Growing Sarcochilus

A Sarcochilus plant consists of basically leaves and roots. As such, it has very little water storage in comparison other orchid plants, such as a Cymbidium, which can store enough water/moisture to survive for many months of dry or drought conditions. This tells us straight away that the plant is expecting a consistent or regular supply of moisture. I say moisture as this encompasses more than just water. In the natural/wild growing conditions of monopodial orchids, it is often high humidity that hydrates the plant more so than rain.

Potting mix
We chose to use inert media for all our orchids. Perlite mixed with Horticultural Rockwool and styrene in rough thirds, has proven over many years to give excellent results for us. Choosing a media for your conditions and the intensity of your activity or connection with your plants is very important. This media dries quickly and so requires regular watering, every day or two in small pots, to prevent it drying out. Media proportions may be varied to hold moisture for a longer period to suit individual needs. The reason we choose this inorganic media is the stability. This media will never change, no decomposition, no reduction of air spaces in the pot and most importantly of all no need to remove the media at repot time. Sarcochilus can be sulkers after repotting. The less disruption caused to the roots, the happier the plant will be. If you chose to move it to another media, look for one that will retain moisture while not breaking down to rapidly.

Water and fertilizer
As I said in the opening paragraph, Sarcochilus plants have very little water storage, so providing moist media is crucial to success. Our media has a very high, air-filled porosity and consequently dries very fast. This leads us to irrigate frequently. A Sarco should never dry out completely. To dry out will stop the growth of a plant and once it stops a period of “sulking” will follow. We only use liquid fertilizer, provided as often as possible is best. A good quality balanced fertilizer is important, and we prefer our fertilizer slightly lower in nitrogen than the other macronutrients. A 10:15:15 balance is quite acceptable for the winter period and 15:10:15 for the summer time. The most important part of fertilizing is to keep the concentration low.

Light levels

Light equals flowers. Traditionally Sarcos have been grown in low-light conditions, an interpretation from viewing wild plants growing in shaded locations. However, shady growing has the effect of limiting flower production. The plant reacts to the light it is given. Leaves are the plants light collectors, how the plant feeds itself. Plants change leaf angle and arrangement to catch as much light as possible or needed

for growth. Example. A plant grown in low light will elongate in the stem and orientate it’s leaves to face the light. In a Sarco, the plant will go almost vine like in growth habit. The growth will lay down flat and arrange it’s leaves in a fan pattern. A plant growing in maximum light will have shortened stems and a compact leaf arrangement. In Sarcos we see an upright growth habit with leaves tucked into the rosette.

The plant grown in shady conditions will have a lush and luxurious appearance. But, will not produce the flower spikes of the tougher high-light plant. The presentation of the flower spike will always be pendant in low light.

Temperature                                                                                Our temperature range is from 1 degree Celsius minimum in winter and we will have maximum summer temperatures of high 40s. Sarcochilus grow naturally where the temperatures go below freezing, but only for a short while. When we have excessive high temperatures, we mist the environment to help the plants cope. Sarcochilus need to have at least 6 weeks of nightly minimum bellow 13 degrees Celsius to initiate spikes. Once this initiation period is over you can heat them to get flowers out early. But this can have an affect of the longevity of the blooms. We prefer to let them elongate naturally.

by Scott Barrie, Barrita Orchids