Controlling Difficult Orchids

Newbies Beware!

Contrary to popluar belief, orchids are difficult, cantankerous, and even dangerous! Don’t let any of the “experts” tell you otherwise.

However, in my humble contribution to orchid culture, I’ve discovered a method that will tame even the most difficult and dangerous of orchids — The Steel Cage!

Are you tired of those orchids that get out of control? Wander about all over your green house, or otherwise just can’t support themselves. Again, I offer — The Steel Cage!

Well, okay, maybe they really aren’t that dangerous, but how to take care of those orchids that climb? I’ve taken to placing them inside a wire superstructure that will support and also constrain their growth. As I’ve worked with several of these “Steel Caged Orchids” across the last several years, one of the biggest problems I’ve found it that the “Cage” doesn’t want to stay in the pot. As illustrated in the closeup photo, I’ve taken to wiring the cage into the pot (aviation types will recognize “safety wire”) using just about any type of wire that can be tightened. Once complete, you can also transport the orchid safely by grasping the cage.

Good Luck! Now let’s get those Orchids under control!Caged Orchid 1 Caged Orchid 2

Media Considerations – Hydrotron is Dead! Long Live…?

Since the summer of 2013 and earlier, the use of “Lava Rock” as an orchid medium has been actively discussed in the orchid community in general, and among members of both the Jacksonville Orchid Society (JOS) and Saint Augustine Orchid Society (SAOS).

My interest is a result of searching for a Hydrotron replacement after closure of the company that made the product for 27 years. In doing so, I’ve found two easily available replacements, Lava Rock and PlantiT, both of which I’m evaluating. There are other replacements available as well, but these can be found in the local area with Lava Rock being clearly the cheapest.

At this time, I’ve only heard of one person using PlantiT, which is available in Jacksonville at Grower’s Choice ( While I don’t yet have enough data, my initial assessment is that PlantiT, although smooth in configuration like Hydrotron, is far more water retentive than Hydrotron or Aliflor. In my own adhoc testing (decidely non-scientific) PlantiT appears to remain wet 2-3 times longer than a comparable quantity of Hydrotron. PlantiT is also far more dusty than Hydrotron out of the bag and should probably be washed before use. Unfortunately, while using PlantIt, I’ve already lost one orchid (a Cattelaya type) to rotted roots. Moreover, when examining the media I noted it was exceedingly wet, although the plant had been watered two days previously.

Regarding Lava Rock, Cortney Hackney and others report good results and I can make the same report as well.  In my case, both Dendrobia and Cattleya appear to do well with robust root growth under my growing conditions.  Successful use of Lava Rock with orchids is reported elsewhere on the Internet as well.  Tom of the Angraecums website ( and on Facebook at reports generally good results with Lava Rock, but also notes that in larger pots (8 inches and larger) the center may be too water retentive.

At the moment, it appears Lava Rock has the nod as a replacement for Hydrotron in many of my applications. How about yours?

Greenhouse Survey

My small greenhouse is falling apart and I’m running out of room. This summer, along with other work around the house, I plan to put in a new greenhouse among other things. But what type, how large and how configured? I’m limited to 18×14 feet for a total of 252 square feet. In comparison, I now have approximately 112 square feet of greenhouse space between two dissimilar greenhouses.

With those limits in mind, I’m interested in what others are doing to meet their greenhouse (or shade house or however they are caring for their orchids) requirements. Along the way, I determined I’d do a short survey to see how others approached the situation. I’ll also share the results of what I find as I’m sure others have entertained the same question – what type of greenhouse should they get.

So obviously, I need your help! With that in mind, I’ve put together an online “Green house” survey that I’ll be be sharing. I will not share your personal information (name, address, etc.) unless you state that I have permission to do so. Instead, your survey data will be folded into the larger data set generated by this survey. Your survey information will NOT be used to develop marketing products and you won’t be receiving SPAM or other such products from me.

The survey is located at:

Thanks for your assistance and sharing your thoughts about your green house or other orchid structure.

– Art