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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Grow Mormodes

Mormodes aromatica flowering in the Fuqua Orchid Center
Leopard spots on the flowers of Mormodes aromatica.
Mormodes are a blast to grow. It's enormously gratifying to pour on the fertilizer in spring and watch them explode. I love their indescribable fragrances and wacky pollination. Mormodes are rarely popular with the set who covet hybrid Cattleya flowers, or among folks who call small-flowered orchids "botanicals." It's their loss.

Want to grow Mormodes? Here's the key: They have an annual growth cycle that is strongly seasonal.

Mormodes are easy to grow if you pay attention to some obvious signals--yellowing leaves signal the onset of the dry season; new shoots signal the onset of the rainy season. Simple.

Here's how we grow ours:*

  • Warm greenhouse (66ยบ night min.) alongside Catasetum Cycnoches.
  • High humidity ~75% RH-- to keep thrips and mites at bay.
  • Bright light. Ours grow adjacent to the Laelia bench.
  • Plastic net baskets.
  • A mixture of coarse fir bark, charcoal, perlite and premium sphagnum.
  • Under our conditions they need water about every 3-4 days in summer.
  • Twice weekly Cal Mag at 200 ppm supplemented with half-strength Nutricote.
  • The dry rest lasts about two to three months, starting with leaf yellowing in October.
  • By November & December they are completely leafless and in full dormant mode. During this time it takes about a week to ten days for the mix to achieve bone-dryness. Then we water. The advice to never water them during dormancy "because in nature they never receive rain during the dry season!" is misguided. Potted plant cultivation is not like nature. Two or three months in our greenhouse without supplemental moisture leaves the pseudobulbs badly shriveled.
  • New shoots in spring are the signal to increase watering and repot.

*This isn't a recommendation for all Mormodes species grown under all conditions. Growing practices that work well in an Atlanta greenhouse need to be modified for conditions elsewhere.

You can find out about Mormodes buccinator and Mormodes sinuata by following the links.

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