Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dendrobium culture: anosmum and its relatives



Dendrobium anosmum, when cultured so that they can hang down as they do in nature, can produce quite a show. Here are ten plants hanging from the roof of the terrace of my house. The fragrance was delicious, strong and could be perceived for quite some distance due to the large number of flowers open at the same time.

These plants are growing in a shade house, notice the large number of blooms per cane.

When fed well, given strong light and ample watering, Den. anosmum can produce impressively large leaves.


Den. anosmum growing in a pot made out of a plastic soda bottle. Note the large size of the plant in comparison with the pot in which it is growing. If you see the older canes you will notice that they are all smaller than the new one, this is a clue that this is a relatively young plant.

The bottom of the pot was sealed with a piece of saran shade cloth, the roots grew over the saran and into the media, notice the white color of the new roots a clear sign of health.

As a fanatic of pendent dendrobiums, I have had quite a lot of experience growing these lovely but at times very frustrating plants. Perhaps the most difficult problem I have had with these type of Dendrobium has been finding out by trial and error that some of the most beautiful species will not grow and flower under my climatic conditions. When I got them, in the dim prehistory of the pre-Internet era, there was not much information available locally on growing particular species of Dendrobium. Nowadays there is such an enormous amount of information on the Internet that a little detective work using the various search engines for finding out the proper growing conditions of the particular species you like will go a long way toward avoiding dissapointment. The pendent Dendrobium species find agreeable my local climatic conditions grow vigorously and flower abundantly. In the next lines I will share some of my experiences with these plants. My experience has been with Adrasta, aduncum, anosmun, aphyllum, loddiggessii, nobile, parishii, primulinum and tortile among others.

Light: These plants love high light and benefit from some hours of full sun, some can even stand full midday sun without complaint, however exposing the base of the canes to full sun is deathly for these plants. The base of the canes will die if sunburned, and eventually the plant will die too. It is a perplexing and surprising experience when your plant suddenly becomes a group of live canes held together by a dead base.

Watering: Everyday at the height of the growing season, drenching the pots until water flows out. When leaves start turning yellow I stop watering, (around December), when flower buds appear, in the middle of February locally I resume watering.

Fertilizing: Heavy, on plants potted upside down I put some pieces of horse manure on top of the pot.

Potting: I no longer pot my pendent dendrobiums in the top of pots, I pot them in the bottom of wire baskets and pots I make out of soda pop bottles. I started potting them upside down because I became extremely frustrated with the fact that plants eventually weighted so much they would tip the pots and make watering and fertilizing difficult. Plants can stay in these pots for many years. The first plant I potted in a soda pop bottle fifteen years ago is still growing in the same pot.

Media: These plants seem to be able to grow on anything as long as it allows for oxygenation of the roots. Every year I hose off the decayed material and add fresh one. I have used sphagnum moss, bark of all sizes, glass marbles, wood chips, tree fern, charcoal, etc. As long as the plant gets watered and fertilized appropriately for the material it seems to make no difference.Since a picture is worth a thousand words here are some showing how I pot my plants.

35 comments:

David Chiou said...

Hey Ricardo, this is David Chiou. I just asked you some questions on the forum last week and coincidentally saw your blog today! Nice blog!!

A quick question: Does Den. anomum require the potting media to be dry between every watering? Or is it ok to water it again when the potting media is still somewhat wet? Say, the potting media is small or large bark?

Thank you for your advice again!

stefanogiovannini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stefanogiovannini said...

I like your blog! I would like to see in detail how you make your upside down pot with a soda bottle. I have a D. anosmum that was mounted but the roots that were grpwing outside the mount would dry as here it is not himid enough. so i repotted it in a net pot. seems to be growing OK.

Ricardo in PR said...

The net pot is an excellent option for this plant, it will grow well on it as long as it is watered appropriately. I will make a post about how to make pots using soda pop bottles as soon as I have some spare time.

DOC said...

hey ricardo , thanks for the tips . i live in malaysia and dendrobium anaosmum is native here but each cane only produce 5-6 flowers . will post a picture when it blooms . i tie it to a bamboo stick horizontally and no media

Ricardo in PR said...

Dendrobium anosmum bloom much better if they have media where the roots can attach and obtain both moisture and nutrients. A stick is just too lacking in moisture and fertilizer retaining capacity to allow the plant to grow at its best.

Tiia said...

Thank you for the fascinating idea! I've got a Dendr. anosmun albas keiki and I have wondered about the best way to pot the plant. It has just one about 20cm long cane, but it´s growing some new canes as well. Upside down is a brilliant idea! Thanks!

Ricardo in PR said...

There are several varieties of Den. anosmum alba. All are good but differ in the sizes of the flowers and the lenght of the canes. Some produce a relatively few large flowers, other produce a multitude of smaller flowers. All my albas are vigorous growers that produce canes of 4 to 5 feet of lenght.

Anonymous said...

Your article on anosmum helped me greatly. I have a question as same as David Chiou on June 1, 2009. But I cannot see your answer. You said you water them everyday.
"Does Den. anomum require the potting media to be dry between every watering? Or is it ok to water it again when the potting media is still somewhat wet?"

Anonymous said...

I love your blog specially on the culture of Dendrobium. I have a same question of David Chiou, your answer for which I cannot find. "Does Den. anomum require the potting media to be dry between every watering? Or is it ok to water it again when the potting media is still somewhat wet?"

I will appreciate your answer!


S.W.Byun

Ricardo in PR said...

During its growing phase Dendrobium anosmum needs a lot of water to allow it to grow to its full potential, which can be from five to seven feet. During that time I don't allow the media to become dry, that would affect disfavorably the rate of growth of the plant. In fact during the summer months, when temperatures are higher, I water constantly and the media never gets even partly dry. Because locally it rains daily during the height of the summer, the plants stay wet all that time with no ill effect.

Anonymous said...

Hi I HAVE a dendrobium anosmum and Ilive [n new york state. This past summer my plant was outside all summer and I got 2 new canes about 2 feet long. I stopped watering and fertilizing the plant in November and placed the plant in our basement where it was about 50 to 60 degrees. Only 3 leaves fell off and the canes are mostly green and swollen looking.It has not been watered or misted and has had low to moderate amount of light. I WANT to know if I should provide more light or water and fertilizer. SHOULD THE LEAVES ON THE 2 NEW CANES BE SO GREEN AND STILL ON THE CANE. I would appreciate any advice you may have. I JUST love this plant and would love it to flower. Also should I increase the amount of light that the plant gets/

Ricardo in PR said...

Let me go over your comments point by point.
1. A dendrobiumm anosmum plant with canes two feet long is still small for this species. Most plants this size either dont bloom yet or only produce a few flowers near the tip of the cane.
2. 50 to 60 degrees is a bit in the cold side for this species.
3. My plants shed their leaves in December - January, probably due to the longer nights, check the time your lights are on.
4. In the wild these plants are exposed to the brightest light in the dry season, the 'winter' in their habitat. I would increase the level of light they are getting because that's what happens in nature.
5. I have seen plants bloom with their leaves still on, but all of those have been cultivated in greenhouses, locally all the plants shed all their leaves.
6. A fully adult anosmum can have canes that are between five and seven feet long. But note, the market is full of hybrids masquerading as anosmum, these will tolerate lower temperature and will bloom on much smaller plants. I have seen hybrids with parishii and rhodopterygium that looked like miniature versions of anosmum.
7. anosmum blooms better with bright light year round, try to get it to the britest exposure you can give it but take care to do it gradually so you dont burn the leaves.

Anonymous said...

Ricardo thanks so much for the helpful info. I will follow your instructions and keep you updated.

Ricardo in PR said...

Great!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ricardo,my dendrobium anasum is currently being grown under T5 lights.Thelights are on for about 14 hours aday.Yesterday i noticed a smallnew green canedeveloping from the upper area of where the canes develop.We havce lost 6 or 7dried leaves.When should I begin to water or begin fertilizing and how long should it take to see buds starting to form on the cane that the leaves have fallen from. thank yu so much.

Ricardo in PR said...

In my plants the appareance of a new growth at the base of the plant occurs in the first or second week of March, The buds at the side of the cane start swelling in the third or fourth week of February. So in my collection the start of new growth and the swelling of floral buds happens roughly at the same time. I start watering the moment I see the floral buds swell. In those plant that are too young to bloom I start watering and fertilizing when I see the new growth.

Harlz said...

Ricardo, you have a fascinating blog with some good info.

I have a few Den Nobiles and hybrids and will definitely try your trick of growing them in converted plastic drink bottles. Good one!

Anonymous said...

Ricardo, when you say when they start showing buds, u start watering...like how big the buds are when u start watering?

Ricardo Valentin said...

I start watering as soon as I see the buds pierce the papery covering othe the cane. At this stage they are quite small. At this time the plant start producing next year cane so the watering supports both the flower buds and the new growth,

Paari Teamai said...

bonjour Ricardo
Est ce que les dendrobiums nobile peuvent etre plantés la tete en bas?

Ricardo Valentin said...

Dans mon expérience, le Dendrobium nobile n'a pas bien grandi quand il a semé dans le fond du pot de sorte que cette baisse. Toutefois, si vous plantez dans le côté d'un panier de treillis métallique, il se ils poussent bien. Je ne peux pas expliquer cette différence entre Den. anosmum et Den. nobile. Mes hybrides de Dendrobium, l'Yamamoto, poussent bien dans la manière conventionnelle.

Viane said...

Hello Ricardo. I am new to your blog but I truly appreciate your sharing your knowledge on how to grow orchids since I only started caring for orchids this year. I live in Manila and recently bought 2 dendrobium anosmum plants that have each about 6-10 very long canes that had a lot of flowers buds that bloomed for about a week and withered. All of the canes now are without flowers or leaves. There are about 6 new growths coming out of one plant and the other has 3 new growths. Will the old canes still grow leaves or they will stay leafless until the canes die? I put them in my lanai that has filtered light although my concern is that both plants are hanging directly above the compressor of our split type air conditioning unit which we open only at night . How would this affect my plants? . Could this be the reason why the flowers bloomed for only 1 week? Thank you and Would appreciate your kind reply.

Ricardo Valentin said...

Once the canes lose their leaves they stay bare until they die. However older canes are essential to the survival of the plant because they serve to support the new growths on the plant when they are starting, which where I live, is usually before the dry season peaks. High temperatures will shorten the life of the flowers. In your particular case, I would move the plant to a spot where it is not subjected to a warm dry stream of air from the compressor. Your plant sounds great, with good culture it can become even larger.

Unknown said...

Hi Ricardo, i like your post on the anosmum and is very informative. Recently i came across a nursery in Malaysia selling few species of anosmum. She told me she has the common anosmum, anosmum alba, semi-alba and gigantea. I did a search online and saw some post mentioning gigantea and some is giganteum. I am not sure which is the correct word. I am also wondering gigantea or giganteum (which ever it is), does it refer to superbum? This website mentioned that superbum / giganteum. Is it the same? Please enlighthen me. TQVM.

Ricardo Valentin said...

In regards to Dendrobium anosmum varietal names, the only ones in which there is wide agreement is alba and huttoni. The other ones may refer to a variety of plants that fit a general mold but are not what one would call an uniform population. As far as I can tell gigateum has never been scientifically described. It might refer to a plant with particularly large flowers but the thing is, flowers in anosmum can vary significantly in size for a number of reasons. So to me Den. anosmum giganteum is an informal designation that got attached to some plants but that lacks a scientifically detailed description of which traits define this plant. By the way, technically speaking, if it is a valid variety it has to be giganteum because the genus Dendrobium is a male latin form and any word following it has to end in the corresponding ending -eum. I have seen for sale many types of anosmum with well defined traits such as a thai variant that at first sight looks almost exactly like Dendrobium Nestor but on closer examination is clearly anosmum. Another is variety velutina from Papua New Guinea which in color is indistinguishable from anosmum but in the vegetative form of the plant and in the flower shape is very distinct from the mainland forms of anosmum. It may be that the name is a commercial designation for a group of similar plants but has no scientific validity. For example I have a plant labeled Den anosmum var. delacourii, very distinctive from other anosmum however I have yet to find the name mentioned in any book or magazine and I have not seen photos of the flowers anywhere except for a single note in Woods Dendrobium book but under a different varietal designation.

caseykam2011 said...

Thanks for the insight Ricardo. I love to get one after i read some description of the fragrance which is like raspberries / strawberries and strength of scent. The aunty in the nursery says that the only difference is that it is easier to bloom compare to normal anosmum. I am wondering whether to buy that..if it is anosmum family, all of them should have the same fragrance and strength of fragrance? What do you think?

By the way i also read some ppl mentioned superbum var alba too. What does superbum really means? Im sorry that im new to orchid and anosmum is the that one that really attract my attention and interest and i really want to know more abt it.

Thanks.

Ricardo Valentin said...

Dendrobium superbum is a name that has been used for plants that come from the Philippines. It is the same species as anosmum. I guess if you are in the Philippines, the plant will grow better since they are in their native habitat. As far as I can tell, all anosmum have the same fragrance. In fact I can't tell apart the fragrances of anosmum, parishii, rhodopterigyum, Nestor, Supernestor and Sweetscent. In my experience the strength of the fragrance is more related to how many flowers the plant has than to any other characteristic. The white form of anosmun is scientifically described as dearei. The term alba is used informally for any white flower. If someone told me about a Den. superbum alba, I would think it was a white flowered plant from the Philippines. In my experience all anosmum grow well in low to middle elevations as long as the weather is warm enough. Hybrids with parishii and rhodopterigyum lose vigor under warm conditions but grow beautiful under a more temperate climate.

caseykam2011 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
caseykam2011 said...

Hi Ricardo, thank you very much for the information. Your explanation is very clear. I will buy that anosmum. :)

I also find this thing abt anosmum that is quite interesting. Anosmum is know as unscented plant yet it is known with strong / overpowering fragrance, why is that so? There are also ppl that have anosmum but claim that it has no fragrance, it is due to that their anosmum is a hybrid or another plant that resemble anosmum but has no fragrance?

Thanks.

Ricardo Valentin said...

I will have to check out on my books to see if there is any explanation for why the person that described this plant named it anosmum. Actually the original name was macranthum, but was invalid since I think it had already been used for another species. All the plants of anosmum I have ever seen have been highly fragrant. The only anosmum hybrid that I have seen that is not fragrant is Adastra.

caseykam2011 said...

Hi Ricardo, it doesnt matter on the origin of the name anosmum. I will feel bad for troubling you to find that out. In actual fact i am just wondering why some ppl claimed that their anosmum has no fragrance.

By the way, i have a scenario here. The aunty from the nursery that i mentioned that wanted to sell me the anosmum gigentuem says that her anosmum bloomed when she bought it but has not bloom after that...most probably for a year. Is there any reason why? Is it because of insufficient sunlight? She is taking care of it in her nursery though..under sun with 50 percent shade.

I am from Malaysia, i believe anosmum is native to my climate too. According to my local nurseries, they didnt cut back on watering to induce bloom which i was kind of confused. In the wild, anosmum might receive less water during dry season. Thats when the anosmum knows is time to produce buds. But in nurseries, if they dont cut back on watering, how does the anosmum knows and start to develop bud?

There is another nursery here in Malaysia where this man told me that he sells at a higher price, if the anosmum has many blooms / buds in the same cane. He says it is because the anosmum with many blooms / buds will continue to provide lots of blooms if taken care properly but for anosmum with less bloom will produce less bloom no matter how good i take care of it. He says is kind of like genetically built in even thought same species but is different individual, just like ppl that is born smart will be smart. I dont really agree with him and i felt like he is trying to con me. Hahaha... I read your post and i believe any plant, as long as they are in a suitable condition and well care, they will bloom vigorously regardless of genetic...most of them might come from the same grandparents though. Correct me if i am wrong.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience and thoughts.

caseykam2011 said...

Hi Ricardo,

I manage to find some conclusion on my queries to you. Regarding the auntie that sells anosmum gigantea (i name this 1st nursery for better understanding of this text) . She says that she didnt really care or tend to them. She bought it when it has flowered and left it that way. Due to this she dont recommend me to buy and says that this species is hard to bloom. Later on i managed to recall a nursery (3rd nursery) which is almost 1 hour drive from my place which has anosmum too and they have lots of them. So i went over to request to have a look at their older anosmum collections and found that their cane is much thicker than the 1st nursery and this nursery claims that it flowers once a year and old plant will have more blooms compare to younger plant. They says this is a local plant and will definately bloom. Judging from their knowledge and plant health, i believe is a matter of how they take care of it. I believe that answers why the 1st nursery has no blooms.

As for the 2nd question on why Malaysia local nursery do not need to cut back on water (which 3rd nursery did mentioned, there is no need to cut back on water..water everyday of the year). I think maybe this is a local plant...somehow the plants know when is the time to bloom.

Regarding the last question, i never really believe what the other nursery man (2nd nursery)who say how much it blooms is depending on genetics and he sells different price due to number of blooms. 3rd nursery did mentioned that how much it blooms is depending on how you take care and their anosmum blooms alot..which i believe is true because from the old canes, i can see many blooms left over sign.

So i bought one old plant from them which has many blooms left over sign on 3 old, 2ft length canes. There is 3 leaves canes ard 2.5ft - 3ft length on it. The price is slightly cheaper than the 2nd nursery too. He says in malaysia, it blooms ard June. Then i accidentally bend one of the cane and cause a 30% diameterly crack..my heart was aching...i then took care of the wound, apply some cinnamon and make sure it wont crack further. Hoping to take good care of it so that it blooms nicely despite the crack.

Thanks Ricardo.

Ricardo Valentin said...

In Puerto Rico, Den anosmum starts losing its leaves in December, when the days are getting shorter. They will lose their leaves even if heavily watered. I have plants lose all their leaves even though it was raining every day. By January the dry season has started and the frequency of rain drops severely. In February and March, a whole month can go without a drop of rain. The new growths start in late February, early March. I find the flower buds usually in the last two weeks of February, the plants start blooming by the middle of March. Not all the plants bloom at the same time due to genetic differences. The first one to bloom here is the huttoni variety, then the alba and finally the typical form. Other varieties bloom even later. Older plants produce more flowers. A fully grown plant of my anosmum can measure between five and six feet long. Some variants top out at four. Hybrids with parishii rarely measure more that three and some are quite small. I would expect Den anosmum to grow and bloom well where you live as long as temperatures dont go under 60 degrees for prolongued spells.

caseykam2011 said...

Hi Ricardo,

Noted, Thanks Ricardo. Appreciate your information sharing. :)