The Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium
Welcome to the thirteenth part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial – growing epiphytic orchids, which are endemic to Madagascar, inside the BiOrbAir terrarium. I first planted this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium in March 2017. So, at the time of writing, in August 2019, this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium is now two and a half years old. In this update, it’s a pleasure to show you a few of the twinkling, crystalline flowers of Aerangis hyaloides, alongside the beauty of the snow-white, pendent blooms of Aerangis citrata, as they fade. However this update is not all about beauty. Since my last update, I am sad to say that my Aerangis fuscata plant has died. While, I have moved my Angraecum dollii plant into another terrarium, in order to provide this plant with its optimum growing conditions. Last month, I experienced some problems with the drainage inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, which resulted in the moss and compost becoming waterlogged. As a consequence, many of these orchids inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium are not looking as good as I’d hoped.
If you’ve got time, I’d love to show you around my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. But firstly, here’s a root cap, along with a re-cap, and lots of information about this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium…………….
I first planted up this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium in April 2017. If you’re interested, you can see how this terrarium was first planted in my first instalment for this terrarium, here.
My reason for planting this very special terrarium with orchids that are endemic to Madagascar, was to highlight and raise awareness of the fragility of Madagascar. It was not my intension to encourage more people to buy or sell Madagascan orchids. I wanted to showcase the beauty of some of Madagascar’s plants, with the hope that by sharing these images, I would encourage more love, protection, and support for Madagascar. Many of the orchids that are found growing in Madagascar are not found anywhere else on Earth, so it really is a special and unique place.
Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre
Some fantastic conservation work is being undertaken in Madagascar. To learn more about Madagascar and the vital work in conservation and research that is being undertaken by the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC), a non-profit, non governmental organisation (NGO), please click here. To read the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC) blog, please click here.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
I am an advocate for the people that work at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. The team representing this amazing organisation, work to discover more about plants and fungi, wherever they originate, all across our planet. Kew safeguard and protect plant species and important areas for plants and fungi.
We are so fortunate to have Kew. The work undertaken at Kew benefits the entire planet. If you’d like to donate and contribute to Kew’s vital plant science and conservation work, please click here.
Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium
The BiOrbAir terrarium that I have used to plant up these rare orchids, was designed by Barry Reynolds and is available from BiOrb by Oase. The orchid plants that are featured inside this terrarium were grown in cultivation and not taken from the wild.
Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Planting
Here’s a look at this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium over the past two and a half years, starting with this photograph that I took back in April 2017:
The Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Planting List
As I write to you today, in August 2019, these plants are currently growing inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium:
- Aerangis citrata
- Aerangis hyaloides
- Aerangis macrocentra
- Aerangis punctata
- Aeranthes arachnites
- Angraecum equitans
- Angraecum ochraceum
You can see the full planting list for this terrarium here, where you’ll find more details about each of these orchid species, as well as links to every article on PumpkinBeth.com that mentions that particular orchid species. This planting list also provides the details of all of the nurseries and suppliers, where I have purchased the orchids, mosses, and cork for this terrarium. However, I didn’t set this terrarium up in order to try to encourage anyone to purchase rare orchids, I hoped to raise more protection and awareness of rare plants and endangered, scarce ecosystems. If you’d rather grow some easy to grow, miniature orchids that are keen to grow and flower, here’s a link to an article I wrote about floriferous, easy to grow orchids.
If you’d rather see a longer terrarium planting list that features many more terrarium plants, including orchids, ferns, and other terrarium plants, please click here.
If you’d prefer to start at the beginning, you can see the first article I wrote about this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, here.
If you’re looking for information on how to mount epiphytic orchids onto cork bark, please click here.
Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Problems
BiOrbAir drainage issues
I am always busy, but lately I’ve been overloaded, with far too many things to do each day. When I examined this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium a month or so ago, I was surprised to find that the orchids that are growing inside this terrarium had declined and were in poorer a condition than I had expected. Yet when I examined these same plants just a few months ago, they were mostly enjoying very good health.
So what has changed? On examining the plants inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium last month, I found that the drainage pipe that displays the water level in this BiOrbAir terrarium’s base reservoir was clogged up. I hadn’t realised that the compost and moss at the base of this terrarium had become so wet. As I was unaware of the problem with this Madagascar Terrarium’s drainage, I had continued with my usual routine of occasionally topping up the water in the base reservoir, which only made the situation worse. This resulted in the compost and moss becoming wetter and wetter, creating unhealthy, anaerobic growing conditions. Thankfully, I only have moss growing in this compost – no terrestrial terrarium plants are explicitly planted in the base of this terrarium. However, the excessive moisture levels at the base of this enclosure have negatively impacted my orchids – many of my orchid’s cork mounts had become saturated with water and had started to rot and mould was evident on a number of my plants.
In case you’re not familiar with how the BiOrbAir works. The base reservoir is as you’d expect, at the bottom of the globe. The water in the base reservoir automatically waters the compost above. In my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, the moss and orchids are positioned directly above the compost. Just as a side note – if you’re interested in finding out more about the features of the BiOrbAir Terrarium, you might be interested in this article I wrote about this terrarium.
Solving the drainage problems inside this terrarium and caring for my orchids
This Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium’s drainage pipe was easily unclogged using a piece of wire. This allowed the base reservoir to be drained in the usual way, which quickly and easily reduced the water levels inside this terrarium.
I received my first BiOrbAir terrarium in 2014. I’ve not experienced a problem with this terrarium’s drainage pipe clogging up, prior to this incident, which I first discovered in July 2019. I have no idea how long this problem has gone on for – a few months at least. Thankfully, this issue was easily resolved. I just need to monitor my orchids and give them some extra care if needed, as I hope to nurse these plants back to optimum health.
How to clear a blockage in your BiOrbAir terrarium’s base
If you experience a similar problem with your terrarium, I hope that reading about my experience will help you. It is an easy enough problem to fix: just take a pipe cleaner or a long piece of wire and carefully insert it into the BiOrbAir terrarium’s drainage pipe. I found that it only took a moment to clear the blockage and then drain the excess water away, through the drainage pipe, into a bottle. My BiOrbAir was overfilled, so it took a few goes of draining bottles and bowls of my BiOrbAir’s excess water, but this didn’t take too long and the water was easily poured away.
If you’re attempting to clear an obstacle, keep the drainage pipe straight – you don’t want to hold the pipe at an angle, as you push the wire in. This will make it easier for you to push the compost, or whatever is blocking your pipe, out of the way, thereby unblocking the pipe.
I’d also recommend that you check your BiOrbAir terrarium the next day following draining and again a few days later – just to check that you’ve removed all of your surplus water.
Avoiding over watering your BiOrbAir Terrarium
When adding water to your BiOrbAir terrarium, add a little water at a time – perhaps pour in half a cup of rainwater, or reverse osmosis water, or Humidimist, at each watering. Then check your base reservoir’s levels the next day, when you can add more water if you need to.
I don’t like to use a fungicide unless I really need to, as plants form symbiotic relationships with fungi which greatly benefit the plants and help them to grow successfully. However, following on from the problems with the drainage inside this BiOrbAir terrarium; I took the decision to re-mount a few of my orchids that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. I used some new pieces of cork and some new moss to re-mount these orchids, as their mounts were mouldy.
While the orchids that were not remounted, were all treated with a fungicide; as white mould was visible on all of the plants that were in contact with this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium’s compost or moss.
The moss inside this terrarium is currently looking totally miserable! It’s dull and lacklustre, with lots of darkened patches. For now, I have left the moss inside the Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium as it is for the moment; simply because I don’t have any spare moss to replace it with. I hope this moss will be OK to leave in place for a little while longer, it might even rejuvenate – OK, I seriously doubt this will happen, but it would be a really nice surprise if it did! However, if the moss inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir declines or becomes mouldy, I will of course remove it, but for now, I am leaving the moss where it is.
After draining the excess water away, I left my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium for a few days and then I checked the water levels again. Thankfully, this time there was no excess water to remove. I hope that after rectifying the drainage, that the conditions inside this terrarium will be more beneficial to the miniature orchids that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium.
During February and March 2019, I noticed that there were sciarid flies inside many of my terrariums. I was tired of being bugged by these tiny flies, flitting around my houseplants; so, on 9th March 2019, I treated the compost inside my Madagascar Terrarium with a compost drench of Nemasys® Biological Fruit and Veg Protection, a biological control – a natural method of controlling sciarid flies, also known as fungus gnats. I treated my houseplants and all of my terrariums. I’ve not seen any sciarid flies inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium since I applied these biological controls – this is a very effective treatment, which works well for terrarium plants and all houseplants.
If you’re interested, you can read all about Nemasys® Biological Fruit and Veg Protection, in this article I wrote about the treatment, showing the simple step-by-step application process, here.
I have tiny snails living inside many of my terrariums. These mini mollusks are more destructive than you might expect.
Some orchids are more attractive to snails than others. Certainly, the tiny snails that reside inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium are particularly fond of dining out on Aerangis punctata and Angraecum ochraceum leaves. These snails are especially fond of soft, lush new growth. They will devour new leaves in record time, but these tiny snails will happily eat any part of these plants – including older leaves and new roots. Snails will occasionally eat old roots too, but I don’t see this happening as often.
I have found that the best way to control snails is to use my cucumber method: I regularly add a number of slices of fresh cucumber to my terrariums, which I use as bait, to attract the snails. I place the cucumber slices at regular intervals, near the orchids, inside my terrarium. Then I wait a while, before collecting up the cucumber slices, complete with the snails.
I’ve been really busy lately, I’ve not managed to use my cucumber method for a while and it shows. The snails have caused a large amount of damage to my Aerangis punctata plant in particular. My Aerangis punctata specimen’s new leaves have been demolished by the snails. These tiny snails have damaged many of the orchids that reside inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. This terrarium provides a safe habitat for the snails, they’re protected from predators and have ideal living conditions. The wetter conditions, caused by the blockage and over watering of this terrarium’s base reservoir would have created more beneficial conditions, for the snails.
To control pests like aphids, scale insect, mealybug, and spider mites, inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, I regularly spray the orchids inside this terrarium with SB Plant Invigorator, an organic, biodegradable, non-toxic control for aphids, scale, mealybug, whitefly, and spider mite.
If you struggle with spider mites, I’ve written this article about spider mites, which features lots of tips and ideas of how to successfully control this pest.
Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium growing conditions
Conditions inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium
If you’re interested in this topic, you might be enjoy reading this article I wrote, where I explain how I track the conditions inside my various terrariums. I monitor the growing conditions for a wide range of plants, which are growing in a number of different locations. I also use same these techniques to track the conditions for the houseplants grown inside my home, as well as monitoring the light, humidity levels, and temperatures for a range of edible plants grown inside my glasshouse, as well as cut flowers, vegetables, fruit, and herbs, grown in my outdoor trials area.
I was previously using Rain Mix from Akerne Orchids, as a fertiliser for all of my orchids. On the 22nd March 2019, I switched back to using Orchid Focus Grow as a fertiliser for my orchids that are actively growing, and Orchid Focus Bloom, as a fertiliser for my orchids that are in bud or in flower.
If you’re interested, you can read about the general care I give my orchids here.
Miniature epiphytic orchids from Madagascar
On the 17th December 2018, I measured this Aerangis citrata specimen’s oldest flowering spike, (which so far has not produced any flower buds) it measured 27cm (10.6 inches) long. While the flowering spike that faded in December 2018 measured 24cm (9.4 inches). The newest flowering spike, which was at this time in bloom, measured 11cm (4.3 inches).
I have two Aerangis citrata plants that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. Firstly, let me show you this Aerangis citrata specimen. This plant was included in the original planting of this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, back in April 2017. So far, this particular plant has so far flowered three times, during the two and a half years that this orchid has been growing inside this terrarium.
Over the past two years, this Aerangis citrata specimen has suffered from severe dehydration on a number of occasions. This orchid species requires more misting, than any of the other orchid species that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. I usually make sure that I provide all of my plants that are growing inside a particular terrarium with the exact same growing conditions, but I have now changed my approach. I am now misting these Aerangis citrata plants more frequently than the other plants inside this terrarium. Despite being so severely dehydrated in the past, this orchid has endured and this Aerangis citrata specimen has now recovered and is now in excellent health..
The reason for this Aerangis citrata specimen’s recovery is simply because I have increased the misting that this miniature orchid has received, to ensure that this Aerangis citrata specimen is no longer dehydrated.
This older Aerangis citrata specimen currently is in the process of producing two flower spikes; both spikes are currently in very early stages of production.
Here’s a look at the younger of the two Aerangis citrata plants that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. As you can see, this miniature orchid is growing very well indeed; the plant has produced many more, lovely green leaves and lots of new roots since my last update.
This orchid species requires more frequent watering than the other orchids that are growing inside this terrarium. I usually give the exact same care to all of the plants that are growing inside the same terrarium, but I have made an exception for these two Aerangis citrata specimens. These Aerangis citrata plants now receive more moisture and more misting than the other orchids that are growing inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, these orchids would prefer to be misted once a day. I still fertilise these two plants at the same time as I feed the rest of the orchids inside this terrarium, it’s only the misting where these two plants receive more moisture than the other orchids growing inside this globe.
There are two Aerangis hyaloides specimens currently growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. First I’ll show you the younger plant of these two Aerangis hyaloides specimens.
When this younger Aerangis hyaloides specimen was first introduced to my Madagascar Terrarium, this particular plant was initially positioned directly below my Aerangis citrata plant. Usually, I provide all of the plants that are growing inside my Trial Terrariums, for example my Miniature Orchid Trial Terrarium and my White Orchid Trial Terrarium, with the same growing conditions. However, through my regular updates for this Madagascar Terrarium, over the past two years, I have clearly demonstrated that Aerangis citrata requires more misting than the other orchids that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. I now ensure that this Aerangis citrata plant is misted more often than the other orchids inside this terrarium, with the aim of giving my Aerangis citrata plant the ideal conditions for healthy growth.
Consequently, with the aforementioned Aerangis citrata plant positioned above, this Aerangis hyaloides specimen which was growing directly below, received almost the entire run off of water, after the Aerangis citrata specimen overhead was misted. The end result was that this Aerangis hyaloides specimen was growing in far wetter conditions than this orchid species favours and as a consequence, this plant was not in tip-top condition.
In spring 2019, I realised what was happening, so I moved this Aerangis hyaloides plant further away from any potential water drips, but this plant had clearly already endured less than perfect growing conditions for quite some time.
Both of the Aerangis hyaloides specimens that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, flowered during December 2018 and January 2019. Many of these plants’ initial flowers were held in out of the way positions – like under the leaves or facing into the plant, rather than away from it. Consequently, the majority of these flowers were stealth or secret blooms, that were mostly hidden from view.
As you can see in these before and after photographs, this Aerangis hyaloides specimen has produced an abundance of new growth, during the past six months.
Currently, there are two Aerangis macrocentra plants growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. These plants were purchased from the same nursery, at the same time. I expect that these Aerangis macrocentra specimens were grown in the same flask, but whether my hunch is right or wrong, certainly these are young orchid plants of a very similar age.
As you can see in my photograph above, one of these Aerangis macrocentra plants has produced a flower spike, which has sadly aborted, While the other Aerangis macrocentra specimen has produced a flower spike which is still growing at the moment.
These plants have been grown in drier conditions than they would have liked of late, as I have been trying to dry this terrarium out. I am expecting that this current flower spike will also be aborted, as the conditions this Aerangis macrocentra plant is experiencing are not favourable for flowering. The growing conditions inside this terrarium, changed from a very damp, exceptionally humid atmosphere, (when this BiOrbAir terrarium’s drainage was blocked) to a sudden change and a much less humid environment, after I discovered the blockage and tried to dry this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium out. This all occurred just at the time that this Aerangis macrocentra plant was in bud and about to flower. I am sure that the sudden change in conditions will prompt the plant to abort its flower spike, so as to conserve the plant’s resources and protect the plant for a coming change in its growing conditions.
There’s just one Aerangis punctata plant growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium; this plant was included in the original planting of this terrarium, back in April 2017. As you can see, this Aerangis punctata specimen is rather a tatty looking thing! Although this plant has such a scruffy appearance and looks to be in poor condition, this Aerangis punctata plant has actually thrived inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. The plant’s downfall has been its popularity with the tiny snails that reside inside this terrarium. These snails have nibbled or eaten every new leaf that this orchid has produced, for quite sometime now, which is very annoying! I have not been as proactive as I should have been at using my cucumber method to remove these tiny snails from this terrarium, over the past few months. As I write to you in August 2019, there are slices of cucumber inside almost all of my terrariums!
Sadly this Aerangis fuscata specimen has now died. This plant was in decline for a few months before it died. When this Aerangis fuscata specimen began producing a new leaf, I hoped that this plant might recover, but sadly it wasn’t to be. I am so sorry to see this plant go. Here’s a picture of the dead plant; it’s a sad sight, but isn’t the leaf structure wonderful?
I have one Aeranthes arachnites plant growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium; this plant was included in the original planting of this terrarium.
Aeranthes arachnites is a small sized orchid species; it’s a much larger species than all of the other orchid species that are currently growing inside this terrarium. This is an orchid that I’d only really recommend for larger terrariums, I only included this plant inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, as I think this orchid’s flowers are so incredible, they have such an unusual form. I hoped that by showing the world this orchid in flower, that I could help to raise awareness of the plight of endangered plants in Madagascar and across the world.
Despite its size and the fact this really is too large a plant for this BiOrbAir terrarium, I’ve so enjoyed growing Aeranthes arachnites inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. This interesting orchid is very floriferous. During 2017 and 2018, my plant was almost always in flower. This year, my Aeranthes arachnites plant has not been anywhere near so keen to bloom. I cannot remember when I last saw this plant in flower. I attribute my plant’s lack of flowers to the fact that I have lifted this plant (and all of the plants inside this terrarium) out of the Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium in order to examine the plants and spray every plant thoroughly, with SB Plant Invigorator. Each time I lifted this Aeranthes arachnites specimen out of its enclosure, I noticed how my plant had established itself so solidly, by sending out a multitude of roots into the moss and compost that surrounded this specimen. By growing part terrestrially and part epiphytically, this Aeranthes arachnites specimen had both anchored itself securely and found access to a greater quantity of available moisture, in the moss and coir compost below. This was in addition to this Aeranthes arachnites specimen’s regular access to moisture and nutrients through the hand misting applied to the plant’s roots that are growing on the piece of cork oak wood that this orchid is mounted on.
Naturally, each time I ripped this Aeranthes arachnites specimen from the moss and compost inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, I damaged the roots that this plant had created and I effectively wasted my plant’s energy and weakened my plant.
After draining the water from this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, I decided to split this plant into two. Usually I would divide any plants in spring time, but I decided that as I needed to lift this plant that I may as well make use of the opportunity. I’ve popped one of these Aeranthes arachnites divisions back inside this terrarium. I have my fingers crossed, for healthy new Aeranthes arachnites growth!
I first introduced this tiny Angraecum equitans specimen in my original planting of my Miniature Orchid Trial Terrarium, back in August 2015. In April 2017, when I set up this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, I moved this Angraecum equitans specimen into my new Madagascar Terrarium, where the plant has remained ever since.
This orchid’s health seems to ebb and flow. I look at the plant one month, when I am relieved to see this miniature orchid looking so healthy. Only so far I have been disappointed the following month or a few months later, when I observe this Angraecum equitans specimen’s decline.
This Angraecum equitans specimen has not grown in size or stature during the four years that I have been growing this plant; although, I must say that there are times when this little plant has more leaves than others, so it does look fractionally larger then.
I’ve included a picture of this Angraecum equitans specimen with a thumb nail, so you can accurately see the diminutive size of this little orchid. This plant’s roots are incredibly fine, they are like fine hair in their appearance. The plant goes through cycles of producing strong root growth and then just when I am feeling happy and confident of its survival, it begins to decline again. I had expected this orchid to decline a little over the drier winter period, but the two never seem to coincide.
Currently I am very concerned about this little Angraecum equitans orchid, as it looks rather fragile. I hope I can encourage this Angraecum equitans specimen to produce strong, healthy growth. I am keen to provide the optimum growing conditions, to help this miniature orchid survive and hopefully flourish and flower. This Angraecum equitans specimen has not yet flowered during the four years that I’ve been growing it.
I have just one Angraecum ochraceum specimen growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium. This plant is very much at one with its wood mount, as this Angraecum ochraceum specimen’s roots are ingrained inside this piece of wood. I would have liked to have replaced this piece of wood, as it has white mould all over it, but as this plant is so firmly attached I have left it for now. Instead, I have treated this plant and the mount with a fungicide.
I try to keep an eye on the growth of the moss around this Angraecum ochraceum specimen, as this plant doesn’t wish to be smothered in moss. Despite the mould growing around it, this Angraecum ochraceum specimen has been growing strongly over the past six months or more. This plant has more than doubled in size, having produced many new leaves and new roots, over the past six months.
Many of the miniature orchids that are growing inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium are not in as good condition as I would like. So, I am currently thinking of making some significant changes, in order to grow all of these special orchids as well as I can.
To head straight to the next update for this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………
To see how my Rainforest Terrarium was built, please click here.
To read the first instalment from my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first instalment from my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first instalment from my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.
For information on how to mount epiphytic orchids onto cork bark, please click here.
To read about the great new features of the 2017 BiOrbAir terrarium, please click here.
To read a Planting List of a wide range and variety of beautiful plants which are suitable for growing in terrariums, vivariums, bottle gardens, and indoor gardens, please click here.
To see a Planting List of beautiful, miniature orchids, suitable for growing in terrariums, vivariums, bottle gardens, and indoor gardens, please click here.
To read about the Writhlington Orchid Project, please click here.
To read about the Queen of Orchids, and this special plant’s flowering at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, please click here.