Pleione culture

Pleione is a terrestrial orchid coming from mountainous areas around the Himalayas, India, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. They live in the mountain slopes at altitudes of 600 - 4200 meters. Most tolerates low temperatures and the botanical species Pleione limprichtii is even said to withstand down to - 20 ° C.  Some like Pln. maculata, Pln. praecox and Pln. saxicola have a need for somehow warmer temperatures. The same counts for hybrids with these species as parents. Pleione often grows in a mixture of moss and composted leaves at the base of trees or on moss-covered rocks. There are in the region of 17 - 22 species, depending on which botanist you refer to. On this website I follow the English Pleione enthusiast Paul Cumbleton line. This means:

The Plant:

The sympodial growth form of terrestrial Pleione orchids is unusual. They have relatively large, nearly spherical or bottle shaped pseudobulber, narrowed at the apex. Each pseudobulb is only active for one year and carries one or two pleated parallel leaf, with a length of 15-30 cm. These leaves fall off before winter. The pseudobulb goes dormant and stays dormant until a new flower start and leaf then develops. This pseudobulb remains active until the end of October when the leaf falls off and the bulb goes dormant. Then the whole cycle starts again.

Species:

albiflora, aurita, bulbocodioides, chunii, coronaria, formosana, forrestii, grandiflora, hookeriana, humilis, limprichtii, maculata, pleionoides, praecox, saxicola, scopulorum,  yunnanensis

Natural hybrids:

x barbarae, x christianii, x confusa, x kohlsii, x lagenaria, x taliensis For more information on Pleione taxonomy I refer to botanists Phillip Cribb and Gianantonio Torelli

Growing  Pleione:

Pleione  are cool growing orchid with a pseudobulb, (looks more like a tulip bulbs, but it is not) having a specific growing season and a specific dormant period. Most Pleione bloom in early spring, but a few bloom in the fall.

The life cycle of spring-flowering pleioner:

In the period from November to March, Pleione overwinter dry and cool. The temperature is kept preferably about 2-5 oC for the spring-flowering plants, 10-15 oC for autumn flowering plants. Between January and March the plants slowly starts setting a flower from a shot at the base of the bulb. A well grown plant will set from 1 to 3 new shoots and propagate relatively easily in this way. It is most important not to start watering the plant yet. First when the flower is slowly withered away and a leaf is beginning to develop, you can start watering carefully. Watering is increased slowly as the leaf develops. Only when leaf is almost completely developed, you can increase watering to full strength and start with the fertilizer. During the summer until October water and fed regularly and so that the plant never completely dries out.  I fertilize about. 1-2 times per 14 day with a balanced fertilizer. So far I have used POKON NPK 20-20-20, but 2014 i changed to  Arkne's RAINMIX, NPK 13+3+15+11CaO+3MgO. During the summer and early autumn, the plants often set extra small pseudobulbs on top of the original plant, where the leaf was previously. These small plants are called bulbils and are a good way to increase your collection or swap with other Pleione enthusiasts. These bulbils often takes 3-4 years before they reach flowering size. In October the leaf begins yellowing and eventually becomes completely brown and fall off. You stop at the same rate watering.  When the leaf is gone, the plant should be allowed to dry out completely. Remember here to collect the bulbils, so they do not fall off and disappear into the compost. It is important to let the plants dry out completely. The new plants will suck out the remaining nutrition from the old mother plant and become larger and more powerful. In November -  December, I take the plants out of the compost and separate the new pseudobulbs from the old. I put them in small paper bags (not plastic as there is a risk that they will rot in the bag). Before I put them in the paper bag, I dip them in an anti-mold agent and an insecticide, so the plants next spring is completely free from mold and insect. The compost is thrown away for 2 reasons.
  • If there are bulbils left in the compost, it pollutes the next year's pot with other plants, so you never quite know what is in the pot.
  • The compost can transfer insects and viruses.
Earlier on, I put the paperbags in the fridge. Here they are easily kept at 2-5 oC.  No I leave the plants in my coldshed where I can control the temperature in the same way. If you have no room in the fridge and do not want to buy a refrigerator for your plants, they can easily survive in a frost-free garage or similar. The most important thing is that they are stored cool and dry. January to March, the season starts again.

The life cycle of autumn-flowering Pleione:

These Pleione often bloom from August to December, and then have their relatively short dormant period. The autumn flowering species and hybrids must be kept warmer in winter hibernation and they often have a much shorter dormant period. These are stored in a cool window sill at temperatures around 10-15 oC. Here you can also benefit from not letting them dry out completely. You may want to moisten but never be allowing them to be completely wet in the dormant period. Otherwise similar life cycle, as the spring-flowering Pleione.

Temperatures:

Pleioner is cool growing with a growing season from about March to October, a cool and dry winter dormant period from November to February. They are best grown in the summer at temperatures not exceeding 25 oC and a winter temperature between 2-5 oC. I keep them in the refrigerator in the winter to ensure a reasonably uniform temperature. However, it is important that the autumn flowering pleiones as Pln. maculata, Pln. praecox and Pln. saxicola, as well as some of the hybrids where these plants are parents, are to be kept at a temperature not lower than approx. 12-15 oC.

Watering:

In the period when the plants are in dormant, you do not water. Pleione absolutely do not like to be wet when the temperature is between 0 - 10 oC. During the summer it is important for Pleione never to dry out completely. Pleione has only one set of roots, and if these die, the plant is not able to grow new roots and the plant will often die . Pleione is to be grown in a growing medium that is very open and provide good drainage. Pleione should be moist, but should never stand and paddle in the water. So water them richly and let them drain before they are put back in place. The big problem with watering, and the point where you lose most plants is watering during the spring season. It is important that you do not start watering before the flowers have withered away and the leaf growth is well underway. (see Pleioners life cycle)

Fertilizer:

In the summer from June until October I water and fed regularly and so that the plant never dries out completely. I fertilize about. 1-2 times per. 14 days with a balanced fertilizer. So far I have used a balanced fertilizer POKON 20-20-20, but 2014 started to use Arkne's RAINMIX NPK 13+3+15+11CaO+3MgO. This seems to work well for me.

Pots:

I use plastic pots. I have a feeling that by using ceramic pots, plants dry out too quickly and should be watered more often. I have many plants and work to care for. Pleione like to be relatively close in pots (a very social plant). It might be that the plants have a more uniform distribution of water and fertilizer when there is more to share. I often have 3-4 plants in a 10 cm pot. Pleione turns out from their best side when you can present a large pot with maybe 20-30 plants, but less will do.

Compost:

I use a mixture of mulch, spagnummos and a little perlite. Mulch I buy in bags from Pindstup. Spagnummos I collect in Sweden, where it grows in large quantities and perlite can be purchased at many nurseries. The mixing ratio I use is approx. 2 liters of mulch, 1 liter spagnummos and ½ l perlite. It seemed to work well for me. If you have not much time to water, you can increase the amount of spagnummos and vice versa. Others, however, use a variety of ingredients in their compost such as semi-composted leaves, pine needles, bark chips, scraps from a sphagnum block etc. Others are experimenting with using pure moss to grow in and others grow plants tied to Veg Tech Grodan blocks. Here you have to experiment on your own.

Light and Air:

In early spring from January to May.  I grow my plants in a well insulated shed made ​​for the purpose. This shed is located northeast of my house and have only a little direct sun. The temperature in the shed during this period is controlled by an electric heater that keeps the temperature between 5-10oC. So when the plants begin to producing flower shot, they are retrieved from the refrigerator, potted up and placed in the shed. Here they are during the flower season. In May, when the risk of frost is over, I move the plants into the garden, where they stand on a scaffold boards in plastic boxes. Here they are placed in a light spot, but no direct sun.

Propagating:

Reproduction of Pleione is best done by vegetative dividing the plants. Well grown plant enables one to three new plants and in addition many Pleione provides a little extra profit in the form of bulbils from the top of the old plant. These bulbils will take 3-4 years before reaching flowering size. To make new hybrids is a complete different task and not an easy one. Pleione can be crossed by means of passing the pollen from one plant to another. If it goes well, the plant will form a seed capsule that develops in over the summer. Seeds from Pleione and indeed all other orchids are very small, almost like dust. The way these seeds in nature develop, are often in symbiosis with a fungus. This means that in a natural way, a negligible number of plants come out of a seed capsule, in spite of the fact that in the seed capsule often contain more than a 100,000 seed. Should one therefore, as an orchidgrower, engage in this discipline, it requires that you read up on the knowledge and technique that are required. Orchids are now being propagated in sterile nutrient-rich environments, to get an adequate success rate of its seeds. This is almost a hobby in itself, and required knowledge, skill and a lot of patience. From seed, it can easily take 5-6-7 years to get a flower sized plant. But then you have also the opportunity to give it its own name, and thereby setting your fingerprint in the botanical history. Pt. there are approx. 4-500 hybrids and new ones appearing every year. A list of these hybrids you can find on this page under "Hybridlist"

2 Comments

  1. Leon Bredenkamp

    29. February 2016 at 15:08

    From your article it is not clear if one should separate the bulbils from the main bulb when repotting in the new season – or are they left on top? (Or separate when storing for the winter?)

    • erf

      29. February 2016 at 21:11

      Hello Leon
      You should seperate them from the motherbulb when storing them for the winter. Then you could plant them inthe same pot as the new bulb next year or plant them seperately in another pot. Remember that bulbils start their growing a litle later than the mature bulb, but otherwise they have the same lifecyclus.
      Regards Erling

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