Researching orchids: information overload

A little while ago, I created a post about researching orchids. It is a good idea to find out an orchids care requirements before you purchase it. There is a wealth of information online and you can also talk to orchid nurseries (if you are purchasing from them). But, what happens when you have conflicting information? Sometimes, there is so much information available on the internet, it can be difficult to know what is right and what is wrong.

Sarcochylis Hartmanii
Researching orchids is important, but sometimes there is too much information available.

A few months ago I purchased a Sarcochylis Hartmanii, one of my first two species orchids. He has been nicknamed Dino, because my partner thought his Latin name sounded like a species of dinosaur. He is a compact orchid native to Australia that produces small white flowers with red markings at their centre. A few weeks after I purchased him, one of his lower leaves started turning yellow and I noticed a couple of his roots collapsed and died. Fearing the worst, I searched online for some advice.

Research online yielded conflicting results; some said this orchid prefers to dry out between watering to reflect its natural habitat, others said it did not. Some suggested to keep it in a shady place, others said not to. Feeling a little frustrated with the different advice, I decided to conduct an experiment and work it out for myself.

When they grow, all orchid structures increase the overall weight of the orchid itself. New roots, leaves, blooms will add mass to the orchid and therefore help indicate whether the orchid is receiving appropriate care. So, once a week I weighed Dino before and after he was watered, recording the results on a spreadsheet. I opted to allow him to dry out between each watering, rather than overwater him and find he has developed root rot. For the sake of comparison, another orchid would go through the same experiment – one that I knew was growing well for me.

This may sound a little over the top, but not knowing why an orchid isn’t doing as well as it could drives me nuts! Besides, it provides an opportunity to learn something new, which can then be shared with others.

After a few weeks, Dino’s results were the same – he hadn’t ‘put on weight’. The other orchid I used, Aliceara Peggy Ruth Carpenter, was gaining mass rapidly. In the space of a few weeks, she had added 100g! Last week a wonderful thing happened; Dino added 3g to his total weight and I noticed he had started growing a new root and a leaf. This week he has added even more weight (not in the same league as Peggy, but it is progress).

Weight Increase Graph
Graph showing weight increase for two orchids.

The red line is showing Peggy’s weight increase, the blue line is Dino’s.

So the conclusions that can be drawn from this experiment are that Sarcochylis Hartmanii a.k.a. Dino, prefers to be allowed to dry out between each watering. If he was not happy with the care he was receiving then he would not be growing very well. Here’s hoping he will produce a flower spike in the not to distant future – wouldn’t that be a wonderful reward?

If you find yourself with information overload after researching something about orchids, perhaps a little experiment might help you. Use common sense, obviously, but you might learn something about your orchid that others didn’t know. It all goes towards increasing our understanding of these beautiful plants.

Happy growing!

Clare

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