Live sphagnum moss for paphs

Slippertalk Orchid Forum

Help Support Slippertalk Orchid Forum:

hardy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2009
Messages
443
Reaction score
8
Location
Malang, Indonesia
26.jpg


I've read several accounts on the use of live sphagnum for orchids, either in
orchid magazines or in online sources. I first became interested in live
sphagnum for growing carnivorous plants, but became inspired to try that for
paphs after reading an article by Lance Birk in the October 1970 issue of
Orchid Digest magazine. Lance also wrote a thread about it some while ago:

http://www.slippertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2245

I've tried live sphagnum myself for a small number of paphs big and small, and
have had great results. I'm sharing my experience here, hope you'll find it
useful


How to get live sphagnum moss?

Sphagnum naturally grows in boggy areas in temperate climates, and can
even be found in tropical climate in montane habitats. It may be collected
legally in some areas, but sometimes it may not. One of the ways to obtain
live sphagnum is by coincidence. Dried sphagnum can regenerate new
sprouts under favorable conditions. I'm using Chilean sphagnum, which
contains mainly the red species S. magellanicum. I find that it regenerates
quite readily, and have found the live form growing by itself in the pots of
orchids that are given moist/wet cycle, or in potted carnivorous plants kept
wet under very high humidity. Below is a picture of regeneration in a potted
maudiae type hybrid.

61.jpg


4-272.jpg



The same pot, after several months:
63.jpg


The paph was grown with the medium kept from moist to wet in a clear pot
and as you can see the moss was sprouting near the pot sides. Under such
condition, the sphagnum does not develop its characteristic capitulum, but
grows in thin, individual long shoots. A capitulum is one defining feature of
the genus sphagnum, and is the flower-like structure you see at the apical
end of each shoot. But young sphagnum or sphagnum grown in shady
conditions sometimes do not develop the capitula, or develop these poorly.
Which brings the point about how to look for live sphagnum when other
mosses are also present. Here is a picture of a few shoots of live sphagnum
sprouting on a surface that has other mosses on it.

73.jpg


In this case the capitulum has not developed, but the moss can be identified by the
similar look to the dried sphagnum it comes from. The other mosses are
distinctly different. Quite often live sphagnum will sprout on sphagnum
medium surface that is kept moist to wet, but won't survive long enough to
produce the capitula that will distinguish it right away.

Live sphagnum moss is quite common stuff among the carnivorous plant
lovers, so if you cannot get them yourself, you very likely can get some from
your CP-er friends.


Culture of live sphagnum moss

When you get hold of live sphagnum moss, you can grow it on a bed of
sphagnum moss medium soaked in clean or peaty water. I propagate mine
by cutting off the capitula of the live moss and insert them onto new
beds of sphagnum. Frequent watering from the top with good quality water
helps to keep the moss alive. At low temperatures, the moss grows
vigorously and can be grown in full sun, but when the summer is hot it needs
some protection from direct sunlight. I've also grown live sphagnum
successfully under lights in an air-conditioned room. Here are some pics:

25.jpg

Grown under lights


71.jpg

Grown under full sun in winter. This is a very compact green sphagnum species sprouting out from Chilean sphagnum.


72.jpg

The red Chilean sphagnum S. magellanicum at the end of summer, grown outdoors in dappled shade.

There are some cool links that contain more details about the culture of live
sphagnum. These have helped me so much and gave me so much reading
pleasure about a year ago when I was truly crazy about sphagnum mosses, hehe :D

http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/Resources/Fletcher.pdf (Chapter 3 - Sphagnum Growing)

http://bluegrasscarnivores.com/
 
Last edited:

hardy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2009
Messages
443
Reaction score
8
Location
Malang, Indonesia
Using live sphagnum as a medium for paphs

Lance Birk has stated before that sphagnum moss is magic stuff for paphs. I've
found this to be so true. I can keep the bases of paphs sopping wet yet
they seem to be protected from rots, and the live moss quicky promotes an
initial flush of root growth. That's why I think it is one of the best growing
medium for salvaging a paph. From mature division, newly deflasked seedlings,
to ailing plants, they seem to respond similarly to live sphagnum. Of course
we can save our paphs in a variety of growing media, but we can keep them
sopping wet with little fear of rot in live sphagnum, which is a great advantage
for plants with little or no roots on them.

I harvest my sphagnum moss for use by cutting a few centimeters off my
sphagnum lawn, leaving the bottom one or two centimeters of stumps, which
can sprout again. When potting the paphs, I try to keep the vertical
orientation of the capitula. Both loose or firmer potting can work quite well.
After potting, I either dunk the pots in shallow clean water, or frequently
water the moss. I usually fertilize my paphs by soaking the medium with 1/6
to 1/10 recommended concentration of fertilizer, but drenching live
sphagnum with this fertilizer solution kills it in a matter of days. When the
moss has grown too tall, I simply press the capitula down to a lower level in
the pot.

My first example is a group of Paph thaianum seedlings. I first grew them into
the usual sphagnum moss medium with wet to moist cycles, yet they did not
do very well, and some leaves began to rot. I consulted the nurseries I
bought my flasks from and they both confirmed that Paph thaianum is a
difficult one from flask. I quickly transferred them to live sphagnum after a
few months of very poor growth and they quickly recovered.

64.jpg

Newly repotted into live sphagnum. Note the damaged leaves due to rot in the larger compot.


21.jpg

Good root growth few weeks after transfer to live sphagnum.


65.jpg

How the large compot looks today. It has been grown in live sphagnum a
little more than a year. It's been kept in very wet conditions. Note how the
moss has grown rampant. It wicks water up the leaves causing some salt
deposits on them. Time to press down the sphagnum and rinse the plants!


66.jpg

At almost two years from flask, the largest of the lot have leafspans of 3 to 4 inches.


I've also tried live sphagnum for growing Paph sanderianum seedlings. They
responded very well, producing healthy growth in the next one or two years.
I had one seedling losing all its roots due to careless deflasking. After two
weeks in live sphagnum, it grew four roots about 1-cm long. That's what I
call magic! I've salvaged the smallest sanderianum flasklings this way too.

22.jpg


IMG_2877.jpg



I divided a four-growth, one-stolon Paph. Fanaticum, which had been grown
in a bark mix, into 3 divisions and single stolon, and I repotted them in live
sphagnum. The old roots adapted well to the new medium, and they grew
really nice new roots as well.

67.jpg


68.jpg


69.jpg


However, I think there is a caveat to using live sphagnum long-term for paph.
It is difficult to provide extra nutrients to the paph without killing the
sphagnum. It is actually possible to fertilize the sphagnum moss by very
light sprinkling of dilute fertilizer over the capitula, but these probably will not
be available to the paph anyway. Therefore, even though the roots of the
plants grow well, they will slowly be staved of nutrients, which may make it
unsuitable for long term culture. In an article in AOS magazine I believe, Disa
grows very healthy roots in live sphagnum but the shoots grow poorly. Also,
owing to the extreme acidity of live sphagnum, some paphs that prefer
neutral to slightly basic medium may suffer in it (mentioned somewhere in
ladyslipper.com). There's an article in an orchid magazine (forgot which one)
about the use of live sphagnum for paphs in Germany, where it's said the standard
complex type do not do well in it. I have not tried live sphagnum for standard
paph, but I find it to be quite unsuitable for maudiae-type seedlings. They
can grow beautiful roots initially, but shoot growth is very poor, much slower
than those seedlings grown in the usual sphagnum moss medium.

70.jpg



Growing sphagnum as a hobby in its own right

After getting to cultivate some live sphagnum I was hooked. I wanted to
learn as much as possible about them. The handbook provided by the
Bristish Bryological Society (one of the links above) was a great enabler for
me. I was intrigued by the colorful descriptions of the colored sphagnum
species. I soon noticed that the the dried Chilean sphagnum is mostly
brownish red, which I later found to be Sphagnum magellanicum, yet the live
moss I had kept were mostly green, just with the occasional pink tinge.

76.jpg


The handbook stated that bright light is necessary for the colors to come out,
but mine grown in full sun in the winter were just slightly pigmented. I was
intrigued so I tried to find information about them on the net. Luckily I found
a few scientific papers stating that a drop in nightime temperature to
cold conditions is mainly responsible to induce the coloring. Ah, so that is it!
But mine was still just lightly colored despite the cool winters here. One day I
had some excess NAA powder after dipping my rose cuttings, so I sprinkled
some on my S. magellanicum grown indoors. Voila! I got deep red sphagnum
in a few weeks! Yuppee!

74.jpg


For those of you who might want to know the growing conditions, this small
cup of sphagnum was grown in bright light (5-cm from fluorescent tube), in
an air-con room with 25 degrees minimum.

I got hooked even deeper, and exchanged some sprigs of sphagnum with a
couple of overseas friends online, so that at the peak of my craziness I had
11 distinct sphagnum.

75.jpg


62.jpg


77.jpg


Beautiful, aren't they? Unfortunately last year was a rough year for me. I had
to relocate and stuff, and most of these didn't survive. Well, I've lost many
plants under my care, but my lost sphagnum is among those I miss the most
and feel quite bad about.

Finally, here's a highly enabling link about the sphagnum species from Britain:

http://hosting.sleath.co.uk/bbs/mosses_nz.php



Phew! That's the looongest post I have ever written in a forum. Hope you have enjoyed reading it! Cheers.
 

Leo Schordje

wilted blossom
Joined
Aug 22, 2006
Messages
2,474
Reaction score
29
Location
NE Illinois
Thank you, you have inspired me to try my hand again at growing sphagnum. I want to try to raise the local native Sarracinia species, and for that one definitely needs live sphagnum, but it also is a very beautiful. Thanks
 

likespaphs

some call me brian
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,260
Reaction score
16
Location
Cape Cod
wow!
that was absolutely fantastic!!!!!!!
thank you so very much!
i've tried to grow sphag but without success. you have really given me some great ideas!!
thanks again!
 
M

Mrs. Paph

Guest
Thankyou for sharing! I really appreciate the info and the pictures to go with it! I would love to become just enough of a sphagnum nut to be able to have some on hand for plants needing a boost or perhaps even to grow more longterm if possible...have you tried foliar feeding the plants? Perhaps make sure the moss is pushed down, hold the plant in the pot sideways and spray the foliage with your fertilizer mix so it's getting to the plant rather than drenching down through the live sphagnum? Yes you'd have to lift up individual pots and tip them sideways to fertilize, but it could be a worthwhile experiment to try! :) I still grow indoors under lights anyway, so all my plants go over a large plastic tub to get watered! All I've been able to do so far is make sure the tiny regenerated pieces of moss along the sides of my pots (clear) gets transferred to the new pot when I repot - they don't grow nearly as much as the one you showed, but I've had a few continue from year to year, pot to pot and like to see the humid pockets they create for the roots to grow into.
 

NYEric

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2006
Messages
49,635
Reaction score
793
Location
New York City Apartment
Very interesting and well developed. I agree sphagnum is an interesting and beneficial medium, unfortunately it is as common in the NYC area as $4 bills. :(
 

Paul

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
2,043
Reaction score
4
Location
France
Very good article, thank you for sharing your experience!!

I have tried to use living sphagnum but too hard to let it alive with salts, even quite low. Now in the media, I put some moss I find in the garden (where the grass is very poor, under trees where it's humid). when the moss is well established it's quite salt tolerant (about 500-600µS/cm waterings). and makes strong roots with all kind of species.
 
E

Ernie

Guest
Thank you, you have inspired me to try my hand again at growing sphagnum. I want to try to raise the local native Sarracinia species, and for that one definitely needs live sphagnum, but it also is a very beautiful. Thanks

Leo,

Stop by our old place. I left several square feet of it growing in the back yard between the AC unit and the house. :) Kicking myself for not bringing it down. Have lots of apps for it here and now have to start from scratch.
 
B

breeindy

Guest
I grow my paphs in bark and only get to water them once a week or so but when i repot i always get rotted roots. I shouldn't grow in moss should i? I can't belive you keep the moss wet and don't rot the paphs!
 

Ricky

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2010
Messages
216
Reaction score
0
Location
Chiang Mai, Thailand
I can't belive you keep the moss wet and don't rot the paphs!

Live sphagnum produces a low pH that fungi and bacteria don´t like, it is antibiotic.

But never forget to change your sphagnum at least after 2 years. It will compact and rot at the bottom and than the roots will "suffocate".
 
B

biothanasis

Guest
Amazingly interesting info in this thread!!!!!!!! Thanks a million!!!!

Paul, do you "clean" the moss before applying it to the pots? If yes, how?

Ricky and Hardy, do you think paphs can be grown in sphagnum, live or not, if it is loosen up every year or two??
 

JeanLux

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2007
Messages
15,561
Reaction score
39
Location
Luxembourg - Europe
[ Phew! That's the looongest post I have ever written in a forum. Hope you have enjoyed reading it! Cheers.

Really an excellent presentation of your experience!!!!! Thanks Hardy


Very good article, thank you for sharing your experience!!

I have tried to use living sphagnum but too hard to let it alive with salts, even quite low. Now in the media, I put some moss I find in the garden (where the grass is very poor, under trees where it's humid). when the moss is well established it's quite salt tolerant (about 500-600µS/cm waterings). and makes strong roots with all kind of species.

Interesting Paul! I too started this summer using my 'garden' moss, but it is too early to see if it really helps; nevertheless, some of my Stanhopeas grown in baskets with moss responded very positively, by bringing up new roots and growths! Jean
 

Leo Schordje

wilted blossom
Joined
Aug 22, 2006
Messages
2,474
Reaction score
29
Location
NE Illinois
Leo,

Stop by our old place. I left several square feet of it growing in the back yard between the AC unit and the house. :) Kicking myself for not bringing it down. Have lots of apps for it here and now have to start from scratch.

Thanks Ernie,
But the new residents might not appreciate me snooping in their yard. I can see it now, me skulking around at midnight with a flashlight, looking for moss :evil: and the new residents, who only grow 'dirt plants' just not being understanding. ;)
 

hardy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2009
Messages
443
Reaction score
8
Location
Malang, Indonesia
Thank you all, for your kind comments ^_^

Thanasis, I think sphagnum needs to be replaced from time to time, because it turns into something nasty as it decomposes. If allowed to dry between waterings, it can stay good for longer periods. :)
 
Top