Welcome to the fifth part of my BiOrbAir Review – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir. The BiOrbAir is a specialised, automated terrarium, designed by Barry Reynolds from Reef One. I first planted this terrarium in August 2015, so at the time of writing, in August 2016, this BiOrbAir terrarium is a year old. Some, though not all, of the miniature orchids that are currently residing in this terrarium were featured in the original planting of this terrarium in August 2015.
Miniature orchids from different countries and climates
For this trial and BiOrbAir review – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, I have chosen a variety of different miniature orchids, originating from different climates and countries, to trial growing inside my BiOrbAir terrarium. Throughout the trial I will identify varieties of miniature orchids that will thrive in the constant conditions provided by the BiOrbAir terrarium. I hope this trial will help you if you’re interested in growing miniature orchids, or creating your own indoor terrarium garden.
You can see the full planting list of all the plants that I have trialled growing inside the Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, featured in this review here. Where you’ll also find the details of all of the nurseries and companies I used to purchase the miniature orchids, moss, and cork for this terrarium.
I used the peat-free, coir compost that was included with my BiOrbAir as the growing media for this terrarium. I followed the straight-forward instructions to pre-soak the compost before adding it to the terrarium, when I planted the terrarium a year ago. I didn’t add any other growing media or fertiliser, I used only the coir compost provided with the BiOrbAir. In the year since planting I haven’t used any fertilisers on either the moss or the coir compost inside this terrarium.
The moss has been watered only with rainwater. This moss was part of my original planting of this terrarium. A year later and the moss is still looking in optimum condition – it’s a beautiful verdant green, and provides the perfect backdrop for the miniature orchids. So far, in the year since planting, I haven’t replaced any of the moss from this terrarium or any of the compost, nor have I added any additional compost to this terrarium.
Any fertilisers I use, and any care or maintenance I undertake, of both the plants, and the BiOrbAir terrarium itself, I will detail here in my BiOrbAir review. I hope this review will help you if you’re looking to start up your own terrarium, or if you require advice on maintaining your terrarium, or if you’re interested in growing miniature orchids.
Naturally, I will regularly top up the base reservoir of my BiOrbAir with rain water as required. The rain water in the base reservoir will be absorbed by the capillary matting, which is fitted to the support tray. The support tray sits above the base reservoir, and the capillary matting sits on top of the support tray. The strips of capillary matting hang down into the rain water in the base reservoir below, the rain water is absorbed by the capillary matting, which in turn will moisten the compost above. The absorption of water through the capillary matting will keep the coir compost moist and the plants will be watered automatically.
I will regularly top up the ultrasonic misting unit with Humidimist, a pure bottled water, low in electrolytes, available from Reef One and included as part of the package when you purchase a BiOrbAir. The Humidimist is the only type of water recommended for use in the ultrasonic misting unit of the BiOrbAir, and it is the only product I will use.
Epiphytic Miniature Orchids
All of the orchids that I have chosen for this trial are epiphytic – epiphytic plants grow naturally on other plants, often they grow on trees. The trees or plants that the epiphytic orchids grow on, provide height, support and a place for the orchid to grow.
These epiphytic orchids are not the same as parasitic plants like mistletoe, they don’t take any sustenance from their host plant – epiphytic plants don’t usually cause any harm to the host plant they are growing on. Epiphytic plants simply use another plant as a support, to raise them up, allowing the epiphytic orchid to gain a better position – often where the plant will receive more light, water, and better air circulation, than it would receive without the host plant. Epiphytic orchids take all their water and nutrients from the air, the rain, and any accumulated debris that collects in the branches of their host tree. All of the miniature epiphytic orchids featured in this trial have been mounted onto cork bark.
Cork for terrariums
Cork is such an amazing and interesting, fascinating natural material. Obtained from the bark of Quercus suber, (commonly known as the Cork Oak), cork has many uses. The cork industry is regarded as sustainable, as the Quercus suber trees are not required to be cut down in order to harvest the bark, and harvesting the bark does not harm the tree – the Quercus suber trees continue to grow after their bark is harvested, and their bark also re-grows – the trees go on provide future harvests at regular intervals every 9 years or so. I purchased my cork bark online from the Jelinek Cork Group.
Misting the orchids
I mist my miniature orchids. Misting is the method I use to irrigate and feed the miniature orchids inside this terrarium. To fertilise my miniature orchids, I use Orchid Focus Growand Orchid Focus Bloom. I purchased both of these fertilisers from the shop at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I feed my orchids only sparingly, following the instructions on the pack. These miniature orchids wouldn’t naturally receive an abundance of nutrients in their natural environment. Over feeding can be very detrimental to your orchid plants.
Changing the way I mount my orchids
When this terrarium was originally planted in August 2015, I chose to mount the miniature orchids onto the cork using fishing line to secure the orchids in place. I was thinking purely aesthetically when I chose to use fishing line to secure the orchids – as it’s clear material, and so not as visible – I felt it wouldn’t detract from the beauty of the orchids. I did have real concerns that the fishing line could act as a cheese wire, and slice into the roots of the orchids, but I went ahead and used it regardless – all of the orchids were mounted onto the cork bark and secured in place with fishing line, which I cushioned by placing moss over the roots of each of the plants.
At the end of March 2016, during a visit to the The Botanic Gardens at Kew, I spoke to the orchid experts in the tropical nurseries, where I found out that Kew use strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure all their epiphytic orchids.
Although I hadn’t noticed any problems from using the fishing line to secure my orchids so far, after my visit to Kew, I immediately took the decision to remove the fishing line securing all of my epiphytic orchids. Where necessary, I re-mounted my orchids, using small strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure the orchids in place.
For many years now I have used stockings as ties for trees and other garden plants with great success. Prior to March 2016, I hadn’t previously used stockings to secure my epiphytic orchids, this was purely for aesthetic reasons. The strips of stockings when they are newly applied, even when cut very thinly, are very visible. This does detract somewhat from the beauty of the orchids and the terrarium when viewed as a display.
However, overtime the strips of material do blend in somewhat, as the moss grows over the strips of material, and they are naturally discoloured by the humidity, water, moss and natural materials inside the terrarium, this does camouflage the strips somewhat, softening their effect.
I am certain that securing the orchids using soft strips of stockings is better for the orchids, and these plants are my priority. With this method, using strips of material cut from stockings, there isn’t any risk of slicing through any of the orchid roots, as there was when using the fishing line.
Orchids I am currently growing inside this BiOrbAir terrarium:
Following the re-organisation of this terrarium on the 26th May 2016, I now have the following orchids growing inside this terrarium:
Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
Four of these miniature orchids – Angraecum equitans, Diplocaulobium abbreviatum, Domingoa purpurea, and Masdevallia decumana, were included in my original planting of this terrarium a year ago. I then added the Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen in January 2016. On the 9th April 2016, I added Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’, Dryadella simula, and Masdevallia rechingeriana, and in May 2016, I added Phalaenopsis parishii – which had been growing in another of my terrariums. On the 26th May 2016, I added Mediocalcar decoratum to this terrarium.
This Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium is now a year old!
Firstly, a recap, here’s a picture of my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, this photograph was taken in August 2015 – the same month that this terrarium was originally planted and set up a year ago:
Here’s the same terrarium, now with rearranged planting, and the inclusion of some additional miniature orchids, pictured a year later, on the 13th August 2016:
This Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium is now a year old. I have so enjoyed planting this terrarium and trialling miniature epiphytic orchids inside this BiOrbAir terrarium to see how well they fare. It’s been great fun! I wonder what the next year holds – which orchids will flower next?
Let’s take a tour around this terrarium….
A look at each of the Miniature Orchids inside this terrarium…
Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’
Domingoa purpurea about to bloom!
Domingoa purpurea flowering at last!
Dradella simula flowers
Dryadella simula is also flowering inside this terrarium.
Domingoa Purpurea flowers
Dryadella simula flowers
2nd September 2016
On the whole, the miniature orchids are all growing well inside my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium. Domingoa purpurea and Dryadella simula are both flowering, and other orchids, such as the Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’ and Phalaenopsis parishii are growing exceptionally well, producing new roots and leaves. The only plant that isn’t growing quite as well as I had hoped, is the Diplocaulobium abbreviatum.
23rd September 2016
I originally included a Domingoa purpurea specimen inside this terrarium as a bit of a joke. I thought it might be comical to include this miniature orchid, with its lengthy flower spikes, which due to their size, render this plant unsuitable for most terrariums. I thought that by including this Domingoa, I could clearly demonstrate why it’s good to research any plants you’re thinking of buying prior to making a purchase, as miniature orchids come in an array of shapes and sizes.
Actually, the reality was that I found Domingoa purpurea fun to grow. I admired this Domingoa purpurea specimen’s steely determination, as I watched the miniature orchid forcefully drive its roots into the cork bark, claiming its spot within my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium. As you’ll have seen earlier on in this review – there was room for this miniature orchid, and its considerably sized flower spikes inside my BiOrbAir terrarium. More than that – this Domingoa purpurea, flowered successfully inside this terrarium – something that I doubted was possible on more than one occasion.
I have enjoyed growing the Domingoa purpurea, but I have now have given this miniature orchid to a friend.
10th October 2016
Today the Masdevallia decumana bloom you see in the pictures below opened. This Masdevallia decumana specimen is in the process of producing a number of new blooms – this miniature orchid has a few smaller buds, all in earlier stages of production.
The Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen that resides inside this terrarium is also about to come into flower – there are a number of tiny flower buds dotted around the plant. So there is much to look forward to inside this terrarium.
The minuscule blooms of Dryadella simula are fading, but hopefully there will be much to enjoy inside this terrarium over the coming months.
Masdevallia decumana blooming
Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’
Other articles that may interest you…………..
To continue reading this review and see the new miniature orchids I have now added to this Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, please click here.
To see the planting list for this terrarium and find the details of the companies where I purchased my orchids, moss and cork from, please click here.