Monday, June 9, 2014
Dendrobium devonianum, a challenge to grow and flower in the mountains of Puerto Rico
Years ago I brought this plant of Dendrobium devonianum after seeing a stunning photo of a flower in the Orchid Source forum. As it often happens to orchid growers, the beauty of the flower overwhelmed any apprehension on whether the plant would grow under my climatic conditions. In 2008 I acquired two small plants. Both were just a few inches long and their roots were wrapped in coconut fiber.
The larger plant grew vigorously, when it bloomed I was very disappointed to find that it was actually Dendrobium aduncum. The little plant grew slowly and produced comparatively weak growths. The thin, wiry canes that it had didn’t give me too much confidence in its survival. I was so concerned at the thinness of the cane that I measured the stem near the base of the plant and found that it barely was .8 millimeter wide.
Eventually, in 2011 the orchid produced a cane that seemed large enough to bloom. But no flowers were produced. Five years after it had arrived at my garden, in 2012 the orchid finally bloomed. It produced two short lived, pale flowers. I was happy that it bloomed but sad that the flowers lasted just a few days. The plant didn’t bloom in 2013. In 2014 it has produced five flowers, its best performance yet.
This orchid has proven to be challenging to keep in good shape in my garden. It has lost canes for no clear reason. I grows slowly compared with my other pendent Dendrobium. Its leaves are short lived which means only the last foot or so of the growing cane is leafy at any given moment.
In a location with a more temperate climate this orchid would do much better. Given its spectacular flowers, and the fact that there are many growers in the northern countries which can give it the moderate temperatures it likes, I am surprised that this Dendrobium is not more popular. The Bakers in the book on Dendrobium report that growers say this plant is difficult to grow, something that my own experience confirms. Most of the plants I have seen in captivity outside its native haunts don’t seem to be in a much better condition or more floriferous than mine.
In my experience this plant is not for the novice or neglectful grower perhaps unless you happen to live in those parts of Asia where this plant is native. Even with the best care this plant may prove a disappointment if you live in an area where the local temperatures are uniformly high for most of the year.
The plant is potted in a six inch wide wire basket. It is potted in bark. It gets watered every three to four days. It gets fertilized once a week during growing season and not at all between December and June. It gets full morning sun but after 10:00 am it gets light filtered through the canopy of trees and palms. It has never been repoted. In my garden it blooms in May and June.