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Growing Orchids on Trees
by David Schaffter

Dendrobium aggregatumSouth Florida is blessed with a subtropical climate that lends itself to outdoor cultivation of tropical plants. Rarely do we get the cold, dry, biting winds our northern neighbors receive in the winter. This is due to our close proximity to the ocean and other bodies of water such as Lake Okeechobee and standing water in the Everglades. They have a moderating effect on our weather.

Since we spend so much time outdoors, we should landscape in such a way to receive the full benefit of our flowering plants. With a little planning and knowledge, orchids can be included in our layout. Some orchids do better when left alone to the elements than others. After all, they seem to do just fine in their native environment. The trick is to try and match as closely as possible the orchid's natural habitat with our own. This includes light, water, temperature, and growth habitat. With this in mind, you can add the beauty of orchids to your garden.


VandaSchomburgika tibicinus and other species in this genus can take quite a bit of sun and may be mounted on palm trees or other open-canopy trees. Tie the orchid on the south side of the palm trunk with heavy nylon string. Nylon will last longer while the roots establish a bond to the trunk. This usually takes about a year. Remember to check on the tightness of your string. It might need to be loosened to allow for the growth of the tree. After the orchid has firmly attached itself, remove the string. Vanda teres and the related "terete" hybrids can also take full sun. They may be mounted to the trunk of an open-canopy tree or even placed along a fence. Mulch along the base of the fence to allow moisture retention and keep competing weeds from crowding your orchids. Some types of Equitant oncidiums may also benefit from a high light environment found on palms, citrus and other open trees.

Den. pierardiiOak trees offer shade and rough bark for root attachment and are an ideal orchid tree. A native orchid, Encyclia tampensis , is quite at home in this tree. Cattleya skinneri and some of the Brassavola species and hybrids will do well on oaks. Mount them in an open, airy location on the trunk away from dense leaves. Experiment! You can place them either on vertical or horizontal branches.

Mahogany trees have rough bark but their canopy is so dense, very little light gets through for proper orchid growth. However, I personally grew a Vanilla planifolia from the base of a tree, and when it reached well into the canopy, it bloomed several times. Phalaenopsis might like mahoganies due to their low light requirements.

Mango and avocado trees are good orchid-growing trees. Their rough bark supports Cattleyas , Phalaenopsis , and flat-leaf oncidiums . Mount your divisions in different types of trees to see which ones do the best. Don't be afraid to try something new.

Cattleya luteolaSecure them on the south facing trunk or branch so they are protected from the cold, dry north winds. Early spring is the best time to mount them so they have all summer to attach roots. Look for new growth and remove string when established.




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