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Growing Disa uniflora and its hybrids

Cultivation

Disa Uniflora flower in full bloom
The Disa Uniflora flower in full bloom
Disa Uniflora seen from the side
The Disa Uniflora from the side
Disa Uniflora
Disa Uniflora with Metalasia reeds

Disa uniflora orchids make a good companion to Cymbidium orchids and Odontoglossum orchids. The Disa uniflora orchid species are relatively new to the orchid cultivation scene and are indigenous to the Western Cape in South Africa. Disa uniflora has small orchid flowers, but the stems can reach 1 meter (that is 3.3 feet) in height. The colors of the Disa uniflora orchid flower of the Disa uniflora hybrids which can easily be cultivated can range from baby pink to bold signal red, and golden yellows to sunny bright orange.

In the wild Disa uniflora orchids grow in perennially wet or moist conditions along stream banks, waterfalls and wet cliffs. Their habitat is the roots of reeds which serve to provide these Disa uniflora orchid species with a medium in which to anchor itself. Disa orchids are amazing and can withstand a wide range of climatic conditions. In the dry South African summers it has to survive through dry spells and in winter it has to survive through short periods of being totally submerged in cold running water. On the odd occasion they even have to survive while covered with snow. This means growing Disa uniflora orchids is rewarding as long as the conditions are not too extreme.

Temperature

Disa uniflora can tolerate temperatures that range between 4° and 5° Celsius (that is 39° and 41° Fahrenheit) during winter and temperatures as high as 30° Celsius (85° Fahrenheit) in summer. Exposure to elements outside the range of these parameters will cause the Disa uniflora plant to suffer and be severely stressed. Thus when you cultivate Disa uniflora orchid species you need to be aware that high humidity and very hot summer temperatures can be the prelude to disaster and you will need to make use of air conditioning or wet-wall cooling systems in your greenhouse.

Disa Uniflora in the wild
The Disa Uniflora in the wild
Disa Derert Sun flower
The Disa Desert Sun

Light

Disa orchids are capable of growing under strong light, but they actually prefer some shading in summer. If you grow Disa orchids in your home garden you should make use of a 40% to 50% shade cloth to shield your Disa orchids. This shade cloth should be suspended as high above the Disa orchid plant as possible.

Water and humidity

The roots of your Disa orchid plants should never be allowed to dry out. However, this does not mean that you should douse the poor Disa orchids to the point of over-watering. As a rule of thumb it is always best to avoid sogginess. The Disa orchid plant should at all times have free drainage. Ordinary tap water will do fine provided that it is not heavily chlorinated. The water pH should preferably be between 5,5 and 6,8. Rain water is even better since it does not contain as many chemicals as tap water.

Ventilation will keep bacterial rot at bay. You need to always ensure that no water is left on the Disa orchid plant foliage. Make use of air vents and make use of oscillating fans if you have to.

Feeding

You should apply ¼ to ½ strength Chemicult 18:18:18 orchid fertilizer once a week. The electro-conductivity should not go beyond 350 parts per million.

Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases that affect the Disa orchid are fungi, stemrot, aphids, and thrips.

Potting mix and Repotting

The potting mix for the successful cultivation of the Disa uniflora and its Disa orchid hybrids can consist of Sphagnum moss. Another medium that can be used is coarse silica sand or washed river sand, or alternatively you can also use sharp sand to which perlite and peat had been added, though it is not as successful as the Sphagnum moss medium.

The potting mix should not show any signs of rotting or decay. What can be easier than just wrapping the healthy root ball of a Disa orchid plant with fresh Sphagnum moss and placing it in a slightly larger pot when repotting is required? Do remember that the Disa orchid can be cultivated successfully as long as you follow the guidelines.

Each autumn the Disa orchid flower will die back and a new tuber and shoot will appear. When the new shoot is well developed, you should repot the orchid and then discard the dying parent plant. When you get that sinking feeling that your orchid is not doing as well as it should, then repotting it into fresh potting mix at any time of the year, Is not a bad idea.

General tips for Disa orchid growing

For growing Disa orchids successfully there are a few tips that you need to know about. On arrival, the bare root Disa orchid plant should be potted as follows:

  • Use a 10 cm plastic pot and prepare it by putting polystyrene chips (about 1 cm) or coarse pebbles in the base to ensure good drainage.
  • Hold the plant in the center of the pot and then pour in the potting mix, or wrap the root bulb of the new Disa plant in Sphagnum moss. Ensure that all the roots are covered.
  • Tap the pot lightly to compact the potting mix and then place a 1cm layer of coarser (0,5 cm) stone chips over the entire surface (like mulching a container plant).
  • Water the newly potted Disa orchid well with a fine spray. Do not forget to label your plant.
  • Remove the dying leaves from the Disa orchid plant occasionally.
  • If you grow Disa orchids under shade cloth, be sure to use a 50% shade cloth.
  • Make use of half strength pesticides and insecticides.