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This genus includes terricolous orchids and has 150-200 species, native to southern Africa; the disa uniflora produces robust underground tubers, from which erect stems that bear elongated dark green leaves branch out; in spring they grow erect stems, without leaves, which bear large single flowers, with small petals and labellum and oval sepals, large and very colorful, generally red or orange, but there are yellow and white-cream hybrids. The other species of disa are all deciduous, after flowering the leaves dry up and the plant loses all the aerial part, which will develop again in spring; the flowers of the other species are generally of medium or small size, white, yellow, red or pink.
For a correct cultivation, these orchids must be placed in a shady position, since the direct sun quickly causes showy burns on the leaves; choose a bright and very ventilated position, both in summer and in winter. Cultivation at home is done by placing the plant in an environment where the climate is cool, avoiding putting the plant near heat sources.
In nature the disa uniflora grow along rivers or on the shores of lakes, in mountainous places, therefore enjoy fresh and moist soil; for this reason it is good to water the plant regularly, at least every 2-3 days, letting the excess water flow freely from the pot; to increase the environmental humidity it is also advisable to vaporize the area surrounding the plant, avoiding to dampen the flowers and leaves. Use only demineralized water; at least once a month add to the water of the specific fertilizer for orchids, in very low concentration.
Check that the substrate guarantees the right degree of drainage, to prevent the roots from remaining in contact with an excess of water that can lead to dangerous rots.
The disa uniflora need a very well drained substratum; you can prepare an ideal compote by mixing peat, sand, perlite and bark, so that the substrate is slightly acidic, well drained, but also able to retain a little moisture. These plants should be repotted every 2-3 years, to avoid that tubers and roots remain without available space to grow; this operation takes place preferably after flowering. To avoid ruining the roots, which can be quite fragile, soak the soil before repotting.
The multiplication of these orchids to have new specimens occurs by dividing the tubers, removing the new ones from the mother plant. It is also possible to sow the orchids, using fresh seeds, even if this operation may present greater complications and lead to the birth of flowers not equal to those of the mother plant.
Disa uniflora: Pests and diseases
Be careful with aphids, red spider and root rot. To avoid root rot, it is sufficient to check that the substrate guarantees a high degree of drainage; for pests there are special insecticidal products that must be used carefully, however, trying to avoid spraying them on flowers.