For this month, I am featuring Asconopsis Irene Dobkin ‘Elmhurst’, a cross between Phalaenopsis ‘Doris’ and Vanda miniata (syn. Ascocentrum miniatum). I purchased this plant just over a year ago via mail order from Schwerter Orchids in Germany for a very reasonable price. I had grown it in the past with some success, but this hybrid does come with something of a reputation for being fussy and difficult to grow – if you research this hybrid online, you’ll find some real horror stories! I have read several reports of the plant not growing leaves or roots and eventually declining and dying. When I first got it, it was a fresh import and had been potted in sphagnum moss, although all the roots were at the top of the pot. My first job was to remove all the moss, because I never succeed with growing orchids in this medium. I then potted the plant in coarse bark chips in an aquatic pot, thinking that it would need to be treated more like its Vanda parent with plenty of air around its roots and perfect drainage. I grow Vanda successfully this way. Although the plant did produce a new root under this regime, it never seemed happy, so eventually I took it out of its pot to look at the roots. I found that they hadn’t died, but hadn’t made any progress either so, I assumed it wasn’t getting enough water to put on growth. I re-potted the plant into a shallow pot (15cm Streptocarpus pot) of medium bark chips, placed it with my Phalaenopsis and crossed my fingers. Several months passed before I noticed that a root was emerging from the surface of the potting medium, and another was poking through the bottom. I also noticed a flower spike at this time. It appears that it needs to be treated like any other Phalaenopsis, but perhaps with slightly brighter light. I see no sign of the plant flagging as yet, and it seems to grow OK provided it gets the right conditions (which I guess is true for any orchid).
Once the plant produces flowers, the wait and stress all becomes worthwhile. They are a colour that is never found in Phalaenopsis alone, a lovely peachy orange. They are not large flowers, as one might expect with Vanda miniata as a parent, but are produced on a branching inflorescence of about 20 flowers. I do recommend this hybrid, particularly if you are able to offer it warmth, humidity and bright light.