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Establishing Australian Thelychiton (Dendrobium) orchids, by Jeff Howes

22 Jun 2017 10:37 AM | HEATHER MILES (Administrator)

I have been gardening using native plants for nearly thirty years. And for six years I opened my garden three times for the Australian Open Garden Scheme. My aim was not to show my garden off but to show people that you can successfully grow native plants in suburbia and to promote the Australian Plants Society.   


What I find interesting when I talk to the visitors is comments like, “When you go to most open gardens you know nearly all the plants that are used – only the site and method of use changes. With a native garden, you do not know most of the plants!”. 

So I am asked many questions like, “How you I grow them?”, “Which ones do I use?”, “What can I use in my garden?” 

I start off by saying that there are over 20,000 native plants in Australia that are growing from the coast to the desert. You need to select the ones that will grow in your microclimate and local conditions such as: 

• How much sun is present

• What type of soil is it? Well drained or retains water?

One of most frequent question I receive is how I manage to grow Thelychiton kingianum and Thelychiton speciosum orchids on my rocks and ‘apparently’ in the ground. 

These orchids are really very hardy and many are killed by too much kindness and water. In fact, they can endure extreme desiccation and flower best in full sun to one quarter shade.  

To establish them on large rocks, obtain some aerial shoots that have been removed from existing orchids or cut off clumps with three or four pseudo-bulbs and hold them down with small rocks (or even tie them down with old stockings) and then surround them with plenty of old leaf litter. 

Use an open friable litter that does not hold too much moisture and drains well.  Keep the orchids moist (not wet) until new growth commences and then only water occasionally and apply more mulch as they grow. 

To appear to get them growing in the ground, (which they won’t), place a few 50 mm thick paving blocks on the ground and follow above method. In no time, they will multiply and reward you with flowers. Liquid fertilizer can be applied monthly during spring and summer at 1/2 strength but they generally get enough nutrients from the decaying leaf litter.

Jeff Howes 

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