Page 1 of 1

Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2015 10:29 am
by peterlin
A customer wrote "My second question deals with growing Phals in Orchiata bark. I am very disappointed that after 4 years of growing my Phals in Orchiata bark (with repotting every year as usual) they are in decline. The roots have virtually stopped growing and the leaves have become very chlorotic. After putting some of them back in fir bark for a few months I can see new roots appearing and they are greening up. One plant I love (speciosa C#1) was especially hard-hit and I need to replace it if I can find that. I have heard of people having problems with Paphs in Orchiata but nothing yet about Phals. Is it possible the roots cannot withstand the changes in pH that occur with this bark?"

Re Orchiata bark, I use it for paphs. You can use it for phals. I don’t because I can’t keep up with watering. Even with paphs I add moss to the mix. If you do 100% bark – doesn’t matter fir bark or NZ orchiata bark, you have to watch out for nutrients. I fertilize very little with moss. Maybe 100% bark you have issue with micro nutrient deficiency. Its okay to add some addictive that retain some moisture. Also you shouldn’t need to repot/replace orchiata bark every year. That defeats the purpose of using it (not cheap). It’s aged bark it holds water well but here in North Texas its gets very dry. I just can’t keep up with watering using it straight. But I was in Taiwan last week. Brother Orchids is transitioning all breeding phals to 100% orchiata because it’s easier to manage with automatic watering (longer duration).

At the end of the day, you need to find tune what works for your growing area.

Anyone else who sucessfully grow phals in 100% orchidata would share their experience?

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 5:22 am
by raybark
When I've used Orchiata for phals, I've typically used the #5A "Power+" (1/2"-3/4") grade, with a bit of sphagnum, but in those occasions where I've used it straight, I went for the next finer grade, #5 "Power" (3/8"-1/2") for mature plants and the #9 "Classic" (1/4"-3/8") for seedlings. All are in Air-Cone pots, as that makes a difference, as well.

I am a very frequent and heavy waterer, always with K-Lite fertilizer @ 25 ppm N, and that works well for me.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 6:36 am
by peterlin
Thank you Ray. I will forward your experience to my customer. She is going back to fir bark.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 1:04 pm
by RandyT
I think the plants may be chlorotic because of the drop in ph after a short time. And roots LOVE good, fresh fir bark so her plant's reaction to it is very true.

Here's a few things I found out about Orchiata thru trial and error. I've been using it ???8 years or so. I grow a mixed collection of Phals, Paphs, and lots of Catts in a solid covered shade house. Plants are all watered and fertilized the same. Semi tropical conditions, 60-70 % rh, 60-95F, mostly very bright, catt light and some shadier spots. Only the last paragraph of all the bs below is really important.

The ph goes down fairly rapidly so I moisten the bark and sprinkle on some dolomite lime. This seems to buffer the ph and adds calcium and magnesium.

It's aged bark, so the edges are more rounded than the fir bark. Using clear pots, you can see that there is less airspace, esp. w/ seedling grade size.

It doesn't decompose as fast as fir bark.

It doesn't perform miracles like the seller claims.

It seems to me that root growth is initially slower in Orchiata than in fir bark, but doesn't die off like they did in fir. I probably left them in the fir bark too long (2 years and more) and the roots crashed. If I could repot yearly in fir, this would be reduced. After a few years in Orchiata, the root ball is quite large.

I made a side by side comparison a few years ago using fir bark, Kiwi bark (the brand of unaged Pinus radiata available in Hawaii) and Orchiata (aged Pinus radiata), all straight out of the bag, moistened and potted. I grew Den. d'albertsii out of compot into 2" sq. plastic pots. Very small test, about 10 plant in ea. media, not scientific, eyeball only. The ones in fir bark all died, some of the Kiwi bark survived, most of the Orchiata survived. In this case, the fir bark looked GREAT, smelled fresh and I thought it would work well.

I've grown in fir bark for many years. The quality has always been spotty. Sometimes good. Sometimes looks good, but plants react badly. Sometimes full of fungus/mold or some white mycellium like stuff. And often snow mold. When it is good, it works well. Sometimes, it looks good,but the plants crash. This is my main problem. This is what happened in my media comparison. If it's moldy, I just return it. (Sequoia doesn't have a see thru bag.)

The problem is when it looks good, but is somehow bad. You pot up a plant and in a month, it crashes. This can be a problem, esp. if it's that $$$$$ bellina you just got from Peter. With the declining quality of fir bark in Hawaii, it's not worth the risk for me.

I've also tried Kiwi bark (unaged Pinus radiata) with less than stellar results. The plants didn't die, but didn't grow. I unpotted them and put into Orchiata mix. I threw away the Kiwi bark.

I tried Orchidata out of the bag. Okay results. Not really good results in my conditions w/ seedling grade size. When I used the clear pots, I saw that there is much less air space because of the "rounded" edges of this aged bark. Fir bark and Kiwi bark are not really aged and retain sharper edges. This creates more air space. With large sizes of Orchiata, there is adequate air space. Straight out of the bag, I get good, but not great results w/ Orchiata.

For 2" pots Phals, I now use a mix of 2 parts #3 perlite or sponge rok, 1 part Pro Mix HP and 1 part medium grade Orchidata. This is pretty wet. This produces very good top growth and pretty decent bottom growth in my conditions. I tried the fine orchiata, but it was too wet.

For 4" and larger Phals, I use 5 parts medium grade Orchidata, 2 parts perlite and 1 part Pro Mix HP. (I've been using the one w/ beneficial mycellium and heard the one w/ bm and beneficial fungi is even better.) I moisten and add a bit of dolomite lime (not measured, eyeballed, and since my eyesight is getting worse, you can imagine how this is going.) Seems to work quite well. I think I'll add more perlite for the larger pots. The largest pot right now is 6 /12" plastic. This mix is rather forgiving of drying out relatively quickly when watered too often and rewetting when dried out too long. For me, this is important.

I top dress w/ Nutricote 13-13-13 + minors at 1/2 label rate, (again, eyeballed) and fertilize w/ Peter's Excel 15-5-15 Cal Mag at about 100 ppm N weekly, again, eyeballed. This is a bit much, but my light is very high and when I water, I flush very thoroughly. If I remember, I sprinkle a bit of Dolomite in ea. pot about 1-2 times a year. I'm using a 50-50 mix of AG 10 and AG 65. I may switch and just spray AG 200 in the future. AG 10 is fine, AG 65 is very fine and AG 200 is a dust and can be made into a suspension and sprayed thru a large orifice, hose end sprayer.

I think the plants are stronger when I use Dyna Gro Pro Tex at 1/2 tea./ gal water as a foliar spray till runoff, sprayed separately from any other product. I used to use it as a drench, but I think the ph is way too high to be worth the trade off between media ph and enhanced plant growth. If you mix this w/ fertilizer at too high a rate, it will precipitate out of solution.

Fir bark works best, but only if you can get good stuff. In Hawaii, the quality has fluctuated drastically, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes really bad. In good fir, root growth is very good for one year and the plants thrive. Yearly potting is desirable. It is cheap and readily available. If you have time, it's best to "float it", floating it in a tub of water for a day, and using only the bark that floats, discarding all the "sinks" and woody chips. I mixed my fir w/ perlite and peat. I used this for about 20 years.

Orchiata works well and is very consistent and long lasting. You need to raise the ph after a short time; I add dolomite lime. Supply is good in Hawaii, but spotty in the Mainland and I think, still unavailable in Canada. It is initially "wetter" than fir. Root growth for me is initially slow, but picks up after a while. I like it's consistency and longevity.

Personally, I don't use or recommend Kiwi bark for my conditions. Root growth is very slow, slower for me than Orchiata. It is cheap and supply is pretty good in Hawaii.

Adding 15% or more of any peat based product will greatly enhance growth. Peat can greatly raise the CEC (basically, the ability of the media to hold water and nutrients and give it back to the plant when needed), but reduces aeration. So I add perlite.

In other words, Orchiata works very well for me, but only as the major component of a perlite and peat mix.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 1:27 pm
by peterlin
Wow Randy. thank you. Really good stuff/review.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 2:00 pm
by hbozeman
peterlin wrote:Wow Randy. thank you. Really good stuff/review.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Sat May 02, 2015 1:09 am
by IrinaKurbatova
Thank you very much, Randy!

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Sat May 02, 2015 7:24 am
by doreen
Thank you Randy for taking the time to write up such a detailed report of your experiences with the various types of bark that are available to you. I appreciate the information.

Earlier this year Theresa Hill (Hillsview Orchids, known for her standard paph breeding) was at the judging center in Keizer, Oregon. She had potted her paphs in Orchiata bark and told us the results after a growing season - less vigorous growth than before and smaller flowers on her paphs. Theresa was going back to using the Rexius bark that is readily available here in Oregon.

I laid in a supply of Orchiata bark to use in my paph mix, like you I do not use it straight but in a mix. It seems to work well. I have used Orchiata bark in a mix for phals in 4" pots or larger. In addition to the bark there is peat moss, extra large perlite and some large pumice. That mix seems to do okay, the phals are growing and blooming.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:39 pm
by RandyT
This year, I've tried Kiwi bark again. Some growers were getting very good results with their Catts in it.

By using clear pots, I noticed that the fresh Kiwi is quite hydophobic, repelling the water and making it very difficult to wet all the media in the pot when hand watering.

By unpotting plants from my friend with uses straight Kiwi, I saw that the root system was very good. He uses irrigation. A couple of other friends who used Kiwi with good results also use irrigation. They all use relatively long cycles, 12 minutes or so. And often double water; water once, wait awhile and water again.

Remembering something a Loveland manager (Loveland is a surfactant manufacturer) told me. We were shooting the bull and I found out he was from Arcadia, FL. I told him I had been to a nursery in Arcadia with my friend Bill Fender. It was called "Sunbulb". Sunbulb? he said. "I used to work there summers when I was a cousin now runs the place." After that, he would give me all the lowdown on the hoe down. He grew some orchids and used one of his products, Respond 3 to help with the percolation (water down thru the media) and migration (water moving throughout the media) of the water/fertilizer in his bark. He really felt it helped.

So i buy some Respond 3...big jug for about $100. 1/2 cup in about 10 gal. water in a 35 gal. storeage bin. The Kiwi bark comes in a 2 cu/ft woven onion bag. Dump the whole thing, bag and all into the solution. Leave it in a couple/few days turning it over once. Since it's still in the bag, remove and drain and dry. Use. Using a clear pot, I see now that the water wets the media quite well. Now about a month and a half after repottiong, I see some new roots starting. I think this'll work. Because I think the ph will go down over time, I add dolomite lime. Fertilizer is Peter's Excel 15-5-15 Cal Mag at about 1/4 tea/gal. This is for a mixed collection of orchids and a mixed bunch of media; straight Kiwi, straight Orchiata, Orchiata mix and NZ sphagnum moss.

I had also tried just soaking the Kiwi in water. Took a very long time (I think like 3-4 weeks) and several water changes (when the water started to smell funky) for me to make the bark take water somewhat readily, more like not shed water. This worked pretty well, but required A LOT of time and effort.

I use Kiwi as well as Orchiata now as supply of both is somewhat spotty. So far, when one is out, the other has been available.

Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:45 am
by raybark
A few comments, based upon my experience - and we should all recognize that what is "the best" for one grower might be "certain death" for another.

>> Surfactants certainly will help absorption, but will also accelerate decomposition of the bark. If water can penetrate better, so can the cellulose-consuming microorganisms.

>> If you pretreat your Kiwi bark or Orchiata by pouring boiling, or at least very hot water over it, then wait 15-30 minutes and repeat that, they will absorb far more water going forward.

>> You do not want to soak Orchiata, as the dolomitic limestone added in the aging process will be removed, accelerating the pH shift. On that subject, in many years of using the stuff, none of my plants suffered from that.

>> From a mathematical perspective, totally spherical, uniformly-sized particles offer the most interstitial open space. I have never used Kiwi bark to make a comparison, but the excellent size grading of Orchiata was one of its best attributes for me.

Re: Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:24 pm
by RandyT
Yeah Ray, boiling water may be good, but not really feasible for me.

I add dolomite lime at irregular intervals to all my orchids. I find better growth with the dolomite as Oahu water has very little lime or magnesium.

I used to use Grow Wet with my Sequioa Bark for many years and felt it gave me better growth without a noticable increase in breakdown. I did repot at regular intervals and in those days, the bark was of pretty good quality. Over the years, I noticed a lot of problems with fir bark and looked for an alternative media after losing some really pricey Phals to what I thought was bad bark. Many of us noticed a lot of snowy mold after a short time and the plants would often die if not quickly repotted into fresh media....and since the bark had proven to be quick to mold.....

I used Orchiata for years even if it was very expensive as it had to be air freighted by pallet load of it from Hilo (thank you Fred aka limuhead.) Results were good, nothing to write home about, but very predictable. Plants didn't die and growth was good. I experimented with various mixes as well as straight. Results improved. Then a supply of Orchiata came to Oahu, but supply became sporatic. So began my foray into Kiwi. Initial results were poor, but the wetting agent seems to really help. I discovered that a couple of friends had been using a wetting agent with their Kiwi bark and theirs lasted for years, how long is still to be determined. My recent use of Respond 3 wetting agent is still at a young stage and I'll know more in a few years. So far, so good.

Growing Phals in Orchiata Bark

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:29 am
by raybark
When I grew in a greenhouse in PA, Orchiata was my primary medium for many plants, including phals, mostly unadulterated.

Using an automated overhead "rain" system, I typically watered three times a week, and it was a heavy rain of RO water plus 25 ppm N K-Lite, containing about 20 ppm Ca and 5-6 ppm Mg. I guess that might explain why I never saw any problems with pH shift...

Nonetheless, everything did very well in it.

Now that I am back to being a deck/windowsill grower in NC, and hand watering les frequently, all my paphs and phrags are in semi-hydroponics (unchanged from PA) with the phals and a couple of warczewiczella/bollea types in sphagnum. I do have some sarcochilus in Orchiata, but they're new, so we'll see.