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There is something really special about mounted orchids. To see an orchid grow as it
would in nature, as an
epiphyte clinging to a tree, is a new, fun, and educational way to experience an orchid's growth. One fairly
common orchid that really enjoys living on a mount is Brassovola Nodosa, also known as the "Lady of the Night"
for its delightful evening fragrance. The Brassavola Nodosa orchid pictured below is growing happily on a tree in
a garden in Kauai, Hawaii. In tropical conditions growing mounted orchids is easy, one might even argue it is
easier than growing them in a pot. It is easy when there is ample water and humidity such as in a tropical
garden, outdoors in warm climates or in a greenhouse. It is not as easy inside a home. It is difficult to keep a
mounted orchid watered enough when it is grown inside a home, especially in dry air during the heating season.
There is also the logistical challenges of bringing it somewhere like a sink to water it and where and how to
hang the mount.
Brassavola is a wonderful addition to an orchid collection but it often becomes unruly in a pot. Its thin
pseudobulbs are topped with rigid terete leaves that are often pointy and sharp at the end. These pseudobulbs
have a habit of growing every which way at random rather than the more controlled growth patterns of other
orchids. They will happily crawl out, over, and around the side of a pot. In addition, Brassavola Nodosa can
quickly grow ill in pot culture if the media becomes too sodden for too long. For us they seem especially
intolerant of poor conditions in a pot yet grow happily on a mount, even tolerating dry conditions longer and
better than our other mounted orchids will.
In this close up photo we can see how the orchid roots love to grow along and cling to the
tree bark. Other than terrestrial orchids, this is how orchids grow. Growing in a pot must seem strange to the
plant in comparison. This particular tree, with its craggy bark, is a classic spot for a happy orchid. We can
see how the roots follow the uneven surface, finding support and water among the crevices. Orchid roots grown in
a pot are round but mounted they flatten to grasp the mount.
The classic mount for orchids is cork which is available in plaques of varying sizes. Some orchids, particularly
those with thin roots such as Oncidium are fond of tree fern mounts and we see their roots growing all the way
through them. A branch from a tree that has been trimmed can make a good mount; we really like to set an orchid
in the crook of a branch when possible. Wood slat plaques look something like the flat bottom of a vanda basket
and can be used either as a vertical or horizontal mount.
Mounting orchids seems strange but is really fairly easy to do. The first thing is to find a suitable mount. In our
view the easiest mount to work with is the traditional cork mount. The next thing is to choose how to secure the
plant to the mount. Virtually anything can be used to secure the orchid to the mount with the goal being that
after a year or so the orchid will be attached to the mount and the support can be removed. To secure an orchid
to its mount one can use string, fishing line, plastic plant ties, even cut up pieces of panty hose, glue or
staples. It comes down to the personal preference of aesthetics and ease of use. We like the look of fishing
line which is a bit hard to tie but the finished look is worth it. Once the plant has established itself on the
mount the fishing line can be cut and carefully pulled away from under and around the roots.
Last, but not least, is to find an orchid to mount. Don't choose a favorite orchid to experiment on at first.
Some genera take to mounting in cultivation easier than others; we would recommend starting with Brassavola,
Oncidium, or Dendrobium. Phals can be mounted, and we grow some species that way in our greenhouse, but it is
challenging to provide the humidity they require especially in home culture. But, if their needs can be met,
Phalaenopsis are very beautiful mounted.
The first step is to prepare the mount that you have selected. Usually some type of hook needs to be secured to
the mount to allow it to hang. We like to put two screws or eyelets in the sides of a cork mount with wire
between them in much the same fashion as a picture frame is hung with wire. The next step is to decide whether
to use a pad of sphagnum moss with the mount. We like to use a small amount of moss both beneath the roots and
on top of them when initially mounting a plant. This increases moisture and seems to reduce the shock of
transferring from pot culture to mounted culture. Over time the moss falls off or can be pulled off once the
orchid is adjusted and firmly attached to its mount. Next take the orchid (which has been removed from its pot
and the roots cleaned of old media) and hold it against the mount. Try to place it so that the orchid will be
able to grow in its natural direction up the mount. Once established, the orchid will not come off the mount. We
have a mounted Oncidium that has grown up so far as to have left the top of its mount and we had to secure an
additional mount above the old one for it to continue growing up. Ideally a large enough mount should be chosen
to last the orchid for some years.
Mounted orchids need to hang somewhere. In a greenhouse they are typically hung from the rafters or from
installed rods or mesh screening. In the home it is more of a challenge. One approach is to wedge the mount into
a clay pot or vanda basket for support. Another approach is to take a wine or soda bottle and fill it with sand.
Put a wire stake or phal hook down into the bottle with part sticking out the top. Stabilize the hook by
replacing the cork in the bottle, wedging it in firmly. This provides a nice support for a mount.
Mounted orchids want to be watered frequently and daily watering is often required when they are grown inside our
home. While they can go for a few days without water this puts stress on the plant. Water needs are highly
dependant on the amount of light, heat, air movement and humidity and so it is difficult to give good guidelines
except to say that mounted orchids require considerably more frequent watering than their potted counterparts
do. The practical consideration here is that if the plant is indoors it must be taken regularly to the sink for
watering. With a bottle support the entire mount and bottle can go into the kitchen sink to be watered. Mounts
like to get nice and wet so let the water run for at least a few minutes. The plant shown to the right has been
on its mount for 3 years, it is one of the divisions discussed above.
“This fall I religiously followed your advice, creating an environment of shortened
days and lower temps in order to encourage blooming...I was successful. FINALLY!! Thank you, thank you!!
Both of my plants decided to bloom and they look beautiful. I wanted to share the good news and
my gratitude with you. Thanks again!”Laurie J.
“The potting medium you sent is gorgeous!! It's superior to the bark I've been
buying at Lowe's. I can't imagine what (my orchids) will do when I put them in your potting mix. It even
smells fresh!! Many, many thanks. I'll be ordering from you again.”
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