You know what is a terrible idea? Panicking because you think one of your orchids is suddenly dying and ripping it out of your pot to see if it is rotting, like I did. A smarter idea would be to look up the name of the plant and it’s symptoms first. Turns out my Anguloa ruckeri is an orchid which loses its leaves whenever it puts out a flush of new growth. So now who knows what trauma I caused my poor plant because I’m too impatient to look things up first. On the plus side, this is one of the plants I’ve been battling scale on so hopefully the leaf drop will also drop a lot of the scale.
If you’re wondering why my plant is growing in clay pellets, now you’ll find out why! And if you weren’t, too bad because I’m going to tell you anyways. I am experimenting with hydroponics. The clay pellets, sold under names like Hydroton and Aliflor, never break down which means you don’t have to repot unless the plant outgrows it’s pot! It also means that they don’t give off any nutrients during the decomposition process so you have to be a lot more careful with fertilization. You can see with my Anguloa that it is growing in a simple red plastic cup (like an alcoholic!) with three holes punched 3/4 of an inch from the bottom. This creates a reservoir of water/nutrient solution. The clay pellets wick the water and nutrients from the bottom of the pot. You’re probably wondering if I have rot problems right about now. I’ve had them in the clay for about 6 months now and have only lost one Cattleya to rot. The other 6 are doing great. Apparently the roots hit the water table and then stop growing down. At least that’s what it looks like. I’m also still a little hesitant to keep water in the bottom constantly so I do let the reservoir dry out before I refill it. The pellets hold enough water that it can be empty for a few days without a problem.