Culture Column: Australian Dendrobiums

Australian Dendrobium are slowly gaining popularity in the U.S.  Native to Australia (as their name implies) these plants look a little different than their non-Australian cousins.  You can tell if your plants are Aussie Dendrobiums by their distinctive starburst shaped bloom.  They tolerate cooler temperatures than their Asiatic cousins and can produce multiple bloom cycles off a single bulb.

Light: Bright light is best for these plants.  In the Washington DC area, growing them outdoors during the summer is a great solution where they are receiving extended hours bright light thorough out the day.  The leaves should be a light green when they are receiving their optimum light requirements.

Potting Media: Mature plants appreciate a chunky potting mix.  Large to medium bark mixed with course stone works well.  Avoid a mix that is prone to retaining moisture, especially during the winter months.  Some literature suggests that growing these plants wet will encourage the production of keikis instead of blooms.  These plants also can be grown on mounts if provided enough water and humidity.

Water: Aussie Dendrobiums need a good supply of water during warmer growing periods.  While, the actual frequency is driven by your individual growing conditions, multiple waterings per week (in some cases as much as every other day) are recommended, slowly tapering down the frequency as temperatures start to cool and plants move towards their rest period.  When plants as beginning to set buds, avoid water the developing flowers and be sure to water at the base of the plant to avoid damaging them.

Fertilizer: These plants need consistent access to nutrients during their growing season.  Fertilize weekly with a diluted low nitrogen (some literature suggests that higher nitrogen fertilizer mixes encourage keikis instead of blooms) and match your fertilization schedule to your watering schedule, decreasing the frequency of fertilization as the season begin to change and your plants begin their winter rest.

Reblooming: Most of the Aussie Dendrobium need a winter rest to keep them healthy and blooming.  Reduce the frequency of watering and temperatures in the winter months.