Germinating the seeds
Your seeds should be planted the day they arrive for best germination
Getting started - The seeds will be sent moist and might arrive a bit moldy. Disinfect them by soaking them for 10 minutes in a mix of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, then rinse them off well.
Cold treatment -- Your seeds should be given a 6 week cold treatment in the refrigerator for best germination. This tricks them into thinking winter has passed, so they germinate better. The instructions below explain the process.
It's easiest to plant them in a single container and transplant them after a year. Use a pot at least 2.5 inches (6 cm) tall, and wide enough so each seed is an inch apart (3 cm).
A typical soil mix to germinate them in is 1 part peat moss and 1 part coarse horticultural sand. An alternate mix is 2 parts quality potting soil to 1 part perlite (use small- or medium-grade perlite, not large). Fill the pot, place the seeds on top, and cover them with 1/4 inch (1 cm) of soil. Add water until the soil is evenly moist (not soggy). If your tap water is "hard" (high in minerals) use bottled water or rain water.
Enclose the pot in a ziplock bag or sealed plastic container, and place into a refrigerator that stays above 35° F (1°C). Inside the door is the best spot because it is warmer. Mark your calendar to remove the pot after 6 weeks.
After cold-treatment -- Keep the pot between 60-74 degrees F (15-23°C) during the day, and a bit cooler at night (50 to 70°F / 10-21°C). Avoid letting it get above 77 degrees F (25°C) for prolonged periods. I recommend placing a minimum/maximum thermometer near the pot. Water whenever needed to keep the soil surface moist. Provide some air circulation, to prevent fungal disease later.
The seeds will sprout at different times, usually between 2 and 12 months. The germination rate with fresh seed is high, so don't give up on any before 1 year. Once they sprout, give them bright light, but shade them from strong sun. Avoid transplanting them until they are 1-2 years old.
Seedlings are very slow-growing the first 3 years and don't need much fertilizer. Give a small feeding every 2 weeks with a very dilute (1/8 strength) liquid fertilizer. Hydroponic fertilizer is best for this, because it is easily absorbed and contains all essential nutrients. I use General Hydroponics Flora fertilizer, using 1 teaspoon/gallon (5 mL per 4 liters). Once they are 2 years old, you may switch to granular fertilizer. Or continue feeding every 2 weeks with liquid fertilizer at 1/8 strength.
Growing older plants..
Philesia prefers conditions enjoyed by cool-temperature Orchids. It's happiest in temperatures below 75 degrees F (24 C), with nights below 60 F (16 C), similar to San Francisco. There are scattered reports of it handling heat fine, but it might not thrive if temperatures consistently rise above the low 80s (28 degrees C), especially if nights are warm. It can tolerate a few degrees of frost, but it's best to protect it from freezing temperatures, especially the first few years.
This forest plant likes dappled sunlight or morning sun. Protect it from strong afternoon sun. It often grows as an epiphyte in the wild, so it appreciates an open, quick draining soil mix that's kept evenly moist. Don't let the roots dry out. Over 50% humidity is best, with good air flow.
Be gentle whenever repotting to avoid damaging the delicate roots. Avoid transplanting them once they have several shoots, as this may delay flowering. A 3 gallon (12 liter) pot should hold the plant for at least 10 years.
Pests to watch for -- Protect from snails & slugs, perhaps by growing it in a hanging basket. Watch for spider mites and scale.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
Have fun growing them!
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