Australian ‘sarcs’ are also very easy to grow. They are widespread from Tasmania to Queensland and while some are a little finicky, the commonly grown varieties are very adaptable and a joy when in flower. The commonest species is Sarc hartmannii, white with a red centre, but yellow forms and been bred as well as pure white. They are “epiphytic” orchids which means they grow on bark or rock but they are not parasitic, getting all their nutrients from rainwater and leaf litter (or fertiliser supplied by us). The other common species are Sarc fitzgeraldii and Sarc falcatus. The former is red and has been used to increase the colour variation in the hybrids. Many new hybrids with the less commonly seen species have increased both the colour range and temperature tolerance, and Sydney has an ideal climate for them.
Sarcochilus will grow happily in most back yards. They need to be potted in a mixture of orchid bark mixed with perlite or polystyrene. The mix needs to be rapid draining or the roots will not grow but they should not dry out completely between waterings. Unlike other orchids, they do not have a bulb so are reliant on healthy roots to survive. For feeding they need half-strength fertiliser every one to two weeks; any fertiliser will do. Light is important to induce flowering but preferably filtered light in summer so the foliage does not burn. Under trees or open bushes is ideal and the plants grow very well in hanging pots where there is good air movement (like they have in the bush). They can also be grown in a shade house under 70% shadecloth.
Suggestions for starting include Sarc hartmannia and Sarc falcutus and the primary hybid of harmannii and fitzgeraldii Sarc Fitzhart. However the many hybrids now available offer a huge range of colours not seen in the species. They are often much larger in size, flower more frequently and longer-lasting than the species. The hybrids and species are readily available from orchid nurseries or through societies. All native orchids are protected plants. Do not be tempted to steal them from the bush which carries a huge fine/imprisonment in many States. Nursery grown plants are also much more likely to survive than plants taken from the bush.
The Eastern Suburbs Orchid Society has an orchid show on the third Monday of every month at 8pm, St Luke’s Church Hall, Varna Street, Clovelly. Visitors are always welcome.