Welcome to the third 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. If you would like to start at the very beginning, and read the first part of this trial and review, please click here, to read the second part of this trial and review, please click here.
For this trial and 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 this trial I will identify miniature orchid species that will grow well inside the constant conditions provided by the BiOrbAir terrarium. I hope this trial will help you if you’re interested in growing miniature orchids, or planting your own indoor terrarium garden.
You can see the full planting list of all the plants that I have trialled growing inside this Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, featured in this review here, where you’ll also find the details of the nurseries and companies I used to purchase the miniature orchids, moss, and cork, for this terrarium.
Peat free coir compost
I used the peat-free, coir compost that was included with my BiOrbAir terrarium 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 it eight months ago. I didn’t add any other growing media or fertiliser, I used only the coir compost provided with the BiOrbAir.
In the six months 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. 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 eight months since planting, I haven’t replaced any of the moss from this terrarium. Any fertilisers I use, as well as the care and maintenance of both the plants and the BiOrbAir terrarium that I undertake, I will detail here in my review – I hope this will help you if you’re looking to start a 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 water in the base reservoir will be absorbed by the capillary matting, which is fitted to the support tray above the base reservoir, which in turn will moisten the compost above. The absorption of water through the capillary matting will keep the coir compost moist, and as a result, the moss 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 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 orchids don’t usually cause any harm to the host plant they are growing on, they simply use another plant as a support to raise them up, which allows the epiphytic orchid to gain a better position, and often to receive more light and better air circulation than it would otherwise. Epiphytic orchids take all their water and nutrients from the air, the rain, and any accumulated debris that has collected in the branches of their host tree. All of the miniature epiphytic orchids featured in this trial have been mounted on 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 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 when I think they would benefit from some additional moisture. I have been feeding my miniature orchids, I have used 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.
New Miniature Orchids!
I recently visited The RHS London Orchid Show, where I purchased a number of new, interesting orchids, three of which I have now included in this trial. Following the re-organisation of this terrarium on the 9th April 2016, I now have the following orchids growing inside this terrarium:
Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
Five of these miniature orchids were included in my original planting of this terrarium eight months ago, I then added the Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen in January 2016. As you’ll see from the list of plants above, I have only one Aerangis plant left growing inside this Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium – sadly my Aerangis punctata died, and was removed from this terrarium in December 2015. So far this is the only orchid to have been removed from this terrarium.
* I received a question from a reader a couple of months, who asked if my Aerangis fastuosa, might in fact be an Aerangis fuscata, a rarer miniature orchid species, which is also from Madagascar. When this miniature orchid arrived in the post, I had a question mark in my mind as to whether I had been sent the orchid I requested when I placed my order. I referred to a number of library books on orchids and searched online for photographs of different Aerangis cultivars. Currently I cannot say with any certainty which variety of Aerangis I have received – I have shown photographs of this orchid to a number of orchid experts from around the world, so far no one has been able to identify the specimen. The best and easiest way to identify this orchid will be if it flowers. I say ‘if’, as this Aerangis doesn’t look as healthy or happy as I would like. As you’ll see in my photographs in a moment, I have now re-mounted this orchid to see if it would be happier growing in a different orientation. I will continue to refer to this orchid as Aerangis fastuosa, but I hope to make a definite identification, if and when the orchid flowers.
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:
Here’s my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, pictured on the 9th April 2016, after some re-organisation and the inclusion of three new miniature orchids:
When this terrarium was originally planted, 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 the fishing line.
Changing the way I mount my orchids
During a recent visit to the The Botanic Gardens at Kew, I was talking to the orchid experts in the tropical nurseries and found out that Kew use strips of material cut from stockings, to secure all their epiphytic orchids. Although I haven’t noticed any problems from using the fishing line to secure the orchids so far, I have now taken the decision to remove the fishing line securing all of my epiphytic orchids. Many of these miniature orchids had secured themselves in place onto the cork they were mounted on, their roots holding the plant firmly in place, but where necessary, I re-mounted any of 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. I haven’t previously used stockings to secure epiphytic orchids, just purely for aesthetic reasons – the strips of material from stockings are very visible when they are first used, and this does detract somewhat from the beauty of the orchids when viewed as a display. However, I am certain that securing the orchids using soft strips of stockings is better for the orchids, and that’s my priority. With this method, there isn’t any risk of slicing through any of the orchid roots, as there was when using the fishing line.
The Domingoa purpurea, Masdevallia decumana and Angraecum equitans specimens that are growing inside this Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium had achieved excellent root growth – when I removed the fishing line I found, as I had expected, that they have all secured themselves to the cork bark with their roots, and required no further tying in.
The Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen inside this terrarium, had not anchored its roots into the bark, as was also to be expected. As this miniature orchid is resting on top of the cork bark, it’s positioned horizontally and has no risk of slipping off, I made the decision to leave this orchid resting on the same piece of cork bark without tying it in.
Re-organising the terrarium and re-positioning plants
When it came to removing the fishing line from the Aerangis fastuosa specimen, things were as I expected: this orchid plant had produced very little root growth and was not secured in any way whatsoever. I decided to take advantage of this fact, and I have used the opportunity to re-mount the Aerangis fastuosa in a different fashion. I opted to mount this orchid horizontally, as apposed to vertically. I have secured the Aerangis fastuosa in place, on a piece of cork bark, using a strip of material cut from a stocking.
The Diplocaulobium abbreviatum specimen had also not secured itself in any way, so again I took the opportunity to reposition and move this miniature orchid to a location with more direct light – previously this orchid was rather shaded, as the overhang of the piece of cork bark above it obstructed the BiOrbAir’s LED lights. I am interested to see how well the Diplocaulobium abbreviatum will grow in its new position.
Miniature orchids with tiny flowers
The Dryadella simula plant is now occupying the shadiest position inside this terrarium, this is not as shady a position as that in which the Diplocaulobium previously resided. I hope this Dryadella will be happy here. As the Dryadella simula specimen is a new addition to this terrarium, I have secured it in place on the cork with a strip of material cut from a stocking.
Miniature orchids with larger flowers
The Masdevallia rechingeriana has ended up being in a lower position than I intended. I will keep an eye on this miniature orchid, and review the situation and this orchid’s position in a few days time. Again, this miniature orchid is a new addition to this terrarium, and has been secured in place using a strip of material, which was cut from a stocking.
Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’ flowers
Lastly the Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’ has been positioned vertically, in direct view of the BiOrbAir’s LED lights. Again the Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’ is a new addition to this terrarium, this specimen has been secured in place, using a strip of material cut from a stocking.
2nd May 2016
New flower buds
9th May 2016
I think I spotted a centipede inside this terrarium this evening! I didn’t see it in full, and I only saw it for a second, while the insect was moving quickly – so I cannot be a hundred percent sure, but it looked like a centipede.
Bulbophyllum falcatum ‘Minor’
Positioning of plants within the terrarium
Masdevallia rechingeriana flower buds
Masdevallia rechingeriana bud opening
14th May 2016
I’ve been thinking about my miniature orchids inside this terrarium, and also the miniature orchids that are growing inside my other BiOrbAir terrarium, I have been a bit concerned about my Phalaenopsis parishii, a dear little plant that has been growing in my other BiOrbAir. I have been concerned that perhaps my home provides cooler conditions than this orchid would prefer, and I wondered if it would be a fraction warmer inside my other terrarium, which is in a slightly (though not much!) warmer room. So I took the decision this evening to move my Phalaenopsis parishii specimen into my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium. You can read about this orchid’s continuing progress and development in this review.
I have also moved my Aerangis fastuosa specimen from this BiOrbAir terrarium, into my other BiOrbAir terrarium. My reason for moving the Aerangis was simply because although both of the rooms that my BiOrbAir terrariums reside in are very dark, the Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir receives a little more sunlight, than my other BiOrbAir terrarium. I thought moving the Aerangis fastuosa to a shadier spot might benefit it.
Dryadella simula flowering
Masdevallia rechingeriana flowering
Newly opened flowers…….
Masdevallia decumana flowering
To read the next part of my trial – BiOrbAir Review – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir (part four), please click here.