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It was not an easy start growing Paphs in Brisbane a few years ago. There were very few growers as Paphs were considered hard to grow. Cultural advice was difficult to find and any cultural notes came from American books. About twelve years ago a Paph society was formed in Brisbane which dealt wholly and solely in Paphs. The society still operates and meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month at the Trades and Labour building, Peel St, South Brisbane. At these meetings the best Paph growers, local, interstate and overseas were introduced as guest speakers. Soon a lot of people were growing Paphs with great success. Some of the better growers around Brisbane were members and were only too willing to pass on any knowledge to the not so good growers.

I find the easiest Paph to grow and flower in Brisbane is the complex hybrid or probably better known as the exhibition Paphs. Experience has taught me a lot and I have had more than my share of casualties along the way. The first lesson I learned was never overpot. The pot size is governed by the root size and not the plant size. Small root system in a large pot quickly leads to mortality. The compost stays too wet and any roots on the plant had will soon rot. My compost consists of one part medium bark, two parts small bark and half a part coarse perlite. These are well mixed before use. Bark grades may vary from one brand to the next, but I am using AusGro and that comes in medium and small.

I try to repot every year, especially the smaller plants. This may sound too often, but the bark available now doesn't last long. If the plants are going to flower, they may have to last two years, but after that time you will notice how broken down the compost is. Any seedlings I find that don't do so well are put in a small pot of spaghnum moss until the plant makes roots. In some cases this can take a couple of years. My fertilizing program is nothing outstanding. I am not fussy about the brand but I am about the N.P.K. This has a bearing on your growth and flowering. I use high nitrogen until the end of December, then I use a low nitrogen until August, or use a balanced fertilizer all the year. I find Miracle Grow gives me good results although some of the purists frown on this. They say it contains too much urea. I use it at half recommended rate about every two weeks.

Watering is carried out every week in summer less during winter. Don't spray a bit of water over the plants and call that a watering. I water thoroughly then let the plants almost dry out before I water again. This is a difficult topic. It depends a lot on the position of your growing area, the condition of the compost and the prevailing conditions. A good idea is to have a few wooden stakes in some pots. If in doubt about watering pull out a stake and see what moisture is in the pot. My growing area has 50% shadecloth on the south, east and northsides with fibre glass on the western side. The steel mesh benches are about 40cm above ground and the roof is about 2.8m above that. There is 75% shadecloth on the roof. This may still be too much light so next year I might put slightly heavier shade above.

In some cases fungal problems may arise. These can be treated with Mancozeb. If the problems increase you may have to try something stronger. Good air circulation is vital and try to water when the leaves will dry quickly.

I hope someone will get something from this. Remember, this works for me on most occasions. I still have more than my share of problems from time to time but somehow I get over them. It is just that I love Paphs and would try anything to grow them well.

Kevin Cooper.


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