Herself's Houseplants

Conservation through cultivation

Psychopsis ( Oncidium Mendenhall)



I fell in love with these years ago, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve had one. Now I have four. The first two were lost in shipping by the PostOffice. The seller sent replacements, and three weeks later the originals turned up. The roots were dry but the plants were otherwise healthy. A few hours of soaking in water with rooting hormone and fertilizer, then a week planted in sphagnum moss, and they were as good as the two that hadn’t gotten lost. These are tough plants that clearly don’t mind a bit of neglect.

These orchids want low to medium light, I’m told they’ll bloom in light as dim as you use for your phalaenopsis, but cattleya light is better. The leaves on these are almost a dark solid green, with more light the leaves will get a brown speckling. I’m still experimenting to see how much light they can take you can see the newer leaves beginning to get some color as I increase the light. These are currently in a north east window where they receive dappled light in the morning and mid afternoon.

Psychopsis leaf speckling

Psychopsis leaf speckling

Some growers say to let them dry a bit between waterings, others say never let them dry. After the PostOffice experiment I’m leaning towards letting them get a bit dry between waterings. Make sure the leaves and pseudobulbs stay firm, roots should be green to white, the greener the better.

I’ve taken to keeping all my orchids in clear glass containers so I can keep an eye on the roots. If you use bark and or sphagnum moss make sure there is no water sitting in the bottom of the container and use a shallow, wide container. If you use clay pellets ( semi-hydro ) plant the orchid so the roots are above the bottom third of the container and leave water in the bottom third of the container. I have these planted in semi-hydro, it hasn’t been very long but so far they are doing extremely well.

Each spike bears flowers one at a time, after the flower dies the spike will grow a bit longer, then a new flower will bloom on it. Flower spikes can reach 5′ in height. Flowers can be a couple inches or as large as 6″. Flowers will last about a month.

These haven’t yet bloomed,and I couldn’t find any bloom photos from previous ones so I borrowed a photo from Flickr, to show you the bloom, I’ll add my own once these bloom.

Psychopsis bloom  photo credit

Psychopsis bloom
photo credit

Temperatures should be between 50’F and 90’F, 60′-80F is best.

The higher the humidity the better.

Psychopsis Mendenhall is a hybrid between Psychopsis Butterfly and papilio.

Beginning Kitchen Hydroponics

This seems to be the year hydroponics goes mainstream. I started out with a AeroGrow Ultra LED hydroponics garden about a month ago. I was so impressed I decided to try something a bit bigger. This is my first attempt at growing tomatoes indoors.

Hydroponics version 1.0

Hydroponics version 1.0 Feb 3

So far so good. I wasn’t convinced the tomato plant was in fact a tomato so I restarted that with fresh seeds. Despite my constant tinkering everything seems to be coming along nicely.

Feb 10th

Feb 10th

I wasn’t happy with the way the tomatoes were doing and they were the main reason for growing hydroponics. Trying a tomato in the library which is very sunny using semi-hydroponics and replanted the herbs, largest tomato and pepper here in semi-hydroponics.

Feb 22, 2015

Feb 22, 2015

I found LED lights on eBay, there is a large selection of them, many quite cheap. Watch the wavelengths on the lights: the plants require 470nm, 612nm, 660nm. The blue helps the leaves and plant to grow, the red the flowers. Also watch the amount of light given off, if the LEDs are too cheap they are probably not very bright. Mix in some white lights so it will look nice. Mounting the lights turned out to be a bit of a challenge. I put hooks in the top and hooked the loops on the plants into the hooks. They are very bright so you’ll want something to keep them shaded from eyesight.

LED shading

LED shading

LED Mounting

LED Mounting

4 - 12" LED lights, 2 white, two mixed red and blue

4 – 12″ LED lights, 2 white, two mixed red and blue

The plastic container came from Walmart as did the plastic pots, those are just cheap food storage containers. I drilled the holes in the top of the storage container to rest the pots in and holes in the pots to let water in and roots grow out.

water level and  tubing

Water level and tubing

Note that the water is only covering the bottom inch of the pots. The roots need air too. Be sure to leave an air gap between the top of the container and your water level.

The air pump was left over from an aquarium, you need to add air to the water. I purchased aquarium tubing to run from the pump into the container along with a splitter so I’d have two hoses blowing air bubbles. The hoses need something to weigh down the tubing otherwise they just float at the top and doesn’t put any air into the water. I used some left over nuts from a plumbing repair. Air stones were later added to help create more bubbles. According to the forums on hydroponics the more bubbles the better.

I planted the seeds in the expandable peat pots you find in most garden centers every spring for starting seeds.

The rock around peat pots ( to help keep the peat from dissolving into the water and hold the plant upright ) is aquarium rock. Most growers use coconut coir, easily found online. I already had the peat pots and aquarium rock in the garage.

Herbs in peat pots, surrounded by aquarium rock.

Herbs in peat pots, surrounded by aquarium rock.

Fertilizer. This is extremely important in hydroponics and there are many fertilizers that are designed for hydroponic gardens. They need to contain the 3 main nutrients: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, the secondary nutrients: calcium, magnesium and sulfur as well as the micro nutrients: boron, copper, iron, chloride, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. I’m using the Miracle Grow fertilizer for the LED garden right now. I ordered some Dyna-Gro to try. This was the only company on Amazon that listed the nutrients and % on the label. If you don’t see a list don’t buy the fertilizer.

pH: Plants take up nutrients easier at lower pH levels ~6.0-6.5. My tap water runs about 8.5. I’m using white vinegar to lower the pH, about a ml per gallon takes it down to 6.0. I had some test strips hanging around the house from various fish tanks, they work fine, you can also purchase a pH meter to test your water.

Automation: The air pump runs only at night so I don’t have to hear it, the lights run 16 hours during the day, there are several 24 hour timers for about $4/ at any hardware store.

24 hour GE timer

24 hour GE timer, up for off/down for on, they don’t come with instructions

Good starting places:
How to build indoor hydroponic gardens using IKEA storage boxes

Growing tomatoes hydroponically
Increasing sugar concentration in tomatoes

Growing Plants without Soil ( this is one of the first books written on hydroponics in the early 1920s)


Nepenthes Trichocarpa

Nepenthes Trichocarpa

Just a baby, these pitchers will reach over a foot long when she's full grown

Just a baby Miranda, these pitchers will reach over a foot long when she’s full grown

N. veitchii x platychita 10/2014

N. veitchii x platychita

I loved my Nepenthenes Miranda so much that when I started rebuilding my carnivorous plant collection I put them at the top of the list.

Right now there are 10 small Nepenthenes scattered about the house and just as many jars of seeds I’m hoping to germinate.

I ordered seeds on eBay from several different sellers, Nepenthaceae has the best offerings for the price and a jar of the ampullaria I ordered from him just germinated today. The apullaria seeds took about a month to germinate, some N. Madagascarier took only a week. The seeds are on a south west facing windowsill. The temperature varies from about 100’F-70’F. I spray them in the morning and evening with distilled water to keep them damp. The seeds are on peat moss that has sphagnum moss on top.

N. Ampullaria 10/2014

N. Ampullaria

Tiny but fully formed pitchers are forming

12/14 Tiny but fully formed pitchers are forming

Nepenthes seedlings Jan 9, 2015

Nepenthes seedlings 1/2015, starting to see longer leaves on some of the seedlings

While digging for information on Nepenthenes I ran across Growing Nepenethes Around the House which has more information than any other site I’ve found on these plants so far. My seeds are germinating in 60-70 days.

Terraforums has lots of information on growing them from seed.

More information to follow as I shamelessly slaughter some plants and coax others in to taking over the place.