A Grower’s Perspective
Written by: Quinton Hausermann
I was raised around my family’s greenhouses, and have been to hundreds of Orchid trade shows/exhibitions. I have always been fascinated by the interconnectedness of plants, animals, and people in the natural world. Land plants absorb roughly twenty five percent of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, produce almost a third of the oxygen that we all breathe, provide herbivores/omnivores with essential nutrients, and continue to exist as a means of shelter for all living things.
Plants are actually caring for us in an indirect sort of way, and should be treated with love and respect. Your cat or dog will cuddle with you, but your plants will purify the air you breathe and keep you healthy. Personally, I feel that growing plants is a very relaxing and invigorating hobby, and seeing all of my plants flourishing brings endless amounts of happiness into my life. Think of your tropical plant as a pet lizard in a Chicago Illinois home, and consider what would happen if that lizard was placed outside in an enclosure year-round. Treat your plants like they’re pets, and pay close attention to what they seem to like or dislike. Misting the leaves of certain tropical plants could be compared to giving catnip to a cat. Discover the types of “bones” that your plants “dogs” desire and try not to over feed them. A pet bird’s broken leg could take months or years to fully heal, while a small infection could be treated fairly quickly. Likewise, a plant could take years to fully recover from certain kinds of root rot; whereas a plant damaged from an exposure to too much light can begin to recover within weeks or months in many cases. Confidence in experimenting with new methods of growing after conducting a sufficient amount of research will ultimately lead most people towards developing that legendary magical green thumb; through enough patience, and persistence.
Always remember to check out the roots of your plant when it is showing any signs of shock. After removing all of the infected roots, and repotting a plant that has root rot; make sure to take steps to prevent additional bacteria, or Fungi from reentering and living in its soil/mix. Root rot generally occurs due to a lack of oxygen present within the soil, and is usually a result of over watering. Hydrogen Peroxide boosts oxygen levels, and can prevent the growth of Fungi, bacteria, and other foreign invaders after just one treatment. Water your plant thoroughly with a diluted Hydrogen Peroxide solution from your local drugstore. Typically, after treatment, you will want to provide your plant with less water than you normally would while its root system is attempting to rebuild itself. Place your plant in an area that is protected from strong wind, and ensure that it is given an artificial support (stake/trellis) if it does not appear to have a decent amount of stability. Do not fertilize a plant while it is recovering from root rot, as doing so can cause additional stress, and actually increase the spread of harmful fungi or bacteria. Avoid repotting your plant again until your plant becomes root bound, or until the soil develops conditions that merrit a repotting; and try to maintain its desired conditions.
The Three Pillars Of Growing:
"Commitment" is the "first pillar of growing", and is essential to the success of any exotic collection. Diligence in providing your plants with the most beneficial individualized care will ultimately prove instrumental in their health, and progress. Learn the language of your plants, and let them communicate their needs to you. Dying or yellowing upper leaves usually translates roughly to “I’m not feeling well. Perhaps I’m in need of more or less fertilizer, experiencing moisture stress, reacting to undesirable light conditions, having trouble tolerating temperature extremes; or maybe it’s that I am being harmed by some sort of foreign invader? Potentially, I could be experiencing stress resulting from a combination of two or more of those things.” Think deeply about each one of the potential concerns that your plant is bringing to your attention, and then reflect on which stimuli could be responsible for its ailment(s). Determine the conditions that your plant would experience in its native ecosystem, and then identify the differences between that environment and the new one that you have placed it in. This includes studying and attempting to mimic the seasonal changes in rainfall, fluctuations between day and nighttime temperatures, and increases or decreases in the number of daylight hours that the plant would be experiencing throughout the year if it were growing in its native habitat.
The "second pillar" of a successful grower is "control", which enables us to ensure that our local outdoor or indoor ecosystem is not in conflict with the needs of our plants. The more similar an ecosystem is to a plant’s native habitat, the healthier that plant will be in the long run. Take for example a saguaro cactus purchased in July that has just been planted outside in the humid subtropical yard of a Central Floridian. Central Florida receives more than seventy percent of its fifty-two inches of annual rainfall between the months of May and October; whereas in its native habitat of the Sonoran Desert, the saguaro cactus only receives about three to fifteen inches of rainfall annually. Therefore, in Central Florida you would want to grow a saguaro cactus in a place that receives bright light and little to no rain water. In contrast, that same Central Floridian could plant a Cereus Peruvianus cactus in their yard and have it turn yellow due to a lack of rainfall during the dry season. Location is a very important control factor to consider, as providing the proper ecosystem is by far the most essential aspect of successfully growing any type of plant. For those of you who lack an ideal growing space or live in a colder climate; consider utilizing grow lights, heaters and humidifiers to create your own artificial indoor ecosystems.
The "third and final pillar" of success is "practicality", which reinforces the first two pillars by ensuring that you choose to grow plants that provide you with the kind of enjoyment that will keep you “committed” to setting aside enough time to produce positive results in all of your growing endeavors. Although personal availability is very important, your plants must also be compatible with your available means of control. For example, a plant like the saguaro cactus is very difficult to grow in Central Florida; so, choosing a sub-tropical Cactus like Cereus Peruvianus would result in not having to dedicate as much time toward regulating your ecosystem. Comparatively, successfully growing an orchid like a bare root Vanda indoors would be a lot more time consuming than taking care of a potted phalaenopsis orchid in the same conditions. The Vanda would have to be watered daily, and provided with a high level of air movement; whereas a phalaenopsis planted in a pot indoors would only need to be watered about once per week. In contrast, a Central Floridian growing in an area outdoors with bright indirect sunlight would be able to hang their Vanda outside for as long as temperatures remain above fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, a sprinkler system could be set up on an automatic timer for a few minutes each day during periods of dryness; meaning that the Vanda could be left outside on its own for the majority of the year in Florida under the right conditions and watering controls. All things considered, being practical means choosing plants with care requirements that most closely coincide with your lifestyle, location and personal preferences. Given plenty of free time and resources, the possibilities of what you can grow in your own home are almost endless.