All About Orchids
“The orchid is Mother Nature’s masterpiece“.
Beautiful and exotic, orchids are very easy to grow in your home or office and are great for beginner plant parents. Their colorful flowers will often last for many months with minimal care.
Types of Orchids
Epiphytic or “air rooted” orchids anchor themselves to other plants or rocky places for support. The roots absorb water and nutrients rapidly from raindrops. Epiphytic orchids include Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis.
Terrestrial orchids grow in moist humus or moss. Their roots must always remain damp. Terrestrial orchids include Cymbidium and Paphiopedilums.
Caring for Orchids in Your Home
Depending on variety, orchids do very well near a window or on a window sill that’s protected from direct afternoon sun.
- Cymbidiums require high light.
- Cattleyas need medium light.
- Phalaenopsis prefer low light.
Using Artificial Lighting: Orchids may be grown under artificial light during daylight hours to initiate flower buds in spring and summer. Varieties with lower light requirements grow better with artificial light. For best results use wide spectrum fluorescent grow lights.
Water orchids only when the soil feels dry to the touch, usually about once per week. Allow excess water to drain away. An orchid mix should not be kept constantly wet, nor should it be allowed to dry out completely.
When watering orchids:
- Avoid wetting the leaves. If water gets on or trapped between leaves, remove it with a piece of tissue or cotton ball.
- Remove standing water in saucers within an hour after watering.
- Over-watering will cause damage. If leaves yellow or show signs of rot, hold off watering for a few weeks.
Most orchids will do well in the normal daytime room temperature of a home. A differential between night and day temperatures of at least 10-20 degrees is necessary for good growth. Most varieties will tolerate higher temperatures in the summer, but additional shade and misting is necessary to keep them cool. Occasional temperature-drops into the 50-degree range at night during the colder months will not harm these plants.
A humidity range of 40-60% is suitable for orchids. Use a humidifier or put your plants on a tray or saucer filled with rocks and water. Both pots and roots should be kept out of contact with water; this prevents root rot and ensures that epiphytic roots will properly dry out. Mist your orchids frequently (several time a day) when humidifiers or gravel trays are not used.
Orchids thrive and flower better if they are regularly fertilized during their growing season, generally spring and summer. Use a well-balanced fertilizer twice a month according to the label directions.
Orchids do well in either plastic or clay pots. Clay pots dry out faster, so orchids potted in them will have to be watered more frequently. Whichever pot you choose, it must have at least one hole in the bottom for drainage and air circulation. Look for specially designed orchid pots available in both clay and plastic that have additional holes at the sides near the bottom of the pot.
Growing Orchids Outdoors
If you’d like, in late May, when all danger of frost has past, you can safely move your orchids out to a porch or patio. At first, they should remain out of direct sun and gradually acclimated to moderate light. When temperatures rise above 90 degrees, mist the leaves several times a day to prevent sunburn or move them to a shady location. Bring your orchids indoors well before the first frost in the fall.
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