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Australian Dendrobiums

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Australian Dendrobiums

Dendrobium is a genus of about 1200 species in the orchid family (Orchidaceae), which are native to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. They either grow on trees (epiphytes) or on rocks (lithophytes). At Flowers by the Sea, we grow Australian lithophyte Dendrobiums. In their native environment, they thrive in bright shade to full sun on rocky river canyon walls where ambient moisture is plentiful. On our farm, we can also grow them in full sun as long as we provide supplemental misting. However, we find that a setting with partial shade -- and perhaps some hours of full shade -- is better for keeping them hydrated, especially in a time of low humidity. One way to know whether your Dendrobium is receiving sufficient sunlight is by a light yellowish green leaf color; deep green indicates too much shade.

We maintain a cool growing environment for our Dendrobiums at a range of 40 to 85 degrees F. However, when humidity is high in their growing environment, these lovely yet tough  plants can survive a brush with frost or temperatures up to 100 degrees F. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones with moderate winter temperatures, such as Zone 9 and beyond, are fine for growing these orchids outdoors in containers or on cork slabs or wood plaques in a sheltered, shady location.

FBTS Dendrobiums are native to southern and central eastern Australia. Their rhizome-type roots cling to crevices in damp cliffs and boulders, transporting water into storage in thick cane-like stalks called pseudobulbs that help the plants survive during dry times. Mosses and other rock plants clustered around the pseudobulbs help conserve moisture. In the wild, decaying organic matter -- such as from their own plant parts -- natural rainfall provide nutrients for growth.   In cultivation, it's necessary to manage the quantity of mineral solids in irrigation water to limit the potential of salts damage. However, it's also important not to use water that is processed so as to remove all important nutrients, such as calcium. As to fertilizer, follow a standard orchid regimen for Dendrobiums, which are heavy feeders during their seasonal growth.

Lithophytic Dendrobiums need humidity, filtered sunlight and good air circulation. They should be grown in a rock mixture that may also contain orchid bark or coir chunks, because it mimics their natural growing conditions of these plants. FBTS plants and ships Dendrobiums in rock-filled terra cotta pots for sharp drainage.

Dendrobium Care Guide


  • Dendrobium kingianum 'Elk #1

    (Pink Rock Orchid) Light pink flowers with a dark pink lip, often ten or more on an inflorescence. Better than ‘Ruth’ in my opinion. Cane size is mid-way between our 'Elk White' and 'Paul'. Foliage is very dark green and heavy.

    I suspect this clone to be a chance tetraploid. It is the best of a large lot of seedlings raised from a flask secured in Australia many years ago. It grows slowly, but is very hardy and eventually makes very large plants. We have a 12" by 36" tree fern slab covered with this clone at one end of a greenhouse.


  • Dendrobium kingianum var. album 'Elk White'

    (White Rock Orchid) This variety is the result of a selfing of the very fine ‘Bay Islands’ clone. It is a very small cane, generally less than 3 inches high and very fat. A miniature delight! Small, pure white heavy textured flowers are presented on short stems. The foliage is light green – this is a true album. It is my personal favorite for tree fern baskets or slabs.

    Needs to be kept quite moist.  We grow in rock and in less light than most kingianum clones.


  • Dendrobium x delicatum 'Elk #1'

    Dendrobium x delicatum is a natural hybrid, the result of crossing D. kingianum with D. speciosum. Flowers by the Sea has grown 'Elk #1,' a family heirloom, for decades in environments as diverse as full sun on rocks on the California coast to hollow stumps to garden beds to tree fern slabs. When grown in flowerpots, it forms large clumps that display multiple sprays of light pink, fragrant flowers, usually twice a year. This makes a grand specimen in a few years.


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This plant blooms continuously from Spring to Fall. It is an easy plant to grow and propagate. Every garden should have this plant. Don't know what utahxericman did, but I have had no problem growing this plant and have been greatly rewarded by...
David Holland
Nov 19, 2017