It is rather ironic that I typed that as the heat came on in our house. Spring is a relative word in Michigan, but if you look outside, the signs of the season are everywhere: lilacs blooming, green grass, tulips, and I saw my first poppy of the year today. In the greenhouse–hey! we are finally in our very own greenhouse! Those are my boys in the picture helping to make benches–we are also seeing signs of spring: the choseiran (Dendrobiums) are still blooming, and the fuukiran (Neos) have fresh roots sticking out all over the place. I will take roots over flowers any day; call me crazy. But the flowers are coming! I am seeing lots of spikes. Those of you who grow indoors all year seem to get much earlier blooms, but I still have a whole summer of flowers to look forward to when almost nothing else is blooming. (Pssst…you could, too, if you ordered some plants 🙂
And speaking of ordering plants, I am getting orders from Europe (thank you very much, my friends), but if you live in Europe and you have not already ordered, please do so by the end of the month. I plan to send plants out to my European friends in July, but paperwork requires that I know how many plants are going to be shipped well before then. Here is the link for the European Shipping Policy. If you have any questions, please email me.
I would like to start adding a little note about something related to growing in each of my newsletters, so if you have a suggestion for a topic that you would like to know more about, please let me know!
Culture Corner: To Mist or Not to Mist–That is the Question
This is a common question to which there is not a simple answer. Two friends who have Neos have had opposite results with misting. Friend one, we will call him Tim, lost his entire collection when he took the advice of an “expert” (note: nobody is an expert on YOUR plants but YOU) and began misting his Neos every day. Within a month, they were all dead. Heartbreaking. “Bill,” however, has his Neos in a greenhouse that has bunches of misters going all the time, but his plants are healthy, happy, and covered in some of the biggest roots I have ever seen. How can this be? (Reminder: nobody is an expert on your plants but you!) Bill’s greenhouse freaked me out because I preach that Neos must dry out to keep the roots happy, and I can’t see that the moss on these plants ever dries out. What’s the right answer, then? When I am confused about culture, I think about plants in the wild.
Neofinetia falcata is an epiphyte that typically grows in trees. Native to temperate regions of Asia, the species endures four seasons, albeit milder winters than we see in much of the US, which means that it experiences hot, cold, dry, and wet, but it’s the combination of conditions that may be the key to understanding watering. When in Japan in February, I remarked on how nice and mild the weather was compared to our bitter winter back home in Michigan. Native Japanese warned me that while their winters are pleasant, their summers, unlike our relatively mild Michigan summers, are very hot and very humid. Okay, so relatively dry, not-too-cold winters and very hot, very humid summers. Here’s my hypothesis: if plants are growing in very warm conditions (like 80+ degrees F), they are losing water quickly, taking up water quickly, and they can use the extra water provided by daily misting. In cooler conditions, especially when plants are outside and getting naturally misted by dew every night, extra water is not necessary and may be detrimental because it will sit on leaves and roots. When water sits on the roots, roots are not able to breathe (yes, gas exchange is important to roots), and that’s what leads to root rot.
Revisiting Tim’s and Bill’s plants, I can make a tentative diagnosis. Tim lost his plants because the temperature in his house was moderate and the plants were not using the water quickly enough to need that extra misting. That led to rot which led to his plants’ demise. Bill’s greenhouse is quite warm, so his plants are using water relatively quickly. I will admit that we didn’t look at the roots inside the moss the plants were potted in. They may have all been dead (and I think neither of us would be surprised if they were), but there were so many roots outside the moss ball that the plants were clearly very healthy and happy. Another quick aside: though not traditional, Neos will grow very well in no medium at all. Then you can mist them every day and never worry! When roots are growing outside the root ball, they are growing in no medium. Think about it!
Still unsure? Then don’t do it. That’s the safe answer. For Neos and many other orchids, drier is safer than wetter. This summer, though, if it’s hot where you are and you want to give it a try, go ahead. If you start seeing new growth after a week or so, great! If you see some yellowing of the leaves, just stop. I hope that helps explain misting a bit better.