Paphs in sphagnum....in baskets?

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noochka1

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Hi everyone;

I'm just re-starting my Paph collection after a several-decade-long break and I'm hoping I can get some pointers - or possibly get told off LOL!

I am in South Florida and have a sun room (it's fairly shaded - so maybe it's really a shade room) where I keep my plants. My average humidity is 45 - 80 percent depending upon the weather (the windows are nearly always open), and I am running a ceiling fan at all times.

As far as water and feeding are concerned, my water is alkaline (8.0 - 8.4 ish) and I'm feeding at 200 -250 ppm every couple of weeks with flushes in between. I think the feed rate is pretty high, but so far so good and I haven't noticed any burnt roots or leaf damage.

Anyway, in the past I've had terrible luck growing Paphs in bark mixes - even in the Rand's air cone pots - because I can't see what's going on in the center of the pot, and the plants always seemed to be staying too wet. So I've decided to try planting all of them in NZ sphagnum and hanging them in mesh baskets to allow for maximum airflow. My goal is to have them pretty close to bone dry in 2-5 days depending on pot size - which seems to be happening. The plants appear to be happy and healthy, but I'm still really paranoid because I hear so much bad stuff about planting in 100% sphagnum. Can anyone please tell me nicely if I have lost my mind? I don't want to lose my plants, but I'm pretty confident that I will if I put them in a bark mix. Is anyone else growing Paphs this way?
 

caffeine93

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I find spaghnum better suited for plants which require to be at least somewhat moist constantly. When it gets dry, in a way that I prefer my Paphs to be dry-ish for a day before the next watering, it gets kinda crispy and harder to get properly soaked. After a few such cycles, the moss is so crispy and hard that water literally slips off its surface and doesn't penetrate below at all...almost as if it was hydrophobic. Now, it may have to do something with the fact that my apartment rarely goes above ~40% humidity.

I'm testing the following basket setup for my Paph. Magic Lantern seedlings and it seems to be working very well so far: a wooden hanging basket (those that you usually see Vandas in) lined with hygrolon (water-retentive, but also full of small holes, thus keeping humidity as well as allowing airflow; added benefit is that it prevents small grade medium from falling between the basket's slits), then filled with a mix of smaller grade pumice and clay pebbles. At the top I put some synthetic spaghnum moss (Synthic brand) to provide additional moisture as it evaporates. This synthetic spagh is also very easy to re-wet once it gets dry. Overall, the mix is moist, but airy and inorganic, thus greatly reducing rotting issues as well as not decomposing, nor compacting as time passes.
 

orchid527

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I find spaghnum better suited for plants which require to be at least somewhat moist constantly. When it gets dry, in a way that I prefer my Paphs to be dry-ish for a day before the next watering, it gets kinda crispy and harder to get properly soaked. After a few such cycles, the moss is so crispy and hard that water literally slips off its surface and doesn't penetrate below at all...almost as if it was hydrophobic. Now, it may have to do something with the fact that my apartment rarely goes above ~40% humidity.

I'm testing the following basket setup for my Paph. Magic Lantern seedlings and it seems to be working very well so far: a wooden hanging basket (those that you usually see Vandas in) lined with hygrolon (water-retentive, but also full of small holes, thus keeping humidity as well as allowing airflow; added benefit is that it prevents small grade medium from falling between the basket's slits), then filled with a mix of smaller grade pumice and clay pebbles. At the top I put some synthetic spaghnum moss (Synthic brand) to provide additional moisture as it evaporates. This synthetic spagh is also very easy to re-wet once it gets dry. Overall, the mix is moist, but airy and inorganic, thus greatly reducing rotting issues as well as not decomposing, nor compacting as time passes.
A quick question, do the roots penetrate the hygrolon. Mike
 

caffeine93

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A quick question, do the roots penetrate the hygrolon. Mike
They're still seedlings, I've moved them into baskets some month ago, so the roots are not long enough to reach the edges yet, but they do seem happy judging by the leaf growth. I'll probably make a post with the setup a few months from now if they continue to do well.
 

Sky7Bear

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The key, as with most orchid genera is keeping a proper ait to water ratio at the roots. What you are doing may well work. Clay pots and moss are another option as is semi hydro.
 

noochka1

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I am somewhat concerned about what happens when the roots meet the edges of the moss but, at the moment, the plants are quite small so it's not an issue. I suppose I can just increase basket size slightly to accommodate them when they get close My other concern is over-drying in general. But I tend to dote on my plants (thus the problems with bark mixes) so I feel like sphagnum is a better choice for me. It's drying really fast, but I can catch it just before it becomes crunchy, and the plants seems to be responding well so far. What I'm really worried about is degradation of the medium, so perhaps a fully synthetic/inorganic medium would be better. I'll need to try that as well.

I'm trialing this method on some jackii seedlings, and they seem to be loving it - but I guess that time will tell.... I may be crying in a few months...
 
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Ray

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What I'm really worried about is degradation of the medium, so perhaps a fully synthetic/inorganic medium would be better. I'll need to try that as well.
I am really pleased with what I'm seeing with the LECA/rock wool cubes blend. I am leaning toward something in the 75/25 to 67/33 blend.
 

noochka1

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Thanks Ray! Is that with a self-watering setup, or a "standard" setup? Also, are your numbers LECA/rock wool, or rock wool/LECA? I don't want to assume. I usually do that wrong :)
 

Ray

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More LECA, less rock wool.

It is important to experiment. When I first went down that road, the LECA I had was a Ukrainian import from Amazon that was shaped very much like a medicine capsule, maybe 1/4” diameter by 1/2” long. The stuff I purchased at a hydroponics store more recently - CYCO Hydro Clay, from Germany - is a bit larger and spherical, so packs less densely, providing more air flow, so requires more rock wool to maintain the same moisture retention time.
 
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noochka1

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Thanks, Ray. Sorry to pester, but is this in self-watering or are you doing the watering manually? Also, does the fertilizer need to be adjusted because of the synthetic substrate?
 

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Thanks, Ray. Sorry to pester, but is this in self-watering or are you doing the watering manually? Also, does the fertilizer need to be adjusted because of the synthetic substrate?
Both self-watering and "traditional" pot culture.

Cultivated epiphytic plants get very little nutrition from the substrate, so the feeding regimen needs to cover everything they may need.
 

noochka1

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Great. Thanks a lot, Ray. I appreciate your advice. Now I just have to figure out how to keep pots out of "kitty range." They truly enjoy destroying orchids. That's one of the other reasons I went with baskets. I can hang them high enough to be out of danger LOL!
 

noochka1

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Hi all!

Just a quick update: It looks like sphagnum is not going to work out for me unless I can figure out how to get the TDS down and keep it that way. I'm using MSU once a week at 200 PPM - ish and even with 3-4 flushing between fertilizer applications I'm getting "output" TDS readings of 150+......

Do any of you paph pros have any suggestions :) ? I've been flushing with straight distilled water for over a week now, and the reading are (in my opinion) still way too high.
 

Ray

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Hi all!

Just a quick update: It looks like sphagnum is not going to work out for me unless I can figure out how to get the TDS down and keep it that way. I'm using MSU once a week at 200 PPM - ish and even with 3-4 flushing between fertilizer applications I'm getting "output" TDS readings of 150+......

Do any of you paph pros have any suggestions :) ? I've been flushing with straight distilled water for over a week now, and the reading are (in my opinion) still way too high.
If you're using a TDS meter, don't trust the readings, as they are very likely inaccurate. (READ THIS)

I feed my plants about 100 ppm N K-Lite weekly. The TRUE TDS of the three MSU variants at that concentration are:

MSU WW 530 ppm
MSU RO 740 ppm
K-Lite 770 ppm

So... if your meter is accurate (doubtful), you're actually feeding a lot less than you realize, OR... You really have no idea what your concentration really is, so are questioning the medium in your culture with no facts.
 

noochka1

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Thanks, Ray! The article is very informative, but I'm still stuck for a solution - or maybe this is just a perceived problem and the real problem is that I don't know if there is a problem or not. But I believe I'm seeing some leaf tip burn, which is what triggered my post - and if so that's definitely a problem.

The Greencare MSU formula I've been using is a 13-3-15, so I fear that I'm feeding way too much K at 200-250 ppm weekly dosing and since the packaging isn't particularly "home user friendly" in the way of instructions (I don't have an injector and don't know if I can use those formulas), I've been using my TDS meter to determine total PPM.

So you are absolutely correct: I am questioning the medium with no facts. But I do see what appears to be leaf tip burn so I think I need to change something pretty quickly. I'm just not sure how to go about that other than to move to a medium that's less fertilizer retentive.

I'm lost.
 

Ray

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Ideally, we would mix fertilizers in a mass-per-mass basis, which is what ppm is (1 ppm = 1 mg/kg). Unfortunately, most growers don’t have a proper scale, and absorbed water from the atmosphere would throw that off. However, one can get “close enough” using volumetric estimates using a simple calculation.

For a 100 ppm N solution, divide 8 by the nitrogen percentage on the label. The result is teaspoons/gallon to dilute. In the case of MSU RO, that’s 8/13=0.615, which I would round down to 1/2 tsp/gal.

For folks using metric measurements, the equivalent is to divide 10.4 by the %N, with the result being in ml/L.

Leaf-tip “burning” can be due to excessive salts, or excessively hard water, or being too dry, and probably other reasons, as well.
 

noochka1

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Thanks a lot, Ray.
I've decided that I'll keep the plants in sphagnum for the time being and to replace the fertilizer I'm using now with K-lite at the package-recommended level. That seems like the most straightforward solution since the dosing instructions are provided by weight (thanks a lot for that). We'll see how it goes. I had ruled out humidity since my environment is normally 55% or more (more often 65-75%), and I'm hoping it's not accumulated salts since I'm using distilled water - but I guess I'll never know since my TDS meter is a useless piece of crap LOL!
I'm also not seeing burn on everything - just P. sangii (which is incredibly worrisome), hangianum, spicerianum and some of my non-Paph species, so maybe it's something about their specific requirements vs. my conditions that is off. Back to the books.....
 
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