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Dendrobium

Dendrobium

In terms of care, dendrobiums fall into two categories: warm and cool. The warm group also known as ‘Singapore’ or ‘Phalaenopsis type’ produce a spray of flowers at the top of mature cane and have thicker, leathery leaves. The cool dendrobiums or ‘nobile type’ produce their flowers along the side of the mature cane and their flowers are normally smaller and often scented. They are best bought in the spring due to the annual cycle of temperature they require.

Warm Type Dendrobiums

Cool Growing Dendrobiums

Dendrobiums have very different temperature requirements according to their type, hence the differentiation.

The warm-growing Dendrobiums (or Phalaenopsis type) have similar temperature requirements to Phalaenopsis so place them in a warm room where the temperature does not drop below 15°C.

The cool or ‘nobile type’ Dendrobiums are very different as they have a growing and ‘dormant’ phase. Towards the end of flowering you will see new shoots from the base of the plant. This is the growing phase and while growing the plants can be kept in intermediate to warm temperatures, watered and fed with a ‘Grow type’ fertiliser such as Orchid Focus Grow. It is advisable that you buy the plant in spring when in flower – and about to start growing shoots – so its growing phase coincides with spring time.

When the new shoots are fully developed and they almost reach the height of the old canes the plant enters a dormant phase. The plant then needs to be moved somewhere cooler (with minimum temperatures of about 8°C like a frost-free conservatory or spare room. It still requires plenty of light but only water sparingly. After three to four months when you can see new flower buds across the ‘cane’ watering can be resumed and the plant could be moved somewhere warmer.

Both types need a bright position. Similar to other orchids they do not like direct sunlight in spring and summer but they will benefit from a position in a south facing window in autumn and winter.

It is advisable to spray the plants and the substrate with soft water or ideally Orchid Myst which provides nutrients at the same time. 

The warm type Dendrobium and the cool type during its growing phase need regular watering and feeding to keep the growing medium moist but not saturated with water. The cool or ‘nobile’ type Dendrobiums hardly need any water during the dormant phase, better to spray them regularly.

For simplicity you can feed with a Grow type nutrient such as Orchid Focus Grow throughout the year with every other watering. Alternatively you can substitute with Orchid Focus Bloom in the spring.

Both types will flower once a year. No special treatment is required for the warm type, although they will benefit from slightly cooler temperatures in the autumn. The key for the cool or ‘nobile’ type, though, is a three to four month period of cool temperatures at the end of the growing phase. If they are not given this treatment they will produce new plantlets instead of flowers.

When they have a few roots, these plantlets can be snapped off and potted up.

After flowering it is important not to cut off the canes of either type as they contain water and nutrients that will benefit the new growth. On the ‘nobile’ type you can cut them off when they become yellow and wrinkly after two to three years.

Both types are often sold grown in coir. It is a dust-like growing medium that feels like soil. It is best that after they finish flowering they are potted up in a bark mix. Ideally in Orchid Focus Repotting Mix which is a much better growing medium for conditions in the home in this country.

Generally they will need repotting every two years in a slightly larger pot. It is easy to overpot the ‘nobile’ type because they are tall plants but that makes drainage of the growing medium in the winter difficult. As they are top heavy they are best kept in ornamental pots or maybe put a few stones at the bottom of the pot when they are repotted. 

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