Pronounced: [lye – Kass – tee]
CONDITIONS Preferred climate depends on the species. Lycastes come from South America and can be successfully adapted for cultivation in Australia. Most grow best in the cool to sub-tropical areas. The skinneri-type prefer the Tasmanian temperate conditions and dappled sunlight, but some others tolerate more sun. None like cold wet winters so a shade house with a Laserlite type roof will keep your plants cosy without a wet root system. You decide when to water, not the heavens above.
Propagation: Lycastes are easy to divide and also strike new plants from their back-bulbs. Most Lycaste skinneri-type flower from leafy pseudobulbs though the Lycaste aromatic-type flower from leafless pseudobulbs. The evergreen varieties prefer more shade (60% to 80%) than the deciduous ones (50% to 70%).
Potting Mix: Lycastes have a fine root system and growing in pots is the preferred method for success. There are many, and varied, choices for potting media, but they do grow and flower well in sphagnum moss, small to medium grade pine bark nuggets, or even Fernmania with perlite to open up the mix. Good drainage is vitally important and squat pots are the best to use for their shallow root system. Never bury the bulbs in the potting mix, cover the lower quarter and firm down allowing enough space in the pot for 2 years growth.
Watering: Most Lycastes need regular watering during the warmer months, but go extremely easy with the water during cold periods. Take extreme care if you have frosts where you live. The leaves are much more tender than most other orchids, so it is best to keep water off the leaves if at all possible, especially when new growths are forming.
Fertilizing: Feed fortnightly with a high Nitrogen fertilizer from Spring through Summer. You can use slow release fertilizers like pelleted chicken manure or any 3 to 4 month, evenly balanced granules, though slow release is not recommended if potted in sphagnum moss. In autumn you should switch to a bloom booster which is higher in Phosphorus and Potassium to stimulate flowering.
Flowering: Most Lycastes flower from late Autumn through to late Spring in Hobart and surrounds. Others flower whenever they are ready.
Problems: Watch out for the dreaded Aphids when they are spiking until flowering as well as when they are forming their new growths. Always keep your plants free of leaf debris, especially the deciduous varieties and ensure that the old flower stems are cut back once the blooms have finished. This makes it so much easier for next season’s flowering and presentation at Shows. Do watch out for mealy bug and treat with Eco Oil where necessary.