Growing orchids in saucers

When I started growing orchids, the advice from the more experienced growers was "Never leave an orchid sitting in a saucer"

Times have changed.

What follows is a summary of what I am doing along with my thoughts.


My cymbidiums are grown under 70% white shade cloth and are sitting in approximately 2cm of water all year round.
75mm-100mm pots are in small plastic disposable sweets plates which last one season.
125mm-150mm pots are in the same type plate but larger size. (Still 2cm deep)
Larger pots are in black plastic saucers designed for the pots.

I water with the same frequency as before I used the saucers regardless of whether or not there is water in the saucers. If the saucers are empty then watering is probably overdue.
I water the pot until the saucer is full and the water coming through is clear of any broken down mix or fine particles. By doing this, any old stale water remaining in the pot and saucer is flushed out and replaced with fresh, aerated water. (I fertilize with each watering also.)

Don't be tempted to say "There's water in the saucer so I don't need to water" as this will lead to the orchid sitting in stale water which is probably the reason for the long held beliefs about not leaving orchids in saucers.

Secondly, I never put an orchid into a saucer unless I repot it first. I use 10mm bark with Canunda shell to help to counteract any acid buildup. (Other growers apply a sprinkling of lime on a regular basis.)

The question has been raised...Should I remove the saucers during winter?... One experienced grower feels that the cymbidiums take up to 6 weeks to get used to the change to or from saucers.



Softcane dendrobiums

My softcanes are grown in the same disposable picnic plates during the summer months.
I have used 10mm bark for the mix but last year at the start of the growing season, I moved them all into coconut fibre. Most plants are in 100mm pots. The one shown to the right is in a 75mm squat pot.

Once the canes are made up, around the end of April, they come out of the saucers so they can dry out for the winter. During this time they need full sun, very limited water, and around a month of night temperatures less than 10degrees to initiate flowering.

Watering will be slowly resumed once flower buds become evident. In my case they will go back into saucers after flowering when the new growths commence.

Odontoglossums and Masdevallias

I generally grow these in sphagnum moss.
To keep them from drying out during summer I sit each pot on the lid of a disposable food container. This provides around 4-5mm of water.
I try to match the lid to the size of the pot.

(Using these lids is also a good way to re-wet sphagnum if it has dried out.)

Australian Natives

I grow these in bark and use the same lids during the warmer months. The small amount of water held in the lid after watering helps to keep the bark moist for 1-2 extra days during the hot weather.

Once the cane is made up I remove the lid to let the plant dry out a little.

Some other genera I have tried in saucers are lycaste, bifrenaria, oncidium, zygopetalum and some phragmipedilums. (Some don't like it. I'm still experimenting)

Some I would not put in saucers include cattleya alliance which need to be able to dry out a bit between waterings and Australian native terrestrials.






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