Establishing Australian Thelychiton (Dendrobium) orchids

By Jeff Howes

I have been gardening using native plants for nearly thirty years. And for six years I opened my garden three times for the Australian Open Garden Scheme. My aim was not to show my garden off but to show people that you can successfully grow native plants in suburbia and to promote the Australian Plants Society.

Dendrobium on rock overall, image Jeff Howes

What I find interesting when I talk to the visitors is comments like, “When you go to most open gardens you know nearly all the plants that are used – only the site and method of use changes. With a native garden, you do not know most of the plants!”.

So I am asked many questions like, “How you I grow them?”, “Which ones do I use?”, “What can I use in my garden?”

I start off by saying that there are over 20,000 native plants in Australia that are growing from the coast to the desert. You need to select the ones that will grow in your microclimate and local conditions such as:

• How much sun is present

• What type of soil is it? Well drained or retains water?

Orchids, image Jeff Howes

Use an open friable litter that does not hold too much moisture and drains well. Keep the orchids moist (not wet) until new growth commences and then only water occasionally and apply more mulch as they grow.

To appear to get them growing in the ground, (which they won’t), place a few 50 mm thick paving blocks on the ground and follow above method. In no time, they will multiply and reward you with flowers. Liquid fertilizer can be applied monthly during spring and summer at 1/2 strength but they generally get enough nutrients from the decaying leaf litter.