Phragmipedium kovachii seedling help requested

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Nov 15, 2017
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Hi there. I won an EBay auction for a “medium-sized seedling” of Phrag. kovachii. Below is what arrived. I know EBay is always taking a chance and I took it. I reached out to the seller and received no response but below are photos of what arrived. The plant is tiny; I deflasked seedlings earlier this year that were bigger than this. I also don’t understand the potting, nor the medium(ia) that accompanied the shipment. Can someone tell me what the black stuff is and how to use it? I think the white stuff is crushed oyster shell but what am I supposed to do? I use crushed oyster shell that’s a powder. What’s the material outlining the pot and what do I do with that? Should I repot? Hopeful for this little being but...I wasn’t expecting such an unfamiliar bunch of stuff. I grow Phrag. besseae, couple plants, and a couple hybrids, and Phrag. longifolium. They do ok so far. The species plants are seedlings but were substantially larger than this kovachii. I use RO water and MSU fertilizer from First Rays and I also have his KelpMax. Explanation and advice appreciated. Thank you.


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I'm just going to say it. While it's hard to get a gauge of size on that seedling, if I were a seller I'd be ashamed to call that medium sized, particularly when it comes to this species. I hope it was at least cheap.

The black stuff is perhaps charcoal or x-small bark, I'm not certain from the photos. The oyster shell is supposed to help buffer the pH a bit towards alkaline levels and perhaps add some slow release calcium to the mix. Some folks mix it into the potting media, others tend to sprinkle a bit on top. Don't overdo it, though. I'm guessing the fibery stuff is coconut husk fiber, but I'm not entirely certain on that either.

Honestly, no matter what you do, this speck of an orchid may struggle. I'd personally repot it into a mix I'm familiar with. Chunky seedling mix with a bit of live moss on top would be ideal, but standard dried sphag will work as a top dressing. You can sprinkle in some of that black stuff, and add a pinch of the oyster shell on top. Then I'd keep in hydrated so that it never dries out, keep it humid and warm (at least until it gets a bit bigger and has more than 3 piddly little leaflets), in a protected shaded spot. Once it gets bigger (with a bit of luck and maybe a lot of time) you can increase light levels, get it into chunkier mix, and start treating it like an adult plant.
Was there a picture in the original listing? If not I would definitely request a refund through ebay.
I would say that if they provided a photo and you didn't ask as to the leaf span, then it would be on you not the seller. However, I do agree this should not be called a medium size plant. Personally, I grow phrag seedlings from right out of the flask to full grown in straight sphagnum moss. You should grow with whatever has worked the best for you.

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