only a handful or less make it to flowering? Or is the germination rate actually low in the first place?
 

The Orchid Boy

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I find this comment interesting and thought-provoking. In a natural situation, most paph seeds are likely to fall onto the forest floor (excluding the strict epiphytes), which have all sorts of detritus (dead/diseased leaves etc are definitely more abundant than in the treetops). Therefore, how do paphs even survive if they are so prone to infection? Is it likely that out of millions of seeds, most germinate but then die rapidly in the early stages so that only a handful or less make it to flowering? Or is the germination rate actually low in the first place?

It could be that these paphs in cultivation are more prone to rot and infection because we provide very nice conditions for them and they are bred and are far in realtions to their wild relatives; in the wild they have to get tough or die. There also may be a lot more air movement in the wild.
 
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goldenrose

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WOW! I know what flasks I'd really be leery of trying! Kudos to your continued effort! I'm thinking along the same lines as paphioboy.
About a month ago I got 2 flasks from Marni Turkel, obviously not paphs, they are doing great & went straight to my greenhouse. One was Dend. cuthbertsonii, in which I left the 3 smallest in a mini-compot, I ran out of clay pots so that seemed that practical thing to do. Just a few days ago I got some little clay pots, pulled the 3 from the mini compot and I could see some new root growth on all of them so into individual pots they went! The other flask was Dend./Dock. teretifolia, which I'm am in absolute love with! Marni's suggestion was to mount them ASAP, which I did with most of them. I had about a dozen left, wasn't sure if I'd sell or trade so I planted them in a shallow compot. The mounts went straight to the greenhouse, the compot stayed in my house in a south window. When watering a few days ago, it appeared that maybe one of the plants in the compot had a bit of rot. Sure enough, rotted at the crown so with that I immediately mounted the rest of them & made room in the GH next to the others. I hadn't realized until they were side by side, a month later, the ones that started in the GH from day one were 2-3 times bigger than the ones inside my house!
 

Bjorn

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I am hoping to beat your odds!

You got one from OI (tigrinum)? If so, good luck and keep it sterile or sprayed like Roth advise. Much can be gained by the right conditions, I feel that in my case it might partly have been due to wrong pH and partly because of that unfortunate infection (guss its phytophora).
 

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