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Well, you’ve finally got your hot little hands on that hard to get orchid at long last. Only trouble is, it’s in a bottle, and how do you get it out of that and flowering in a six inch pot? Not so easily as you would hope.

The little babies are fragile and delicate, so check the bottle to see if they are big enough to come out. If not, place the flask in a well lighted area, near a southern or northern window, but out of direct sunlight which will cook the seedlings. When the seedlings are large enough for you to handle, harden them off by placing the flask under about 90% shade. DRY for several days. Again, closer to a window for the extra light will do.

Prepare your work area with a sheet of clean newspaper on the bench. Make sure the pot is clean, and the potting media is sterile. A mixture of fine bark, perlite, isolite and shredded spaghnam moss should do, 4:1:2:0.5. Spaghnam moss is used alone by a lot of experienced growers, but locally, it tends to break down rapidly. Peat moss should be sterilised wet in an oven bag, 10 minutes in the microwave, if perlite and peat moss is your choice.

The biggest danger to flask seedlings is soil and water borne pathogens, so keep everything clean. Remove the seedlings from the bottle, either by washing them out or breaking the bottle. Wash the seedlings in warm water, not cold, so that all the agar gel is removed. Place the seedlings on a clean sheet of newspaper and allow to dry to dampness. With a small pot well crocked, pot the seedlings together into a community pot. They like to be together, and will do better this way than potted singly. About an inch of potting media is all that is required. Water the pot well, and allow to drain. There is a product called "envy", which can be sprayed onto the seedlings. This coats the leaves and helps prevent the seedlings drying out. It is an aid, not an essential.

To protect the seedlings, it is a good idea to use a humidity crib. A coolite box with two inches of wet sand in the bottom and a sheet of glass over the top will do. Sit the pot of seedlings on the wet sand. Cling wrap can also be used with a few holes punched in it to allow air movement. If a sheet of glass is used, ensure it is not sealing the top of the box, as some ventilation is needed. A few notches cut into the box will allow air in.

Most seedlings die from Too Much Water. For the next few days, very lightly mist the leaves. Frequent light misting will prevent dehydration and encourage new root growth without keeping the media wet. After a few days, the cover can be partly removed and the seedlings watered so that they are just damp but not wet. Hormone formula and very weak fertiliser can then be used and as the seedlings establish, the cover can be removed altogether.

For the first couple of weeks, fungicides should not be used on the seedlings, as a growth inhibiting effect can be caused by fungicides. If there is a problem with fungus or mould, it means the conditions are too wet, so cut water, ensure ventilation is sufficient, and let the seedlings dry out a bit. In fact, most fungus problems in an orchid house can be fixed by reducing water and increasing ventilation.

Once the seedlings are established and grown to their second lead or new larger leaf, they can be potted singly into small pots. One local orchid grower leaves several seedlings in the one pot (or basket), and when they flower, it is an instant specimen display.

Burleigh Park Orchid Nursery


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