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Peristeria elata Culture

Peristeria elata enjoys strong light all year. In its native habitat, it can be found growing near the edge of hardwood forest. As these hardwoods loose their leaves in the fall, the peristerias are exposed to full sun throughout the dry, cool winter. Some people say that having good, bright light during the rest period is especially beneficial to flowering.

When your plant is in active growth, it will appreciate a great deal of water and can use at least weekly fertilizing, more often if growing in bright light and watering four to five times a week. You will notice the emerging growths gain in length very rapidly during this season.

When the leaves have apparently stopped growing in length, bring the watering and fertilizing down to a minimum through the winter to the point that no fertilizer is being given and water is given only enough to keep the bulbs from severe shriveling. Some marked shriveling of the bulbs should not be a source of concern. You do not want to have the plant receiving a supply of water and fertilizer sufficient enough to encourage growth during the rest period, as this is a sure way to discourage flowering. A significant drop in temperature during the rest is also helpful. Drops down to 50 degrees F. or a little lower are not too cool.

As the flower spikes emerge, take care to protect the tender tip of the spike. This kind of a fat, tender spike is a slug's dream come true; keep the area baited for slugs and bush snails.

Peristerias need a mix that will drain freely, but enjoy a tight fit in their pot. A mix that allows stale conditions at the roots will be quite a problem. Use a mix that will allow you to water at least four to five times a week in the heat of summer, supplying fresh water to the roots on a steady flow. Some people have excellent success potting in various mosses, but take care not to pot too tightly with any moss. Pot firmly, but not as if you were pounding Osmunda fiber.

Occasionally, you may notice little brown spotting on the leaves of your Peristeria. There may be more than one cause, but frequently this spotting is caused by Cercospora peristeriae Burnett. The spots are usually seen on the base of the leaves, and may first be noticed by yellowing patches, which eventually turn brown and dry to the touch. Generally, the damage is limited and Peristeria elata is the only known host, so spreading of the spottiness to other plants is unlikely. You can treat these areas with Benlate (50&WP) at about one tablespoon per gallon. Make certain that you drench the undersides of the leaves thoroughly when you apply any pesticide to any plants, but especially in this case, as the active spores are released on the underside of the leaves.

You will find that your plant's bulbs will increase dramatically in size until the plant reaches maturity. Your bulbs then should approach or meet the size of a softball and produce regal spikes of fragrant, long lasting flowers.

Peristeria elata is subject to extreme over collection in its native habitat and appears as an Appendix I species. We are not offering this species for export, not even back to its home of Panama. We hope that you will tend your plant with its rarity as well as its beauty in mind and that you will also look forward to the time when it again grows and flowers in quantity in Panama.

Note: This guide is only applicable to Peristeria elata. For other varieties, please click on one of these links:

Carter & Holmes Orchids PO Box 668 629 Mendenhall Rd. Newberry, SC 29108 USA

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