A year in the life of Aerangis citrata

Aerangis citrata

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st November 2019.

I thought you might enjoy following one of my Aerangis citrata orchids through the course of the year; so I’ve been regularly updating this diary to give you the chance to get to know this orchid better.  To make it easier for you, I’ve dated all of my photographs, so you can more clearly see the rate of this plant’s growth and development.

Aerangis citrata is an epiphytic orchid from Madagascar.  This miniature orchid species grows upon the branches and trunks of trees.  In the wild, Aerangis citrata tends to be found in Madagascar’s evergreen forests.  However, I cultivate this orchid in a very different location; Aerangis citrata is growing (together with other Aerangis, Angraecum, and Phalaenopsis species) within my Tall Orchidarium, inside my home in Surrey.  Aerangis citrata is one of the miniature orchids in my National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum Species.

Firstly, let me tell you a little bit about this particular Aerangis citrata specimen.  You might have seen this plant before – from March 2017 to November 2019 – I grew this orchid inside my Madagascar Terrarium.

My Aerangis citrata specimen was already in bud in November 2019, when I decided to introduce this miniature orchid into my brand new Tall Orchidarium.  Currently, this Aerangis citrata specimen is still residing inside my Tall Orchidarium – I have no plans to move this miniature orchid, it seems very happy growing inside this enclosure.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st November 2019.

Here’s a closer look at Aerangis citrata flower buds as they grow.  When I took these pictures, my Aerangis citrata plant had only been growing inside my Tall Orchidarium for a short while, these flowering stems and buds were formed inside my Madagascar Terrarium.

Orchid flower buds often resemble mittens while they’re developing; at this stage, the buds look rather like they’re giving us the thumbs up sign!

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st November 2019.

I grow my Aerangis citrata plants within terrariums housed inside my home, where the temperatures never fall below 15C (59F).  I guess the average daytime temperature ranges from around 18C-20C (65-68F), with warmer temperatures enjoyed during unpredictable heat waves, during the UK’s peak summertime period (May-July).

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st November 2019.

Although these pictures were taken on the same day, the Aerangis citrata flowering stem pictured above isn’t as advanced in its development as the flower spike that’s pictured below.  Meanwhile, here is another clear ‘thumbs up’ sign from the more advanced flowering stem!

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st November 2019.
Aerangis citrata in bud, as pictured on the 2nd December 2019.

During this flowering period, my Aerangis citrata plant possessed great drama, thanks to the expressive form this plant’s flowering stems took on as they developed.  Resembling a lasso in action, this orchid’s flowering stems had a real sense of movement and beauty.

Aerangis citrata in bud, as pictured on the 2nd December 2019.

Aerangis citrata fertiliser

While Aerangis citrata is in bud or in bloom, I fertilise this orchid with Orchid Focus Bloom – a concentrated fertiliser that’s designed especially for orchids.  This formula is free from urea.  Once my Aerangis citrata flowers have faded, I will switch back to using Orchid Focus Grow; then as soon as I spot the beginnings of a new flower spike emerging, I’ll return to using Orchid Focus Bloom again.

I fertilise my orchids, once a week for three weeks in a row.  Then, during the fourth week, all of my orchids receive pure rainwater.  This strategy of fertilising orchid plants once a week, for a period of three weeks, and then skipping the fertiliser during the fourth week is designed to avoid a build up of fertiliser.

For optimum results from your fertilising regime, it’s wise to make sure that your orchids aren’t too dry before you apply fertiliser.  On the day that you plan to fertilise your orchid, examine your plant early in the morning; if your orchid is very dry, give it a spritz of rainwater first and then return in an hour to fertilise your plant.  Alternatively, you could mist your plant with rainwater one day and use fertiliser the next day.  I recommend watering and fertilising your plants early in the morning, to simulate the morning dew and ensure that your plants have sufficient moisture for photosynthesis, during daylight hours, with the opportunity to dry out adequately before night fall.

I only fertilise orchids that are in active growth.  If an orchid is dormant, a simple spray of rainwater (if you cannot collect rainwater you could use deionised water or reverse osmosis water) will be all your plant needs.

Aerangis citrata in bud, as pictured on the 2nd December 2019.

On the 15th December 2019, I took this Aerangis citrata specimen out of my Tall Orchidarium to admire this orchid’s developing inflorescences and show you an updated view of the plant.  At this time, my Aerangis citrata specimen had produced four flower spikes, which were all in similar stages of production.   The oldest spike measured 16cm (6.3inches) long; this flowering stem had produced two buds, with one flower that began opening that day.  In comparison, the longest spike measured around 43cm (17inches) long; this stem had produced 27 developing buds.  The second longest Aerangis citrata flower spike measured 30cm (12inches) in length and featured 31 flower buds.  The third longest flower spike measured 22cm (8.6inches) long and held 25 flower buds.  These are by far the longest flowering stems that this plant has ever formed and the most flowering stems that this Aerangis citrata specimen has produced at once.

Aerangis citrata flowering

Aerangis citrata pictured as this plant’s first flower opened, as seen on the 15th December 2019.

Hooray for this Aerangis citrata flower!  This was the first bloom to open, during this particular flowering period.

The first Aerangis citrata bloom from this flowering period opened on the 15th December 2019.
Aerangis citrata pictured as this plant’s first flower opened, as seen on the 15th December 2019.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 21st December 2019.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 21st December 2019.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 30th December 2019.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 30th December 2019.

Aerangis citrata‘s beauty is really demonstrated when you see the flowers en-masse.  There’s something about the regularity and symmetry of this orchid species’ flowers that is greatly enhanced when more Aerangis citrata flowers are produced together at once.  One or two Aerangis citrata flowers might be nice to see, but I doubt that they would wow you; whereas a large scale flowering spectacle like this is such a wonderful thing to witness!

Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 30th December 2019.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 30th December 2019.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 1st January 2020.

On the first of January 2020, I celebrated the start of a new year, whilst admiring these newly opened Aerangis citrata flowers.  I’ve read many times that Aerangis citrata has lemon scented flowers and produces highly perfumed flowers, but I can tell you that I have a number of Aerangis citrata plants, which have flowered a great many times in my care and yet I’ve never detected any perfume from this orchid’s flowers.  I say this, after examining this orchid species repeatedly, at almost every time of the day and night, whilst my plants are in bloom.

Aerangis citrata pictured on the 1st January 2020.
Aerangis citrata pictured on the 1st January 2020.

This Aerangis citrata plant was looking rather dehydrated when I took these photographs, back in January 2020.  Orchids usually need extra misting when they’re in bud or in bloom and so plants become dehydrated more rapidly than at other times.  Miniature orchids tend to dry out more rapidly than larger orchid species.  After taking these photographs, I gave this orchid a lovely spritz of rainwater all over the plant’s leaves and roots.

Aerangis citrata pictured on the 1st January 2020.

When misting your plants, try and avoid wetting your orchid’s flowers, as the blooms will last longer if they can remain dry.  This is often easier said than done – I know – I try not to spray the flowers with water, but I always do!

Aerangis citrata pictured on the 3rd January 2020.

Aerangis citrata thrives in a high humidity.  My plant is grown inside a terrarium, which maintains a humid environment.  Optimum moisture levels are created by providing my plants with automatic misting, several times a day, every day.

Aerangis citrata pictured on the 3rd January 2020.

As you can see, I missed – I sprayed these Aerangis citrata flowers, while I was misting my plant’s leaves and roots.

Aerangis citrata pictured on the 3rd January 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 5th January 2020.

Whilst this Aerangis citrata plant was in flower, I hand pollinated a few of the flowers to see if I could induce this orchid to produce some seeds.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 5th January 2020.
Aerangis citrata in bloom, as pictured on the 6th January 2020.

I’ve found that my Aerangis citrata orchid’s flowers last much longer inside my Tall Orchidarium.  This Aerangis citrata plant was previously grown inside my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, where despite daily hand misting, this Aerangis was often dehydrated.

I have installed an automated misting unit inside my Tall Orchidarium, as well as LED lighting, fans, etc.  If you’re interested in my Tall Orchidarium’s set up, you’ll find all the details, here.

Aerangis citrata in bloom, as pictured on the 6th January 2020.
Aerangis citrata in bloom, as pictured on the 6th January 2020.

In the picture below, you can see a number of Aerangis citrata seed pods developing on the plant.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 26th January 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 2nd June 2020.

In this photograph below, you can see the very beginnings of new Aerangis citrata flowering stems and new roots.

A closer look at Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 2nd June 2020.
Aerangis citrata, pictured in bud, on the 13th July 2020.

I hadn’t wiped over my Aerangis citrata specimen’s leaves for a while and as a consequence, a significant layer of algae had colonised the surface of this miniature orchid’s leaves.  I took some of my left-over chamomile tea and soaked a cotton pad in the cooled (room temperature) tea and then I gently wiped over each of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s leaves.  Some of the algae remained, but the leaves looked much better after I had tended to them.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 14th September 2020.

This Aerangis citrata specimen was drier than it would have chosen in September 2020, hence my plant’s wrinkled leaves.  Inside my Tall Orchidarium my misting unit’s nozzles were somewhat pushed out of place by accident; I am unsure when this happened.  I only became alerted to the problem when I noticed that a number of my plants inside my Tall Orchidarium were becoming dehydrated.  Thankfully, I have resolved this problem now and all of the orchids have been successfully rehydrated.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 14th September 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 16th October 2020.

By mid-November 2020, my Aerangis citrata plant’s leaves were fully hydrated and appeared in much better shape.  I took some more left over, (cooled) chamomile tea and wiped over this Aerangis citrata specimen’s leaves again to gently remove more of the algae; as you can see there are still a few tiny patches of algae left and a couple of this plant’s leaves are displaying more of a yellow tone than I would like, but this plant is looking much healthier and happier now.

If your orchid has algae covering its leaves, it’s better to be more gentle in your attempts to remove the algae, as you want to avoid damaging your plant’s leaves.  Take a soft cotton pad soaked with (room temperature) chamomile tea (or water if you don’t have any tea) and gently wipe over each leaf, removing only the algae that comes away with gentle pressure.  There’s no need to scrub at your plant’s leaves or use too firm a pressure; for best results avoid any harsh or abrasive applications and instead opt for gentle, light strokes.  Repeat this process at regular intervals, every couple of weeks until the leaves are clear.

After wiping over the leaves, I decided to trim off the brown ends from two of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s leaves, using scissors that I sterilised before and after making each cut.  When removing the brown leaf tips, I’ve cut well beyond the dead tips of the leaves – in fact it may look as if I’ve gone a bit mad and cut too much.  Whenever I am removing part of a leaf, I always cut across a clear section of leaf in an area that’s free from any damage.

This Aerangis citrata specimen developed brown leaf tips after been kept in a drier environment than the plant would have wished for.  If any of your plants have brown leaf tips, this isn’t something to panic about, you don’t have to trim your orchid’s leaves as I have done – this isn’t something I usually do in these situations.

Leaves with brown tips can still survive for a similar time frame as healthy leaves.  Usually, I leave my plants’ leaves alone to die back naturally, as I feel that this practice is far better for the plant.  However, in this incidence, as this Aerangis citrata specimen was being misted more regularly and as a result the leaves were now wetter this meant that the dead leaf tips were in contact with water which had led to them starting to break down and decompose.  I just instinctively felt on this occasion that this miniature orchid would be happier with these brown leaf tips trimmed off.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 14th November 2020.

One of this Aerangis citrata plant’s four flowering stems began to abort by the middle of November 2020.  This stem was in the process of producing flower buds, as it started to fail and turned from green to yellow, and eventually brown.

A closer look at Aerangis citrata flower buds, as pictured on the 14th November 2020.
A closer look at Aerangis citrata flower buds, as pictured on the 14th November 2020.
A closer look at Aerangis citrata flower buds, as pictured on the 14th November 2020.

A healthy root is just as wonderful a sight as a flower spike!

A closer look at one of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s roots, as pictured on the 14th November 2020.

This Aerangis citrata specimen is currently extending this root out and upwards from the top of the plant; whilst this orchid simultaneously produces and extends the roots it is developing from underneath the plant’s leaves.

A closer look at one of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s roots, as pictured on the 14th November 2020.

I was surprised to find a number of slugs inside my Tall Orchidarium, in November 2020.  Almost all of the slugs I found were after Aerangis citrata‘s flower buds or this one fading flowering stem.  Here’s one of the slugs I found….

A found this slug on my Aerangis citrata plant, inside my Tall Orchidarium, on the 20th November 2020.

Every slug I found was promptly removed from this terrarium and popped outside, on my bird feeder.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 27th November 2020.

By the 27th November 2020, this Aerangis citrata specimen had three healthy flowering stems and one brown, aborted flowering stem.

A closer look at Aerangis citrata flower buds, as pictured on the 27th November 2020.

There are still a number of touches of algae on most of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s leaves, but the leaves are looking much better than before.  As you can see, during this period from the middle of October 2020, to the end of November 2020, this Aerangis citrata specimen was also well hydrated.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 27th November 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 4th December 2020.

I cut off this Aerangis citrata specimen’s aborted flower spike on the 4th December 2020.  Then I measured this Aerangis citrata specimen’s three remaining flowering stems; at this time, they measured 18cm (7″), 23cm (9″), and 24cm (9.5″).

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 4th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 4th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 4th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 4th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 4th December 2020.

It’s sometimes tricky to provide miniature orchids with the optimum amount of water.  These orchids can become dehydrated quickly; plants can also seem to be optimally hydrated one day and surprisingly dehydrated just twenty-four hours later.

This particular Aerangis citrata specimen has been severely dehydrated on a great many occasions, most notably whilst I was growing this orchid inside one of my BiOrbAir terrariums.  Thankfully, for the majority of the past year, since I’ve been growing this plant inside my Tall Orchidarium with its automatic misting unit, this Aerangis citrata specimen has enjoyed optimum hydration.

However, since this plant’s flower buds have been at their later stages of development over the past couple of months, I’ve taken care to provide this plant with some extra hand misting; as a result, this Aerangis citrata plant has now been wetter than this plant would have wanted by nightfall, during the majority of nights in recent weeks.

Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.

Inside my Tall Orchidarium, I’m growing other orchids in close proximity to this Aerangis citrata specimen; two of the orchids that are positioned above this plant are also in bud and so these plants have required some additional hand misting over the past few weeks.  This additional moisture requirement and the fact that this Aerangis citrata specimen is in bud and in bloom at the moment (whilst in bud or in bloom this orchid requires more water than at other times) has led me to maintain these moisture levels at present, but once my plant’s flowers fade, I will cease providing any additional hand misting and reduce this plant’s moisture levels.

Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.

I’ve never known Aerangis citrata produce scented flowers, but every time this plant blooms I check and double-check to see if I can detect the merest hint of any fragrance.  So far, I’ve not been able to sense any perfume.

Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.

Many of the orchids I grow produce scented flowers that are perfumed at night-time, but not during the day or vice versa.  Accordingly, I’ll examine this Aerangis citrata specimen’s blooms at all times of the day or night just to check if there’s any perfume.

Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.

There are a few bare patches on this Aerangis citrata specimen’s stems.  Some of these flower buds have been devoured by the slugs inside my Tall Orchidarium but a number of this plant’s developing flower buds have been knocked off as the flowering stems have rubbed together, whilst I’ve moved the plant or taken this orchid out of its enclosure.  On many occasions, the flowering stems have got rather caught up or tangled up together, as the plant has moved.

Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, pictured on the 14th December 2020.

This Aerangis citrata specimen is displaying leaves with a distinct yellow tone.  This photograph that you can see below really highlights the yellow in this orchid’s leaves.  I hope that by providing the optimum amount of moisture, misting, light, and fertiliser, that I can improve this Aerangis citrata specimen’s appearance and green up this orchid’s leaves.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 16th December 2020.

Thankfully, this Aerangis citrata orchid has not been dehydrated for quite sometime.  This orchid has instead endured countless nights where the plant was wetter than it would have liked.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 16th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 17th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 17th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 17th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 17th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 17th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 20th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 20th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 20th December 2020.

During this flowering, my Aerangis citrata specimen has produced a flowering stem with slightly smaller flowers.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 20th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 20th December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 21st December 2020.

It’s easier for me to demonstrate the scale and size of Aerangis citrata with something instantly recognisable – a hand!  I hope that the photograph you can see above will help you to visualise how small this orchid species is and how large the plant’s flowering stems are in comparison to the diminutive size of the orchid.  It’s quite a magnificent feat for a plant this tiny – a mini orchid that’s growing on an old piece of wood – to have the stamina to produce so many flowers at once.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 23rd December 2020.
Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 23rd December 2020.

As expected, I’ve not been able to detect the slightest hint of any perfume from this Aerangis citrata specimen’s flowers at any time of day or night.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 23rd December 2020.

I measured this Aerangis citrata specimen’s flowering stems on the 24th December 2020.  At this time, the longest flowering stem measured 30cm (1ft) and the other two flowering stems both measured 22cm (0.7ft).

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

On the 24th December 2020, this Aerangis citrata specimen’s largest flowering stem held 15 flowers and 5 flower buds, the second flowering stem was displaying 10 flowers and 11 flower buds, while the third flowering stem held 7 flowers and 2 flower buds that have yet to open.  Fewer flowers were produced at this Aerangis citrata‘s current flowering compared the this plant’s 2019 blooming season.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

This Aerangis citrata specimen’s flowering stems are noticeably shorter that the flowering stems the plant produced a year ago for its 2019 flowering.  Although this flowering period took place inside the Tall Orchidarium, these longer flowering spikes were actually produced whilst this orchid was still growing inside the Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

Now that this Aerangis citrata specimen enjoys more consistent, regular misting, I had expected to see a similarly long length of flowering stem being produced for this current blooming period; so I was surprised to see these shorter flowering stems.  I’ll be very interested to see the length of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s flowering stems at the plant’s next flowering.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

I’ve decided not to try and pollinate this Aerangis citrata specimen during its current flowering period.  Currently, I’m without another Aerangis citrata plant in flower at the moment, so I’d have no option but to self-pollinate this orchid; something which I wasn’t successful at during my last attempt in 2019.  However, this isn’t my only reason for giving this plant a breather from seed production; I also have concerns about this plant’s health and I don’t want to put extra strain on this plant whilst it’s not in robust health and optimum condition.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

The oldest of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s flowers are now starting to fade.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

I now want to concentrate on providing optimum moisture levels and optimum growing conditions for this Aerangis citrata specimen.  I hope to green up this miniature orchid’s leaves and return the plant to better health.  Then, hopefully, I’ll be able to induce this Aerangis citrata specimen to bloom in 2021, whilst my other Aerangis citrata plant is in bloom; then I can cross pollinate the two plants and produce lots of seeds without putting undue pressure on my plants!  This may be a pipe dream, but it’s what I am aiming for.

Aerangis citrata, as pictured on the 25th December 2020.

If you’re interested in this Aerangis citrata specimen, you can follow this plant’s growth and development in my updates for my Tall Orchidarium.

Other articles that may interest you………

Aerangis citrata is currently growing inside my Tall Orchidarium, to see this orchidarium being set up for the first time, please click here.

To see a planting list of terrarium plants, including orchids, ferns, and other terrarium, vivarium, and orchidarium plants, please click here.

For houseplant ideas, please click here.

For ideas of outdoor plants to grow for bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects, please click here.

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One thought on “A year in the life of Aerangis citrata

  1. Anne Liem

    December 26, 2020 at 5:16pm

    Wow. Absolutely beautiful and so delicate. Simply breathtaking. Thank you for sharing. I enjoy them.

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      December 26, 2020 at 5:36pm

      Thank you, Anne. It’s great to hear from you! I hope you had a lovely Christmas. I love Aerangis citrata, I am so glad that you enjoyed seeing my pictures. Warmest wishes, Beth

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