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Life span of Lepanthes?

Discussion in 'Orchid Culture' started by EvanT, Oct 10, 2022.

  1. EvanT

    EvanT Member

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    I’ve slowly begun to notice that a few of my plants that did well for a while are starting to decline now that I’ve had them for a few years. For example, a Lepanthes felis was thriving for about three years, and declined quickly and then died. My Lepanthes dodsonii seems to be following a similar trend, and a couple others from the genus, especially those with softer leaves.

    The main symptoms are that the growth just slows down, and the old growth just gets kind of ratty and is never really replaced. It doesn’t seem like any kind of disease.

    Is it possible that these plants are just dying of “natural causes” after 3 years or so?

    Another possibility I’m considering is that the mounts (hard tree fern) undergo some kind of negative change as they get old. The mounts are still hard and not rotting, but maybe there is an issue with the pH?

    Basically, I’m good at getting the plants to thrive short-term, but long-term success seems a lot harder. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them!
     
  2. rico

    rico Active Member

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    From my experience tree fern can store excess salts very well. Is fertilizer buildup a possibility?
     
  3. spiro K.

    spiro K. Well-Known Member

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    I think (through some experience) that most are indeed short lived plants.
    I've mostly given up replacing the ones that dont make it, and concentrate on species and genera that are more amenable to cultivation.
    I love seeing them in the wild however.!
     
  4. EvanT

    EvanT Member

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    yes, this is definitely possible. I try to flush the mounts with fresh water occasionally, but not as often as I should.

    Do your experiences apply to both hard and soft treefern?
     
  5. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    I may be way off base here, but a plant “wants” to survive and carry on its genetics. For some, each plant in the colony will last a long time; for others, the lifespan is relatively short. However, if the plant is getting the cultural parameters it needs, the addition of new growths will outstrip the loss of older ones, resulting in colony expansion.

    Decline of a plant is almost always our fault, because we’re missing something culturally, and I suspect that these little plants are particularly sensitive to mineral buildup.
     
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  6. Marni

    Marni Well-Known Member Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I have found L felis to be a difficult one to maintain, but I've had other Lepanthes species since the mid 1980's. A lot of my Lepanthes suffered and died with salt and bad fertilizer problems. That said, I still have some that survived and are thriving again.

    I don't use tree fern for many things. For me it stays too wet and the roots rot. If you haven't checked your water source recently, that is a good idea as that can lead to decline.
     
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  7. Alfonso Doucette

    Alfonso Doucette Active Member

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    I think everyone has given you some great advice! I think your cultural conditions can play a role in their longevity. I remount mine every 6mos and that seems to be important for the species I grow.

    There is also some research that has been done on their longevity for species in Puerto Rico and they found that of the three species they looked at their longevity ranged from 1.7 to 7.0 years in nature. Here's a link to the article: https://www.researchgate.net/public...es_of_Lepanthes_Pleurothallidinae_Orchidaceae
     
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  8. EvanT

    EvanT Member

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    Thanks for the feedback!

    Alfonso, that paper is interesting, definitely gonna give it a read. I never really considered that I should remount plants that frequently. In my conditions most Lepanthes respond really well to hard tree fern, but since the roots dig deep, it makes remounting quite traumatic.

    As for my water, I am using RO although the filters may be due for replacement. But the water where I live I Germany is already really excellent, so I doubt that’s the issue. If anything, too much fertilizer without enough flush.

    Another possibility is that summers in my grow tent are too warm for certain species. Maybe I’m not tuned in enough to what the plants are trying to tell me. With some, like my Masdevallias, they let me know right away if it’s too warm by dropping new growth. But the Lepanthes are harder to read.
     
    Alfonso Doucette likes this.