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Growing Calanthe Rosea and Calanthe Vestita Orchids

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Flowering Calanthe orchids

The annual cycle begins in January when my greenhouse is full of flowering Calanthe orchids. With flowers in full bloom, the bulbs are dormant at that time, but new growth will emerge soon. I give them a good soaking and let them sit a few weeks. It seems to wake them up.

Calanthe roseas and Calanthe vestitas

The next step comes in late February or early March. I take all the bulbs out of the pots, remove the potting mix, trim some of the roots off, and rinse them off. In this picture, I have one tray of Calanthe roseas (lower left) and four trays of Calanthe vestitas.

My orchids sorted according to size, age, and number and quality of new growths

Next, I give them a bath for an hour or so in water with some Super Thrive in it, then back on the trays for a final rinse. At this point, it's time to sort them. In this picture, I've divided them according to size, age, and number and quality of new growths appearing.

Potting Calanthe bulbs in Pro-Mix BX

I pot Calanthe bulbs in Pro-Mix BX, with plastic peanuts in the bottom of the pot. As shown in this picture, I like to lean the bulbs against one edge of the pot, with the new growth facing outward and situated with the bottom of the new growth right around soil level. This makes it easier to keep the new growth a little moist while it is developing, before it has roots. When the roots emerge, they are in potting mix right away.

Potting Calanthe bulbs in Pro-Mix BX

Got that? OK, repeat over and over and over and over.....

Then line them up in neat rows in the greenhouse

...and then line them up in neat rows in the greenhouse.

Bulbs that really aren't worth putting in a pot

Once I work my way down to bulbs that really aren't worth putting in a pot, but are too good to just toss, I just put some potting mix in a tray, arrange the bulbs in there, sprinkle on some more mix, and they're set to go. I get quite a few good bulbs from these colony trays each year.

Late in the summer, the greenhouse looks like this

Late in the summer, the greenhouse looks like this.

By Fall, the leaves are starting to go by the wayside

By Fall, the leaves are starting to go by the wayside. It's time to cut off the water supply, cut away dead leaves, and wait for flower spikes.


The basics, by season:

Winter, flowers on: Leave the bulbs alone. The flowers will grow toward light. Only very light and infrequent watering to keep the soil from becoming completely dessicated. Though these orchids are tropical, mine endure temperatures near freezing every year with no ill effects. One year, a cold snap took me by surprise, and I discovered what happens when flowering Calanthes are subjected to temperatures in the high 20s for a few hours. What happens is, the flowers turn sky-blue for an hour or so, then die. The bulbs were unaffected, and new growth was normal that year.

Early Spring, starting new growths: After repotting, I keep the soil under the new growths slightly moist until the growths are established, meaning they have roots and the leaves are starting to open.

Late Spring through Summer, growing new bulbs: Once the new growths are established, I water them heavily every few days. I let them almost dry out in between, but not quite. Once a week, they get 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer w/minors, Super Thrive, and sometimes Epsom salts. I've found that they can tolerate any light condition from 50% shade to almost full Florida sun, and can tolerate temperatures up to about 98-100. Learning what happens beyond 100 degrees cost me about 160 bulbs one time, so I recommend that you not try that.

Late Summer through Fall, winding down: Around the end of Summer, I start cutting back on the watering schedule, and allowing the pots to dry out more between waterings. I start fertilizing only every other week, and switch to a bloom-enhancing mix. Once I see the leaves start to turn yellow and brown, I cease watering entirely for a month. I cut off leaves as they turn. Once the flower spikes start to emerge, I'll go to the Winter care routine above, and it all starts over again.

Punta Gorda, Florida