Brassia is a species of orchid of difficult cultivation, originating from the hilly and mountainous areas covered by forests of Central and South America; it is an uncommon species in cultivation, while it is easier to find in the nursery the different hybrids of this species with more common ones. They are equipped with enlarged pseudobulbs, which produce at the apex a pair of long ribbon-like leaves, of medium-bright green color, slightly leathery; in spring from the apse of the pseudobulbs a thin stem develops, which grows arched, and which bears many very large flowers, in shades of yellow, characterized by evident speckles and long appendages of the petals, which they deserved to brassia the common name of spider orchid, as the flowers look like arachnids with very long legs. Pseudobulbs tend to develop a lot, periodically producing new pseudobulbs, and therefore each plant can become very large over the years.
Orchid native to Central America, epiphytic, has oval, flattened pseudobulbs with ribbon leaves; in spring it produces thin arched stems, with many large flowers, very fragrant, yellow in color, with brown spots; the floral stems can reach almost a meter in length, making the plants very showy.
Epiphytic orchid, native to the mountainous areas of South America, up to an altitude of 1900m above sea level; produces flattened pseudobulbs, quite large, and long elongated leaves, leathery, bright green; every year the pseudobulbs produce new pseudobulbs, from which the long inflorescences will be produced, which carry numerous yellow flowers, with brown spots. Unlike other brassies that can be found in the nursery, the brassia neglecta bears even quite low temperatures, and therefore is not completely suitable for apartment living, and therefore needs a temperate greenhouse, where it can find the right cultivation temperature.
Epiphytic orchid native to Brazil, produces oval, flattened pseudobulbs, which develop long leaves and impressive arched inflorescences, which carry numerous greenish, perfumed flowers, with elongated petals, which can reach 25-35 cm in length, giving flowers a light and delicate appearance. Plant of quite simple cultivation, it develops well also in the apartment, as long as you can enjoy a temperature change of at least 5 ° C between day and night.
These orchids are not easy to find in nurseries, above all because they need quite particular cultivation conditions, and therefore they are not suitable as a gift for Mother's Day, unless the mother is a real plant lover, and in particular of orchids; generally in Italy, and also in Europe, it is easier to find the species originating in Central America, which have quite similar cultivation needs. These are epiphytic plants, this means that their roots are not used to sinking into the ground, but prefer an incoherent substrate, made by mixing pieces of sphagnum and peat, pieces of charcoal, perlite or even polystyrene; the result is a light and porous growing medium that does not retain water; as with most epiphytic plants, they do not need huge pots, and possibly should be transparent, so that the roots enjoy sunlight. Being epiphytes, these orchids draw most of the water they need from the air, and not from the ground; therefore it is essential to keep the plants, from March to September, in a humid and warm climate, and water them regularly. Above all the air must be very humid, while the cultivation soil must never be completely dry, and it must therefore be watered often, at least once every 4-5 days in the vegetative period, every 12-15 days in the rest period; the waterings must be such as to soak the soil well, it is therefore advisable to practice them by immersing the pot in water, then let it drip and place it in its saucer. It is not easy to make sure that the soil is moist, but not with stagnant water, especially at home in winter, when the dry air dries the soil quickly, forcing us to water more often, favoring the presence of still water, which causes often radical rots. In the vegetative period we supply a universal fertilizer, about once a week, using about a fifth of the required dose on the package; every month, we skip a supply of fertilizer, so that the waterings wash away any residual minerals left in the soil. In the cold period we avoid providing fertilizer.
Brassia and light
These orchids, as also happens for many other species, live in the high trees of the rainforests in nature; several meters from the ground, but in a shady place; among the broad fronds the light filters, however, especially in the early hours of the day or evening. Similarly we will have to try to position our Brassia in a bright but partially shaded area, where it can receive direct sunlight only in the morning or evening, avoiding the hottest hours of the day. To know if the light offered is sufficient, it is good to look at the leaves: if they tend to have a progressively lighter green color, they are receiving an excessive amount of light, so it is advisable to move them to a more shaded area. If the leaves tend to become dark green, then our plant has too little light, which, in addition to changing the color of the foliage, makes it impossible, or at least unlikely, flowering.
Propagate the Brassies
Brassia produces fruits containing fertile seeds; it is not easy for these plants to be pollinated at home, as they are based on a mutual aid relationship with a tiny wasp originating from South America, which is not present in Italy; therefore we will hardly see a brassia with fruit. We can, however, get the seeds from the retailers, and we will sow them in sterilized, damp soil, to be kept in a cool place away from sunlight. The brassies are more easily propagated by division of the tufts: each year the pseudobulbs produce secondary pseudobulbs, which can be detached from the mother plant, in autumn, and repotted individually; we will ensure that each portion of the plant, in addition to at least one pseudobulb, also has some healthy and vigorous roots, otherwise it is likely that it cannot take root. These plants do not like much to be disturbed, so it often happens that divided plants stop flowering for at least a couple of years; therefore we carry out this type of division only if we find ourselves in the presence of a very large plant, with an excessively tiny vase.
Pests and diseases
Plants grown in a very dry climate are easily attacked by the cochineal, which tends to nest on the underside of the leaves, or to their attachment to the pseudobulb; these insects must be removed immediately, even with a cotton pad soaked in alcohol; scale insects are also a clear sign that our orchid is living in a too dry climate, and therefore needs better ventilation and a more humid climate. Excessive watering quickly causes rot, both at the roots and at the pseudobulbs, which can clearly manifest with yellowed and floppy foliage; a plant affected by rottenness must necessarily be sprinkled with fungicide and repotted, placing it in a new container containing fresh soil; the old soil must be thrown away, because it contains the spores of the fungi that caused the rot. In spring it happens that these plants are attacked by aphids, especially if we move them outdoors in the summer; aphids usually nestle on new shoots. Also in this case, we can simply remove them from the plant, for example with a jet of water.