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Dendrobium nobile - how can I nurse it back to full health?

This is a discussion on Dendrobium nobile - how can I nurse it back to full health? within the Genus Specific forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have unexpectedly acquired a dendrobium, which I found blooming on the windowsill of an ...

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  1. #1
    bethiakitt's Avatar
    bethiakitt is offline Junior Member
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    Question Dendrobium nobile - how can I nurse it back to full health?

    I have unexpectedly acquired a dendrobium, which I found blooming on the windowsill of an unoccupied house (my brother's, by the way, I'm not a housebreaker :-)

    To my phalaenopsis-accustomed eyes the orchid looks in poor shape, very few leaves, bare stems, but these stunning flowers. I've looked in my books and have discovered that inadvertently my brother gave the plant exactly what it needed to make it bloom, ie total lack of water through the winter, and low temperatures (he wasn't home much). Problem is that he has continued this regime ever since, and although it's blooming my instinct is that it's not in great shape.

    It was in a pot with no drainage holes, but I have carefully drilled holes in the bottom and have been able to water it well which I hope will revive it.

    I've attached a couple of pix of the plant - I'm 99% certain it's a nobile type. You can't see but it has two new canes coming.

    I have a few specific questions:-

    • Will those bare canes plump up and start to grow again?
    • Can they be pruned down to tidy up the plant & encourage regrowth, or would that be disastrous?
    • I understand that if a cane sheds its leaves it signals that it is mature enough to flower. But do canes bloom once and then die, or do flowers come year after year on the same canes?
    • I thought I'd repot it after flowering - would that be OK?

    Sorry about all the questions - as you can tell I'm a total novice with Dendrobiums.

    I would be very grateful indeed for any thoughts, advice etc.

    Bethia
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    Last edited by bethiakitt; June 2nd, 2008 at 06:14 AM.

  2. #2
    Shannara's Avatar
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    Hi & welcome Beth,

    For most orchids its best to wait to repot until after the plant blooms unless it is declining quickly. Some orchids can be shocked when transplanted in bud/bloom and drop their flowers.

    Do not prune off the old canes. The old canes store water and food for the growing plant and the blooms usually come from year old canes. Occasionally older canes can also rebloom. The only canes you should ever remove are brown and mushy canes or ones that are completely dried up. Nobile dendrobiums are known to defoliate in winter and require a rest period which also includes withholding fertilizer. Their new growth generally starts in spring.

    Itís good you put drain holes in for the orchids or it would have had a slow death. When itís finished blooming I would remove it from its current container and check the roots. If any roots are dead or all mushy, remove them. Live roots are white or possibly light yellowish. You can tell the dead roots by the long thin strings which remain from the inside from when it was a healthy root. Nobile den's like to be potbound and you should put it in a container which can accommodate the current roots system (not too much room). A pot clip or bamboo stake can help you secure it if itís a bit wobbly. You could even get an orchid pot (clay pots with slits on the side) to help promote air movement through the potting medium.

    Also, you need to check and see what your potting medium is. In my experience most dendrobiumís I have like a tree fern fiber mix which usually contains some sort of bark, perlite, and tree fern fibers. This allows plenty of air movement for the root system. Other mixes will also work, but this is just an option for you. Make sure itís not planted in dirt or soil of any kind; itís too heavy and doesnít allow the roots to breathe.

    If you have the orchid inside make sure it has a bright window but no direct afternoon sun that could burn it. Direct morning sun is generally okay. Once this orchid is repotted you can start it on a fertilizer schedule. The trick with orchids is to apply a weak solution weekly. So whatever your orchid fertilizer says you want to apply at least half that (or less). I personally mist my fertilizer on once a week early in the day and on the 4th week of the month I just use straight up water to flush out any buildup.

    Lastly, to increase humidity, if you have your orchid indoors, you can add a tray of pebbles w/ water underneath your plant. Just make sure the water level is below the pebbles and the orchid isn't sitting directly in the water. This helps create some humidity for the plant.

    Hope I answered some of your questions. Feel free to ask me anything regarding my post.

    Shann~
    Last edited by Shannara; June 1st, 2008 at 03:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks so much, Shannara, this is really helpful advice. I'm particularly grateful for all the details help, especially your comments about the canes and what they do, as my experience up to now is only with paphs.

    Seems to me I'm on the right lines and with your advice now I should be able to manage!

    Many thanks,

    Bethia

  4. #4
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    Glad to help. I am sure some other folks will come along and give some additional advice.

    I think you will do just fine.

    Shann~

  5. #5
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    Hi Bethia,

    Shann has just about summed up everything you need to know to be successful with this dendrobium. I just wanted to add that it is lovely and I am glad you rescued it. From the photo, it looks to be in good health, so you needn't worry too much.

    Cheers,
    BD

  6. #6
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    Excellent answer Shann. You're right on the money. I agree with BD it's a great looking plant. Great rescue.

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  8. #8
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    Talking

    Thanks everyone for your guidance and reassurance about the health of this lovely Dendrobium.

    I am particularly keen to nurture it because of its history -- it belonged to my poor sister in law who sadly died of cancer in June last year. Understandably, during her last weeks of life when she was in the hospice, my brother was focused on her to the exclusion of all else, and since she died houseplants have been the last thing on his mind. I really thought this Orchid was dead. So when I found it in bloom, it seemed like an omen -- new life after some very dark days.

    So it's lovely to know that it is basically well and will do okay as long as I don't kill it with kindness

    I'll let you know how it progresses.

    Bethia

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