Masdevallia, a genus of some 350 species usually from cool, misty
mountains of the New World tropics, is known for its showy flowers
with their sepals striking in their size, shape, and/or color.
Their need for a cool, damp environemnt makes them an excellent
choice for cool, coastal climates.
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 1000 footcandles. Most growers maintain light levels
adequate for Phalenopsis and Paphiopedilum - 1000 to 1500 footcandles.
Masdevallias can be kept in light intensities up to 2500 fc if the
growing area can be kept cool. Plants grow well under four-tube
flourescent 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 55F are ideal; day temperatures should be 60 to 75F.
Evaporative cooling pads or humidifiers are useful in maintaining
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 the plants are actively
growing. Application of 30-10-10 type formulation 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 phosphorous,
10-30-20 type formulation (bloom booster) as plant 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 media form
decomposing. A fine-grade potting media, 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
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
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 the potting medium to
the junction of the roots and the plant. Firm the medium around the roots
by applying pressure. Keep the humidity high and the potting medium
slightly dry until new roots form.
A vitamin B1 compund may help establish newly potted plants.
Prepared by the Education Committee, American Orchid Society
6000 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33405