Here are some Hawaiian winter reminders: Hopefully, we have been drying out our Hono Hono Dendrobiums. We normally start to dry them in December and keep them dry until February. Of course, this means no fertilizing too. In February, we will start to see the early blooming Honos start to initiate their buds from their leafless canes. Once you are certain that they are buds and not keikis, you may begin watering and fertilizing again. Later bloomers will take a little longer to initiate, so be patient. If you still have leaves on, it might not be too late to begin drying the plants. They can still bloom this year, but maybe a little later. All of this rain during their dormancy will affect the flowering. Some people opt to keep them under the eaves of their houses to keep the rain off them.
Our Phalaenopsis should be spiking and starting to bloom. Don't forget to begin staking the spikes upright when the first or largest bud is the size of a pea. This tells you that the lower part of the spike is hardened and no longer elongating. If you raise the spike now, you will have a beautiful upright cascading spike as the flowers open. Just note that some of the newer Phalaenopsis are bred to have shorter upright spikes that do not cascade well. So, don't be alarmed if it does not cascade naturally. You can always insert a #16 galvanized wire (the green florist wire will also work) into the bamboo and bend the wire and spike, so that the flowers will cascade the way that you want.
Paphiopedilums, especially the complex and Maudiae types are also blooming. To avoid getting water into the pouches (which will shorten the life of the flowers), allow them to open at an angle, them stake them upright before you bring them indoors to enjoy. They will last a long time indoors and are tolerant to low light conditions.
Dendrobiums are slow at this time of year, except for the Laturea types which are coming into flower now. For both types, try to keep them on the dryer side if possible. The indication that they are getting too much water, is that they will begin to drop some of their older leaves. If they get too wet, they are known to drop all their leaves. But don't worry, if you dry them out they should recover.
Rhynchostylis are all beginning to bloom. We had given a few out over the years. They now come in all different colors and have a wonderful fragrance. If you don't have much flowering, they may be a good choice to get, as they are really dependable bloomers in January and February.
Cattleyas are at their slowest right now. The whites, semi-albas, and light lavenders are finishing, and it is still a little early for the spring Guaranthes (Central American, small cluster types, i.e., aruantiaca, skinneri, and their numerous hybrids). Next month they should make their appearance and are a joy to see. Bright spring colors of yellow, orange, to red, small perky clusters of flowers will begin to bloom.
Bulbul birds are normally at their worst during the winter months. There are not many fruits to feed on, so they are very hungry and often mistakenly bite the Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, and Cattleya buds. I use a fake owl on a stick. It works if I move it daily. I also spray insecticide with some fungicide on the buds, they seem to dislike the taste. Another method is diversion. If they feed on alternate fruits, they may not feed on the orchids.
Keep vigilant on the slugs and snails. Hopefully, they have been under control, but when it is always moist, they will continuously feed and yes, make more babies. So keep applying the baits, don't slack off!
Watch for black/brown fungal/bacterial infections. Make sure that you cut off the diseased areas ASAP, treat with a fungicide, give it good air circulation and try to keep it dry. I go out daily to look for problems so that they can be treated right away. This allows me to keep the orchid alive. If unattended, the orchid will probably die and it will infect its neighboring orchids.
Even if there are not a lot of flowers, there is still a lot of time that needs to be put into your orchid collection, I’m especially thankful that I can't catch COVID-19 from my plants!.
The Windward Orchid Society meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the King Intermediate School Cafeteria, located at 46-155 Kamehameha Hwy. in Kaneohe.
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