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Thread: drip or flood for cephs

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    Decumbent Fanatic Jcal's Avatar
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    drip or flood for cephs

    i am thinking of upgrading my cephs with some automated watering. the bulk of the components will be the same for either a drip or flood system. i have seen good results from both setups.

    which setup do you think cephs will benefit the most from?

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    theplantman's Avatar
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    I have only grown one ceph, and it started going downhill when I thought I could place it on drip. It allowed me to get careless about the watering and it ended up with root rot. That being said, I've grown many, many other plants successfully on drip. I can recommend:
    -a ring emitter for drip. One of my mistakes was to place a non-ring emitter right on the crown of the plant, and this tended to create a situation where the center of the pot was sopping wet while the edges were almost bone dry--totally should be the other way around IMO.
    -I had it watering daily for a couple minutes in the summertime and I believe this was too much. I had lots of other stuff to grow so the root rot just kinda snuck up on me, but just make sure you schedule the irrigation to run just as the plant needs water. Or, for more money set up a system that uses a moisture probe to determine the watering.

    IMO a flood system is more expensive because you need the trays to sit everything in as well as a pump. For drip, once you have a timer, solenoid, and some simple plumbing parts you can easily hook up hundreds of plants. Also, the risk of disease contamination is greater in a flood system because you are reusing the water. For a rot-prone plant like a Ceph, this may pose problems in the long term. If you ever get anything either in the trays, water reservoir, or irrigation lines, you're screwed without major, labor-intensive cleanings or replacement. The flow of a drip system is only one way, however, and you always are assured clean water unless you choose to use a reservoir.

    At the end of the day, I have used drip for 4 years without any problems (other than leaks) as long as it is carefully customized for each plant. I have seen ebb and flow systems which became contaminated (i.e. turned from white to black) with gunk, algae, and dead bugs in 6 months.

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    Decumbent Fanatic Jcal's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info! I would love to know the ring emitter you use. I have been leaning more toward the drip because i also treat my plants with other various treatments, and it would be easy to push the treatments through the system, and then revert back to regular water.
    A schedule would be very tricky to dial in, but now i water my plants, maybe twice a week. i would do the same for with the system. currently i just flood my cephs pots from the top, so my plants are used to top waterings. i would just need to watch to make sure the pot is evenly watered. Thanks for all of your suggestions.

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    Whimgrinder's Avatar
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    I have been watering by hand for 2.5 years now and never had any of the oft-reported problems like root rot. The pots I use are ceramic (glazed) with plenty of drainage, so once a plant has been watered, it drains quickly and so there is no "visible water table" in the root zone. I know many folks grow Cephalotus easily by the tray method, so I cannot say my approach is better than the tray method, but I know that what I do works. I wonder if the root problems some growers encounter have more to do with the soil density and composition than watering frequency?

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    I'll start out with the blanket statement of "I've never used a drip or flood system for Cephs". I'm currently using communal watering trays, each tray holding 10-30 Cephs. This year I lost 2 Cephs to "Cephalotus Sudden Death Syndrome". The tray did not suffer just one Ceph in each tray in different grow areas, no link between them I could find. The only change I want to make is to use taller pots as I believe increasing the height of the pot would be much better than any modification to the watering system I have thought of. Finding 2" wide X 5"+ tall pots is a bit of a challenge.

    I've done a lot of reading and experimenting trying to figure out the easiest and best ways to keep my Cephs happy and when it came time to rebuild/expand my Ceph grow area I did not for a second think of anything besides the basic tray method. I just have never read or seen anything to justify the extra effort and increased chance of failure that the more elaborate systems create. Personally if I was to try a new watering method I would start a small scale capillary mat setup and see what I could get working with that. Few comments from the last time I thought about mats. http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...Capallary-Mats For anything but a smaller scale setup I think this is a dead end.

    A very common misconception is that excess water causes root rot this is not entirely the case, its the lack of air flow the excess water is creating the leads to root rot. Here is a good example of a Ceph living (not really growing much) with an excess of water for years. http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...some-Driftwood They did grow just really slowly. The wetter the medium the more open it needs to be to increase the airflow. Part of the misconception, wet peat is very closed to airflow so wet peat = rotted Ceph so the water rotted the Ceph but this is not really true. With enough airflow over the wet peat I "think" everything would be just fine. Since I've been moving to more open inorganic mixes over the years I don't have a lot of experience with high peat mixes.

    As for drip or flood well that's not an easy answer. A properly setup and maintained flood system would be much better imo than any drip system could ever be, but would come at 10 X the cost and take a lot more work to keep working right. If I was forced to use one by the end of the month I'd go with a drip system. If I was forced to used one by the end of 2014, I'd go flood. Just make sure you adjust the medium your using for the system, a drip system would need more capillary media where a flood system would benefit from more open/absorbent materials.

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    theplantman's Avatar
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    I agree, RSS--I believe my original mix was too peaty. That, combined with the fact that I was watering excessively, probably led to death. I just haven't gotten the opportunity to try again and I didn't have perlite on hand at the time--only Turface, which unlike perlite holds a good bit of water. I thought Turface would be a good substitute but I really felt after losing the plant that a good Ceph mix needs to have a good bit of inorganic material that does not hold hardly any water at all. I've used marbles to good effect on things like Lithops and other mesembs. When another plant in that greenhouse got Fusarium, it spread everywhere and the Ceph, which had been growing fine, was extremely susceptible because of the conditions I had it in. I was using a sand/peat/Turface mix and I believe I would have had a lot more success by increasing the airflow with perlite/LFS.

    As far as ring emitters are concerned, all you really need to do is make sure they're compatible with the gpm flow and psi that you provide. This may require a pressure regulator, or in some cases simply turning your faucet pressure down with a manual or ball valve. Also, make sure you can create the correctly sized hole in your main dripline to attach the emitter.

    I still only use single-spot emitters just because they're much cheaper. On large pots, to ensure even watering I will use two or three evenly spaced ones. On the scale I grow plants at work, every cent counts. Mine are also made out of lead so they'll stay in the pots. I would check that the ring emitters come with stakes or some way to secure them to the soil. It's been my experience that the plastic ones do experience significantly more wear and tear, especially when outdoors and exposed to UV. I'd plan to have extras on hand at all times.
    Last edited by theplantman; 12-06-2013 at 09:46 AM.

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    richjam1986's Avatar
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    I've been growing my cephs successfully using a wick system for several years. Sit the pot on some sort of platform maybe an inch above water in a tray, and have a couple wicks go from the pot to the water (I use sections of nylon rope). I think the soil mix is still crucial, but this has worked very well for me. It makes sure that the soil doesn't stay overly wet while achieving the low maintenance you desire. I'm currently setting up a water circulation system which will make sure the tray always has water in it as well...
    Something for you to consider at least, and I would highly recommend it
    Da' mishu
    Provo, Utah.

    My Growlist: http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...29#post1089429

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    Quote Originally Posted by theplantman View Post
    I agree, RSS--I believe my original mix was too peaty. That, combined with the fact that I was watering excessively, probably led to death. I just haven't gotten the opportunity to try again and I didn't have perlite on hand at the time--only Turface, which unlike perlite holds a good bit of water. I thought Turface would be a good substitute but I really felt after losing the plant that a good Ceph mix needs to have a good bit of inorganic material that does not hold hardly any water at all. I've used marbles to good effect on things like Lithops and other mesembs. When another plant in that greenhouse got Fusarium, it spread everywhere and the Ceph, which had been growing fine, was extremely susceptible because of the conditions I had it in. I was using a sand/peat/Turface mix and I believe I would have had a lot more success by increasing the airflow with perlite/LFS.
    If you have a local Bonsai store in your area I would check with them for inorganic medium, over the year they have been moving towards a 100% inorganic mix and some of there medium is perfect for us but comes at an increased cost. I've moved to a #12 sand and I've been adding 1/16-3/16" lava rock recently both would be good with these types systems to increase drainage.

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