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Ok, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself an orchid. Actually its a KMart rescue cause $3.50 was all I was willing to pay for a plant that I have no clue about. Don't worry, I understand the logic that it may not make it cause it was so abused, but I'm use to that. I figure if I can get it to make it then I've got all the issues figured out for the next one.

Ok, the tag simply said Dendrobium-- I know that doesn't narrow it down much as far as what kind. It is not in bloom, so I have no clue.

There are 4 canes, two have no leaves at all, one has a few leaves at the top, but most of the cane is bare and the fourth has leaves from about half way up (this one was staked when I bought it). It was potted in what looked like regular potting mix, with a lot of extra perlite in a plastic pot.

I have repotted it into a sterile pot of the same size, using orchid bark (I think Schultz). I soaked the bark before potting and since I had to soak the plant roots to clean off the store medium I have not watered it yet (about 1 week) although I have misted the top of the bark a couple of times. I guess I'd say the bark size is medium (although I've not seen any other size to compair---it is not fine). The pot size is maybe 3-4 inch and all the really fit was a small amount of bark at the bottom and some on the top cause the plants roots seem to take up the rest of the pot. Since these plants can be mounted on a tree, I guess this is ok, but it doesn't seem quite right to me?

All four canes appear to have a sheath along them (kind of looks like my lizard ready to shed). I think this is natural?

The two canes that have no leaves, one appears to be shriveled and pinched at the top, the other appears to be as plump as the rest of the cane. Will new leaves grow on these??? Are the to be cut back to ground level??? Do I just let them be?

Do I watch for new canes to come up from the pot, is that where new growth will be?
Will the canes with leaves continue to grow and get new leaves?
Should I leave the one cane staked (its maybe 5-6 inches tall) or is it to grow over the side of the pot?

There were no roots growing at the top of the pot that I could tell (would look like roots on a spider plant or pothos right)?
? The roots did appear white and in good shape when I washed off all the dirt so I didn't cut anything off.

Right now it is sitting on my kitchen windowsill which faces north but under a florsecent light a few inches above the tallest cane. The rim of the pot sits on the edge of a clear plastic container, there is several inches of space at the bottom of the clear container where I have put water (the water level DOES NOT reach to the bottom of the pot), I figured this would help with humidity. I plan to move the plant to an East window soon, but can watch it better where it is to look for new growth. I would not call the leaf color dark green, but I'm not sure HOW dark to consider it is not getting enough light (the color is about the same as the green of a grape ivy that is in the same window).

Ok---As usual, I talk way to much. Any thoughts on how I'm doing so far will be appreciated. Any of the areas above that end with
?? mean I'd like feedback in those area. Thanks so much, and looking forward to adding to my collection if this one works out.
lol Linda...I like your enthusiasm!

First off, congratulations on your first orchid. It will probably be one of many. hehe You have one that will be a good starter orchid. Dens are pretty easy. As for I.D.ing it...if its not labeled its almost impossible to know since there are thousands of hybrids and more being produced all the time. It will be fun to see it when it blooms and see what color you have.

It sounds like you've done the right things so far. With rescued orchids like you have, all you can hope for is to keep the living canes alive and hope you will get new growth. The leafless canes will not grow new leaves. They will sometimes produce what's called "keikeis" on them which are little baby orchid sprouts. Once a kiekei has grown roots about 1" or so long, you can remove them and plant them. I leave old canes alone until they become very dessicated and then I will cut them off. The "sheath" is natural...you can leave that alone.

I think you might want to try a little larger pot if there are four canes (even if some are leafless). You don't want to over pot them but it would be good to have some of the orchid bark around the roots. Get something the roots will fit into comfortably without being forced and still have room for the bark medium. Orchid bark drains well so water freqently but don't keep it soggy. Allow it to dry out a little between waterings.

When it produces new canes, it will be from the bottom. You will see them coming up. Sometimes the canes needs staking if they are a bit top heavy and might fall over or cause the pot to turn over. The canes can continue to grow and produce new leaves at the top but how tall they get depends on the variety...some get taller than others. But they will not just keep growing and growing and growing...like Jack and the Beanstalk.

Dens enjoy an eastern window exposure...bright early light but not too hot. They will also grow under artificial light. As long as your leaves aren't looking yellowish then I'd say their color is good. If they do start to yellow, I just allow them to shrivel and drop off on their own.

You can fertilize them every other week with an orchid fertilizer or you can fertilize with every watering if its a weak solution (1/4 strength). I use a little Superthrive every once in a while.

Keep them moist (and you can mist if you like but do that in the morning if possible), give them medium lighting and good air circulation and some fertilizer and you should be rewarded in the next blooming cycle with flower spikes.

Its very satisfying when you make a rescue and the plant pulls through.

Good luck!
Listen to Suzanne!

Just a couple of additional notes -

New canes will grow from the base of the youngest cane - which is probably the one with the most leaves.  So when you pot, you move the side with leafless (oldest) canes to one edge of the pot and leave the youngest cane close to the middle for maximum growth room.

Most Dens are only going to spike from the youngest cane but there are species that flower on last year's (leafless) cane. So it's possible that you might get some surprises.

Old canes are used to store water so I leave them on - if I have room in the pot and they don't show signs of disease.

Since you've potted in fresh bark, use a balanced fertilizer (eg. 20-20-20).  After the bark starts to age, switch to high-nitrogen fertilizer (eg. 30-10-10) to make up for the 'nitrogen draft' created by the breakdown of the bark.

Good luck and enjoy it!
Thanks Suzanne and Merlin,

I am really excited about this baby, wish it could stay in my kitchen window cause I love to just watch it for signs of new growth and I seem to always be at the kitchen sink doing dishes LOL. I will look for a slighly larger pot to move it into and will take your advise to heart. Thanks again, although I can't afford another addiction, my husband already goes crazy evertime I bring a new plant in the house LOL (I've gotten real good at sneaking them in and its weeks before he notices, so I can honestly say "I've had that one for awhile" LOL)
Linda...trust me...you are dealing with all plant addicts here.
So everybody understands. Unfortunately I have no one to stop me from buying plants and thats a dangerous thing! But I think sometime in the future...you are going to say..."Welllllll...maybe just ONE more orchid...mine needs a friend." hehe

Pseudobulbs store much more than water. They are food storage organs just like bulbs.

Being a midwesterner I would recommend more than just an eastern window for most Den. hybrids. If you can I would put the plant outside for summer in a northeastern exposure or under the shade of a large tree it would really appreciate it.

During the winter months Dendrobiums appreciate some form of a rest period. Usually with holding all fertilizer for the darkest months of the year is enough, some plants however require slighty less water as well.
During active growth Dendrobiums are fairly heavey feeders and I would recommend feeding 1/4 strength with every watering.

One thing no one mentioned was the need for a source of N other than Urea, it(Urea) must first be converted by bacteria to be readily available to plants, in the sterile conditions orchids are grown in that bacteria does not prevail.
And so one must provide another source (Ammoniacal nitorgen is what most manufaturers use). Personally I lean towards high end hydroponic fertilizers these were produced with the idea of a constant feed program with purified water, as a result they offer everything one could want in a fertilizer.
Thanks for your input Khai,

My outdoor choices are pretty limited, I will study my areas this week and see if there is anyplace accomodating but in a place where I will see it to remember to water regular. Most of my potted outdoor plants are full sun and I can keep in our sitting area so I look at them daily.

I was thinking all weekend about how I could get it to fit into one of my two inside terrariums, which would provide the optimum humidity and great light under florescent tubes (my nepths and many other tropicals are doing great in them). Problem I see is the highth issue of the Dend. The terrariums are planted, but I think I would want to keep this guy in the pot and bury the pot, but a quick eyeball looks like there will not be growing room for the dend even if the pot sits on the bottom of the tank (and I think I would want a couple inches of gravel under the pot to assure drainage). The tallest cane would be almost to the top of the terrarium. How tall do these guys get

OH!!!!!! EXCITEMENT!!!!!!! I see some new growth at the bottom of one of the canes, the one with the most leaves. So I guess something is working LOL

I will have to look at the fertilizers that I have at home and compare to what I need. I'm usually not much of a fertilizer person, but will have to get more educated in it I guess.

Well, thanks again and I'm sure I'll be back with more questions. And Suzanne, your right I've already started looking for the next one LOL
Since this is still at the top, figured I'd keep the same thread going. As I said before, I've never been much of a fertilizer person, usually ended up overdoing it and burning the plant. I just picked up a package of Peters All Purpose plant food, says water soluble 20-20-20; 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.

Now here is the really stupid questions:

Can I use just a regular teaspoon (like for cooking) or are fertilzer measurements using something else. This package does not come with a scooper--seems to me the one that comes with Miracle grow has scoops on each end (I assume 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon), anyhow, I dont' have any floating around the house and wasn't sure if they are the same size or not.

To get 1/4 strentgh as suggested by Khai do I mix full strength in the gallon of water then dilute that each time I water? I know, sounds stupid, I'm having one of those moments LOL

Is there a shelf life to fertilizers, in particular already mixed? If I make up a gallon, it could take awhile to use it up. If I shake to mix well with each use will it last?

Do I need to use distilled water on orchids? Between all my cp's, and lizard terrariums I am going through 4-6 gallons of water pretty quick. If I need to keep one reserved for just fertilizer I guess that's ok but was wondering if I could use tap water for the regular waterings and maybe flush the pot everycouple of weeks with distilled?

Ok, I guess I'm done with my questions for now but stayed tuned, I'm sure I'll be back LOL.

Oh Khai, I think I've figured out that I can put the plant out on my front mud room porch. I've had christmas catcus do well out there in the past. It will get west sun, but because the porch is enclosed its not the hot direct sun. I'll also be able to check it regular as I go in and out the front door.

Thanks again all, maybe will check Lowes this weekend and see if I can rescue any more LOL
Linda - a teaspoon is just a teaspoon
.  I use a 1/4 teaspoon measure from a cheap set of measuring spoons per gallon jug of water.

Orchids need 'good' water.  Some folks use RO or rainwater or even distilled, but I live in a area with good tapwater and use that.  What you need for them would depend on the quality of your tapwater.  If you do use tapwater, a thorough rinsing with 'good' water every 3 or 4 waterings is a good idea - it'll also help to leach out any accumulated salts.  

I don't think anybody's mentioned it recently, but when you water, you use enough water to run freely through the pot.  You might want to hold the pot over a sink or bucket.  Don't skimp on the water, the medium will hold very little.

Remember that orchids are very hardy - don't let an overemphasis on following the letter of the "rules" detract from enjoying them!  I remember reading that the first tropical orchids to make it to Europe arrived as packing materials!  Somebody decided to try to revive the dessicated plants and somehow they bloomed!  After that, orchids were kept in dark, humid, hot, stagnant glasshouses because that's what the Europeans thought that the "jungle" was like -and still they bloomed!

Relax, do what you can and enjoy
  • #10
Congrats on the first orchid!
Everyone has pretty much summed up the care, so I'm just saying congrats and GOOD LUCK!!!
  • #11
Well Id definatly recoommend you get rid of that peters food. Its worthless for orchids as far as im concerned.
Heres a link to some very goood fertilizer designed specifically for use with RO, Rain or Distilled water, with orchids.
There is no need to flush with this fertilizer.
(I worked for this company for several years,
they still produce some of the finest orchids in the country.)

1/4 strength would be a 1/4 teaspoon if the manufacturer was recommending 1 teaspoon per gallon.
The new locale sounds perfect.

  • #12
Thanks Khai, Merlin and Lithopsman,

Had a long weekend, so this is my first day back on line.  I guess I was having one of those zone out moments as my hubby calls them, of course a teaspoon is a teaspoon, duh---LOL

Thanks for the great site Khai, I will check into the fertilizer you suggest.  Of course, the site now raises another question--looks like there are two types of dendrobiums, the Nobile Type and Phalaenopsis.  The main difference in culture appears to be one needs a dormacy and one does not.  Is there a way to tell the difference between the two without flowers?  Based on the photos in the web site you gave the cane looks like the Nobile Type, but I really can't see the cane on the Phalaenopsis.  I'm going to take a wild guess that a KMart special would be the Nobile Type just cause it seems to be the most common based on all the web material.

Oh, one more question, how cold can these guys go?  My front porch right now gets high 70's (F) during the day, but is in low to mid 50's over night.  (Can you believe its the first of June and we still have temps in the 40's?
It better be summer till December at the rate we are going LOL)

Well, as usual, I tend to talk alot.  Thanks again all.
  • #13
Linda - there's over 1000 Dendrobium species (some say over 1400) plus numerous hybrids, so the choice really isn't just between Nobile and Phalanopsis types.  But if you want to rule one of those two out, this might help:  I assume that the Den you bought was in flower when it first arrived at KMart, so there should be a remnant of the flower spikes still on the plant.  If the plant is a Nobile type, you should see several small, twiggy spikes (or the stubs left behind) at the nodes on the upper half of the canes - or, at least, on the newest cane.  On the other hand, a Phalanopsis-type would have one or two thicker spikes (or their stubs) growing from the top of the cane.  

If you were on Long Island, I'd guess that you have a Phalanopsis type - simply because that's the only kind that I've ever seen in the local Kmarts and Home Depots.
  • #14
Thanks for the tips Merlin, unfortunately KMart must have wanted to clean the plants up before they fully killed them 'cause all there is is the canes, and a few leaves on a couple of them. I'll check the ones left in the store next time I go back and see if there are any that may have signs of previous flowering. Just like many of my cp's, looks like I have another no name and it will just have to live with whatever treatment I can give it LOL.

Thanks again
  • #15
Well, it was worth a shot. Can't say I'm all that surprised, tho. There's plenty of Dends that wouldn't leave traces of the bloom on the cane - not all Nobile types will, either. Time will tell, I guess
  • #16
The last count I read on dendrobium was 1100, second largest orchid genus next to Bublbophyllum.

Nobile type Dens also have a disticnt growth pattern as well as being an over all lighter green.
The base of nobile pseudobulbs are extremely thin and gradually become thicker towards the top with each node extremely exaggerated. Phal types however are usually taller more robust plants in general, thier pseudobulbs are usually fairly consistent through out thier length their leaves are slightly more turgid than nobiles as wells as slightly darker green in general.

I too find nobiles to be fairly uncommon in most department stores,  I know Smith N Hawken occasionally sells them.
  • #17
Thanks for the great info guys,

Based on Khai's points, I'd say the canes are pretty uniform in size from bottom to top, can't compare to say what would be thin but I'd describe these canes as being rather plump. The tallest cane is about 16 inches from the base of the pot (I measured just this AM cause I want to look for a glass jar big enough to cover it and help provide some humidity). Since it seems Phal's are more common, I'll give it treatment to fit them and see what happens. Looks like two little nodes are coming from the bottom of the tallest cane (the one with the most leaves). Not sure if it is a new cane or a keiki (sp?) either way I feel like my little rescue is going to make it.

Ok, my last question for the week----- Am I correct in understanding that flowers will be on the new canes and that as new canes establish I can expect the old ones to die off? Will the leaves on the current canes start to drop off as the new canes begin to grow? How many new canes can be expected in a growing season?

Sorry, guess that is more than one question. Have a good weekend all.
  • #18
Actually, my guess would be that those two little nodes at the base of the cane are root buds.  But time will tell

Given the way you've described the plant, I would certainly expect the leaves on a cane to drop as the cane ages. I would also expect that only the youngest cane would flower - but, as I said, you might be pleasantly surprised. You should start seeing multiple new canes as the plant matures -depending , of course, on factors like health, genetics and growing conditions.
  • #19
Thanks again Merlin, I love all this good info.

New roots, thats interesting and I will look closer tonite, but unless new roots are green and are growing up I think it is something else. At least one of the new sprouts is, I guess, close to 1/2 inches and coming out of the side of a cane, close to the bottom but not at the dirt level. It is green and I'd describe it to be segmented, kind of like this but growing at an upward angle: <<<<< . The second sprout I referred to is very close to this one and not growing as quickley, it may be a root, although I still remember it being more green colored (wouldn't root be white?)

With any luck I'll be able to move the plant to the front mud room this weekend, if the weather does as its predicted. Can't believe its the first of June and we had frost this AM. If nothing else, I'm going to start moving it out on the porch for the day and back in at nite if need be.

Thanks again, I love keeping this thread going, I can keep all the good info in one place when I print it off.
  • #20
Well, a 1/2 inch segmented green thing growing upwards isn't a root
. As far as the other one, the growing tip of a root would be green but the area right behind it would be chalky white. So if it's longer than 1/8 of an inch or so and still not showing white, then it's probably not a root either.