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Thread: dracula soil?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013

    Default dracula soil?

    Hello. I'm sure this question has been covered somewhere and I apologize if my post is redundant. I cannot find in the FAQ or elsewhere I've looked information about proper soil/substrate for dracula orchids. Could someone please point me in that direction?

    Also direction to information on fertilizing them and ph requirements would be very appreciated.



  2. #2
    Real Name
    Bruce Brown
    My Grow Area
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    Cattleyas & Slippers
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Member's Country Flag


    Masdevallia & Dracula Orchid Culture

    LIGHT levels for this group usually are thought of as fairly low; however, some successful growers believe that the best flowerings are produced under higher light levels. Plants can be grown, but not necessarily flowered, in the same light levels as those for ferns -- 400 to 1,000 foot-candles. Most growers maintain levels adequate for Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum -- 1000 to 1,500 foot-candles. Masdevallias can be kept in light intensities up to 2,500 foot-candles if the growing area can be kept cool. Plants grow well under four- tube fluorescent fixtures and can be summered outside in shade.

    TEMPERATURES should be cool to intermediate; plants will grow slowly and eventually expire if temperatures remain high for long periods of time. Cool evenings help reduce heat stress during the day. Nights of 50 to 55 degrees F are ideal; day temperatures should be 60 to 75 degrees F. Evaporative cooling pads or humidifiers are useful in maintaining these conditions.

    WATER is critical for these plants because they have minimal water storage tissue. Roots should be allowed to become just dry before watering again if drainage is adequate, constantly moist roots are fine.

    HUMIDITY is important for these plants. The ideal range is 60% to 80%. In the home, mist the plants (in the morning only) and set the plants on trays of gravel, partially filled with water. In the greenhouse or enclosed growing area, humidity can be increased by misting or wetting down the floors, while evaporative coolers help raise humidity and lower temperatures. If plants are summered outdoors, automatic misters under the benches are recommended.

    FERTILIZER should be applied regularly while plants are actively growing. Applications of 30-10-10 type formulations twice a month are ideal for plants in a bark-based medium. A 20-20-20 type formulation should be used for plants in other media. If weather is dull, applications once a month are sufficient. Some growers use a high phosphorus, 10-30-20 type formulation (bloom booster) as plants approach flowering.

    POTTING is best done in the winter or early spring, before the heat of summer and/or as new roots are produced. Plants must be repotted frequently, every one to two years, to keep the potting mix from decomposing. A fine-grade potting medium, such as fine fir bark or treefern fiber, is often used with plastic pots. Sphagnum moss is also used, especially for establishing plants. The bottom one quarter to one third of the pot should be filled with drainage material, either broken crock, rocks or Styrofoam "peanuts." The plant should be positioned in the pot so that the newest growth is farthest from the edge of the pot, allowing the maximum number of new growths without crowding the pot. Plants growing in many directions may be positioned in the center of the pot. Spread the roots over a cone of potting medium and fill in around the roots with potting medium to the junction of the roots and the plant. Firm the medium around the roots by applying pressure. Keep humidity high and the potting medium slightly dry until new roots form. A vitamin B1 compound may help establish newly potted plants.

    Prepared by: Education Committee, American Orchid Society, 6000 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33405 (407) 585-8666.


  3. #3
    Real Name
    My Grow Area
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Yorkshire, UK
    Member's Country Flag


    Draculas are a bit tricky, Greg. The most important feature you need to know is how they will flower. Most people know these orchids for having pendant flower spikes that grow straight down through the compost like those of stanhopeas. That's not strictly true, though. Only some of the species in this genus have truely pendant spikes that grow straight down, the majority of the species actually have horizontal flower spikes that grow over the compost and then become pendant (but never actually penetrate the compost) and then there are also a few species with upright spikes. Those with spikes that grow down through the compost must be grown in hanging baskets with compost that will allow the very thin spikes to grow through it unhindered and then out of the sides or the bottom of the basket. The other two types can be grown in pots rather than in hanging baskets. Whether you grow them in pots or baskets (I prefer baskets for them) you must make sure that those with horizontal spikes have containers that are filled right to the top with compost to allow the spikes to grow uninterrupted over the compost surface and then hang down. If the level of the compost is too low, the spikes hit the side of the pot and then either bury themselves or simply circle around the inside of the pot, which results in the spikes being aborted in either case.

    The best substrate I have found for the ones I grow (pendant and horizontal spiked species) is long-fibred sphagnum moss (I don't see much difference between kiwi, chilean or european moss), either own its own or with some added perlite. This allows for the spikes to grow through the compost without any damage. Those with horizontal or upright spikes can also be grown in medium to small bark (with added perlite and, if grown in baskets, some chopped sphagnum to retain extra moisture). Draculas need a lot of water and the compost should always be moist. They die quickly if they dry out. They dislike hard water and respond very badly to too much fertilizer, so rain water or reverse osmosis (RO) water is best. I use RO, which has the added benefit of keeping the moss alive, so that I only have to repot most pleurothallids when they have outgrown their pots/mount or if they get swamped by the moss, which often grows faster than some of the smaller pleurothallids. If you water sphagnum moss with tap water it generally break down fairly quickly, which means you have to replace it every year as it can eventually rot the roots of your plants if it becomes stagnant.

    Even more important than moist compost seems to be the need draculas have for very high relative humidity (75-90%) around the plants coupled with good air movement. Even though they need a lot of humidity, they will rot quickly if the compost is waterlogged or if the air is stagnant without good airflow. That's why they often fail to survive for long unless you grow them in a greenhouse or a growth cabinet. Even if you manage to keep them alive in an indoor setting, they will rarely bloom without high humidity and good airflow. This is also the reason why you never see draculas in bloom at orchid shows, the open flowers collapse quickly when the relative humidity drops below 75% for more than a few hours.

    Ok, so some draculas are a little demanding (particularly the cold growing large-flowered pendant types, i.e. Dracula chimaera, hirtzii, roetzlii and vampira), but don't be put off by this as others grow like weeds at intermediate temperatures, produce many dozens of flowers at a time and are spectacular when in full bloom (i.e. Dracula felix)
    Last edited by serama; May 16th, 2013 at 08:38 PM.

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