Mounting Orchids by Annie Mezaros
I was apprehensive to say the least; the first time I decided I wanted to mount one of my orchids. I had realized that none of the directions or advise I had been following to grown my Tolumnia Ralph Yagi were working for me and I had decided upon mounting it as a last ditch effort to save it’s life. I didn’t think I had anything to lose except the plant itself, which was well on its way to plant heaven already. It was the best decision I could have made for that plant and I’m now successfully growing 7 Tolumnias as well as a lot of other miniature orchids on mounts. I do not grow any large plants of slabs, but only because I don’t have the space to hang them anywhere.
Making the decision to mount an orchid if you are a windowsill or under lights grower should take into consideration a number of different factors, such as whether you have enough humidity to keep the slab moist long enough for the roots to absorb water; are you willing and able to commit to watering the mount as often as it may require, even if that turns out to be everyday? Do you have an appropriate place to hang the plant where it will receive sufficient light? If you can provide the humidity (60% or more is ideal), space and commitment; growing orchids this way is very rewarding. Not only does mounting mimic the way orchids plants grow in nature, in many ways it’s actually easier to grow plants this way because you can see the condition of the roots and whether or not the plant needs to be watered. More orchids meet their maker due to the loving application of too much water than any other reason. This takes the guesswork out of whether or not to fetch the watering can.
1) Select the plant to be mounted taking into consideration its growth habit, ie. Does it sprawl out or stay compact, grow quickly or moderately? Does it need to stay moist or dry out quickly?
2) There are many materials you can use to mount your orchid on. The most common mounts used today are tree fern slabs, virgin cork bark and sticks. Paramount has tree fern slabs in various sizes and sticks are easy to come by, but it’s important to make sure to buy any online products from various suppliers in Canada and the US. I have used non-virgin cork bark with good results too. It’s sometimes available at pet stores where reptile supplies are sold. Just be sure to clean the cork very carefully if you buy it from a pet store.
3) Make you decision on what material to use based on what is available to you and the watering needs of the plant. Tree fern stays moist a lot longer than sticks and cork bark. If tree fern is not available, you can still use sticks or cork by attaching some moss under or on top of the roots.
4) Soak the mount and a small amount of moss overnight before using. Be sure to attach wire hooks or other material that will be used to hang the mount up before attaching the plant.
5) Carefully un-pot the plant removing as much growing medium as possible. Remove all dried up or mushy roots with a mild fungicide or dust them lightly with cinnamon if I have done any trimming to prevent rot or infection. Once again taking into consideration the growth habit of your orchid, lay the plant onto the mount, spreading the roots gently out on the surface. If you are using moss place a thin layer either under or on top of the roots. The great thing is that if you decide you have too much moss or too little, you can easily add or remove with little damage or disturbance to the plant. You will need to use some type of material initially to hold the plant onto the mount until the roots grab and hold on naturally.
Some of the things I have seem people use include fishing line, thin strips of nylon hosiery, wire, twist ties, staples, elastic bands, and even hot glue. Whatever you decide to use, just make sure that you don’t tie the roots to the mount so tightly that they are damaged. Use the minimum amount of tie-down that will hold the plant in place. Once the plant is established on the mount, you can remove whatever you used to hold it in place or leave it on if you want.
Don’t forget about the tag! If it doesn’t already have a hole in it, make a hole and using a piece of wire or fishing line, attach it to the mount. I usually hang: from the hook or you can drill a small hole in the mount and thread the wire for the tag through it. Place your newly mounted plant in shadier spot for the first 2 weeks while it adjusts to the new conditions. Water it carefully, making sure it doesn’t stay too wet or too dry. Only you will know through careful observation of the leaves and 6 roots, what is too wet or dry while the plant is getting used to its new growing condition. Then slowly move it every few days closer to its final destination until you have it where you want it to be.
Equitant oncidiums (Tolumnias) are great plants to try mounting for beginners. These plants like to dry out quickly and require a lot less humidity than many other types of orchids. A tip for overgrown mounts is that it’s unwise to even try removing the plant from its mount. It’s easier on both you and the plant to attach the whole works to a new mount in its entirety. The plant will soon cover th edges of the old material anyway. I’ve had some success prying off roots from sticks but I would only attempt to do that when there is plenty of new root growth just commencing.