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Dendrobium kingianum is native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. It’s a lithophyte, growing on cliffs and rock faces and is a “hard as nails” plant. I bought a little pseudo-bulb (or rather cane), bare root about a year or so ago at the Pacific Orchid Exposition in San Francisco and mounted it on a lump of pumice stone with very little moss. This species likes a lot of moisture during the growing season (March/April to October in North America) and a very dry winter rest. In my greenhouse, the plant was misted everyday and grown near the air-circulation fan so that it dries quickly. During weekly watering events, I fertilized using 20-20-20 balanced fertilizer at quarter strength. The plant is grown under very bright conditions (close to the top of the greenhouse under 50% shade cloth). I must have done something right, because the plant has grown nine new canes since.

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This species is known to be a little “finicky” about flowering. Based on other grower accounts, if the plant is not given the right amount of dry winter rest, it has a propensity to grow keikis (orchid babies) and does not bloom reliably. So, I experimented a bit to see if the keiki versus flower theory is true…between October and March, I did not water the plant at all except for a monthly misting. It was hard to see the canes shrivel a bit, but I persisted. Finally, in January, there were little spikes between the leaves at the top of four canes. Within two weeks, there were four buds on each of the spikes, but for some reason, two of the canes had a keiki each (which was rather interesting). Unfortunately, slugs devoured three of the flower spikes. That disappointment was finally offset by four blooms on the lone surviving spike. Each flower is about 1 inch in diameter, dark pink on the edges of the sepals, and with a slightly frilled lip with dark pink (almost purple) borders. The flowers have an almost crystalline texture and have a wonderful fragrance, reminiscent of a mixture of cloves and honey.

Overall, a very easy plant to grow and propagate, given the right conditions, but can be a temperamental bloomer.

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