Masdevallia Culture notes

Discussion of Draculas and Masdevallias

Masdevallia Culture notes

Postby adamjohnson » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:56 am

Masdevallia, a genus of some 350 species usually from cool, misty mountains of the New World tropics, is known for its showy flowers with sepals striking in their size, shape, and/or color. Their need for a cool, damp environment makes them an excellent choice for cool coastal climates.
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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. Evaporative cooling pads or humidifiers are useful in maintaining these conditions.

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 foot-candles. Most growers maintain levels adequate for Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum--1000 to 1500 foot-candles. Masdevallias can be kept in light intensities up to 2500 foot-candles if the growing area can be kept cool. Plants grow well under four-tube fluorescent fixtures and can be summered outside in the shade.

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.

Humidty 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 temperature. If plants are summered outdoors, automatic misters under the benches are recommended
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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 or two years, to keep the potting mix from decomposing. A fine-grade potting medium, such as fine fir bark or tree fern fiber, is often used with plastic pots. Sphagnum is also used, especially for establishing plants. The bottom third or quarter 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 B-1 compound may help establish newly potted plants.

Masdevallias are best grown under cool to intermediate conditions in the greenhouse or home. Most species and hybrids are compact enough that they can be easily accommodated on window sills or under lights. The well-draining potting medium should not be allowed to dry out completely.
Light: Flowering is best under bright light; window sills or fluorescent light conditions are sufficient. Give bright light, but not direct sun. In the home: an east or shaded, south window; or under artificial lights

Temperature: Avoid daytime temperatures higher than 80 degrees F. Give nights of 50 to 55 degrees F; days of 60 to 75 degrees F. Increase air circulation and humidity on hot summer days

Water: Give adequate moisture year round to maintain a relatively moist potting medium. Let the roots become just dry before watering. Mist in home in the morning. A humidity of 60 to 80% is desirable. Do not let water stand on leaves overnight
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Fertilizer: Must be provided on a regular basis, about every other week. Give 30-10-10 for bark mix formulations and 20-20-20 for other potting media. Concentration should be half of what the label recommends.
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