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Canberra Today 23°/29° | Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Rock orchids for the understorey

Sydney rock orchids… a challenge to grow them through our cold winters. Photo: Jackie Warburton

From rock orchids to bush daisies, JACKIE WARBURTON is always ready with gardening advice.

Sydney rock orchids (Dendrobiums speciosum) have finished flowering, but they still make an attractive evergreen to grow as an understorey plant where there is plenty of moisture and protection. 

Jackie Warburton.

It can be a challenge to grow them through our cold winters and protect the flowering buds coming into spring. 

At this time of the year, orchids are in their root-and-growth phase and can be given growth food until early autumn. At that time, switch over to a flowering fertiliser to encourage pups from the base of the plant and produce flowers from late winter to early spring. 

Orchids are either sympodial or monopodial. 

Sympodial orchids produce new stems (pseudobulbs) at the base of the previous year’s growth. They have multiple growth stems in one season and the pseudobulbs can grow just as big as the flower bulb from the last season. This is the growth point for future flowers and should not be removed from the plant. 

Monopodial orchid flowers grow off a single stem with leaves on either side. The new leaves should be as big as the ones before to grow happily and flower well. The flower stalk comes from the base of the new leaves and opposite where the previous flowers were. 

Monopodial orchids need to produce leaves to produce flowers, so the root-and-growth phase is just as important. 

Sympodial orchids, such as Cattleya’s and Cymbidium, are the most popular to grow in our climate and can be a long-lived indoor plant in the cooler months and grow outdoors through summer. 

They do like to be a little pot bound to force them into flowering as well.

It is best to pot them after flowering and use a specific orchid potting mix. To make your own, use orchid bark, perlite and charcoal. 

Orchid fertiliser is sold as two different types, grow food and flower food and both are needed. 

The African bush daisy… can flower just about all year round if grown in the right conditions. Photo: Jackie Warburton

FLOWERING now is a hardy plant with cheery yellow flowers called the African bush daisy (Euryops chrysanthemoides). It can flower just about all year round if it’s grown in the right conditions. 

This variety grows to about two metres tall and can be clipped to a tight shape or left to form its own natural shape. 

The green foliage contrasts well in the garden and it can happily grow in full sun or part shade but the more sun, the more flowers. They’re not bothered by our winter frosts. 

If space is a premium, then a smaller variety to try would be Euryops pectinatus that only grows to a metre tall, is drought tolerant and likes acidic soils.

This plant is one of the easiest to propagate and can be done this time of year with semi-hardwood cuttings placed in washed river sand and kept moist. 

The roots grow quickly, in about two to three weeks. Transplant them to a bigger pot when the root growth is strong and plant out into the garden in autumn or spring. 


  • Deadhead roses and prune banksia roses hard after flowering.
  • Spray seaweed solution, but minimise fertilising in hot weather. 
  • Keep planting summer vegetable seedlings for autumn harvest.
  • Turn over bare ground to let water in and prevent soil going hard.


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Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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