Welcome to the fragrant, colourful world of Australian Indigenous orchids.
These challenging and highly attractive orchids are unique to Eastern and South eastern Australia. As such they in most cases do not require the demanding temperatures and high humidity that most other exotic orchids require. In the wild most grow as either Epiphytes (growing on the outside of other trees and shrubs on their bark) or as Lithophytes (Growing on wet cliff faces and boulders).
In most cases the roots of the orchids are covered with the ferns and mosses that also inhabit these spots so they rarely if ever dry out completely. These same ferns and mosses also add plenty of humidity to the air around the orchids, so a damp airy atmosphere is the most suited (fernery conditions).
The locations in the wild where they occur are usually quite bright as few other plants grow under the same conditions. Australian epiphytic orchids enjoy bright but definitely not hot positions. A gentle shadow should be seen when placing your hand over the top of the plant. Dark wet conditions will allow rots to occur and blooms to become spotty with fungal infections.
So where to grow them?
I recommend a special orchid growing house that has shadecloth sides to allow ventilation and also keep out the bugs, and a hard clear plastic roof to stop drenching winter rains spoiling the blooms and drowning the roots.
If this is a bit grandiose, then on a veranda or pergola facing north to enjoy the winter sun. Native orchids enjoy winter sun but would prefer more shade in the warmer months. Under the eaves of the north side of the house is also a suitable location. Remember though to keep them off the soil or worms will enter and destroy the specially formulated orchid compost.
How often to water?
Basically just keep them moist all year, although they will enjoy a dry spell in mid winter when the buds are forming for spring. If in pots, check the drain holes to see if damp, you will soon learn how often to water. It may be daily in summer but only fortnightly in winter.
Should I feed my natives?
If you can be bothered try applying liquid fertilizers mixed in a watering can
and simply pour it over the top of the plant foliage and all. One gram of most fertilisers per litre of water fortnightly in spring and summer will give results.
Usually one gram of most fertilizers per litre of water fortnightly in spring and summer will give your orchid a kick along. Be careful though to not apply too much Nitrogen after February as you will retard the blooming with too much growth.
When to repot?
I recommend you repot only when the plant is ready to split the plastic pot! Potbound native orchids bloom prolifically. If you have to repot or you wish to divide then October is the most suitable time.
Should I divide the native?
Basically no. Only divide it if a friend has been annoying you for a division or you wish to make a little pocket money by selling your excess plants. Simply split the plant into halves, quarters or minimum 5 cane pieces. Kingianum style hybrids and kingianum itself can with care though be divided down to single canes (Be careful)
What to pot into?
I recommend chipped pine bark that has been professionally composted or aged, preferably also laced with Dolomite lime. Each capital city has it’s own supplier. In Victoria I recommend Debco 5-10mm bark straight.
How much light do they require?
Native dendrobiums require bright conditions to flower well. If they are grown too dark they will produce lush soft canes prone to disease and will not bloom well if at all. This is the main reason for natives not to flower. Bright, straight winter sun will encourage you dendrobiums to bloom well in spring. In summer provide all the shade you can to stop the leaves scolding and becoming lemon in colour. And for spring and Autumn somewhere in between.
Here are a few really informative links to enjoy!!
Planting orchids in a hollow log with Don Burke