Pendant Dendrobium Culture

Dendrobium superbum ( anosmum)
different color forms

Dendrobium pierardii

Quite a lot of  people have read the blog about pendant Dendrobiums , so I decided to expand on the culture of the group. In most cases, these plants are grown in baskets or on mounts made of treefern fiber or cork with a thick pad of sphagnum moss attached to it. The canes can hang down on some species from the mount as much as 9 feet, so give the canes plenty of room to grow !

As these pictures illustrate, the plants grow mounted, and not potted. This mandates a regular watering and fertilizing schedule while plants are in active growth. The very best flowering I've seen on this group of plants has been with plants watered daily, and fertilized every week or even more often. In this group of plants, if the roots never get dry, and the plants have an abundant supply of fertilizer, the canes will grow to their maximum dimensions.

Once the canes have matured, indicated by the cessation of new leaf growth, ( usually in November-December) then STOP WATERING the plant, and STOP FERTILIZING the plant. Water the plants enough to keep the canes from shriveling. If you water this group of plants while they try to go dormant, then they'll start growing again, and you will lose most of the flowers. This is a natural cycle for the plant, since so many of them come from monsoon-drought climates. The plants are used to being soaked by heavy tropical rains every day for several hours, week after week. When the monsoons end, there is little rain for weeks on end, sometimes no rain at all for months. The plants use this rest period to build flower buds, which burst forth in mid-Spring to Summer to attract pollinators when the rains arrive anew. While the plants have a fairly short flower life, they are usually quite flashy, and often have heavenly fragrances. One of my personal favorites is Den. parishii, a petite species that would spend its life in an 8 inch basket. It has a rich fragrance with a hint of cloves  

Dendrobium parishii

Dendrobium fimbriatum var. oculatum
a hefty grower, canes to 8 feet or more

Dendrobium wardianum
a Himalayan species

Many species can be accommodated  in wood or plastic baskets in a potting mix of fir bark or coconut chunks plus an inorganic material such as fired ceramic pellets, lava rock, or coarse perlite. The mix should hold water but still drain well. Although the plants can be mounted on trees, make sure the tree can withstand the care you give the orchid ! Some trees, such as citrus and many fruit trees don't like the copious fertilizing and watering the orchids may require. In most cases, a well-fertilized orchid plant allowed to rest in the winter will flower well the following Spring. Some growers use a higher nitrogen fertilizer when the plant is actively growing, then switch to a higher phosphorous fertilizer in early Fall to promote flowers and "slow" the plant down for a winter rest.

Given some extra attention to watering and fertilizing in the Summer, then extra care in neglecting the plant in the Winter, these plants flower beautifully. There are species in every size range and for almost every climate. The plants are easily available through  mail order nurseries, as well as local orchid shows. Do a bit of research on the plants you choose, and you'll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful and crystalline flowers in the orchid world.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens  



  1. Dear Craig:
    I am a Palmetto Bay resident. Do you know where I can find Dendrobium wardianum available for sale? Local or within the USA? Thanks, Tom@tomdemello.com

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  3. Dear Craig,

    What is the best fertilizer you recommend for the dendrobium parishii? Also do recommend more of a spagnum moss mountbor in a wood basket with fir bark? Should they be reposted every so often? Thank you so much in advance!
    Vivian Vazquez in Little Gables