How to care for orchids

in

Once a hobby only for wealthy people with an excess of free time, new technologies make growing orchids much simpler and less expensive. Now anyone can experience the beauty and joy of taking care of orchids.

Just like any other plant, an orchid needs good water, fertilizer and air. So if you can care for other plants in your home or in your garden, you can care for an orchid!

Read on to learn about how to care for orchids...

The orchid family

No plants have more varieties than orchids; the orchid family is the largest of plant families and orchids are found in almost all areas of the earth. Orchids can be tiny (centimeters) or huge (20feet tall); they can have no blossoms or grow hubcap-sized flowers.

The following are common types of orchids, along with their most desirable characteristics.

Angraecums
Very fragrant at night.

Cattleya Alliance Hybrids and Species
Can be less than 10 inches tall.

Oncidiums
Many flowering types available.

Paphiopedilums
Known as lady's-slipper orchids, which give long-lasting blooms.

Phalaenopsis
Known as moth orchids, the best orchid house plant.

Cymbidiums
Good only in areas with cool summer nights.

Oncidiums
Thrive in higher elevations.

Spathoglottis
Blooms spikes of purple and yellow flower.

Where to put orchids

Orchids will grow in a greenhouse, in your home, under lights, or outdoors. You’ll have to talk to a local nursery to figure out which plants grow best in your area and with the conditions you can offer.

Orchids grown in the home need a steady, moist breeze. Open up windows or use a small fan; don’t place the plants by A/C or hot air vents. Most orchids need about 60% humidity around their leaves, and you can accomplish this by setting the plant on a tray filled with stones and water. You can also mist the leaves every day, while the plant is in the sun.

The temperature of your orchid is also important. In general, if you’re comfortable your orchid is probably alright. Typical home temperatures (about 72 degrees during the day and 60 at night) are perfect for the majority of orchids.

Sunlight

Perhaps most important in caring for an orchid is giving it adequate amounts of sunlight. In the house, most plants should be placed in an east or west window. Other varieties need a southern exposure, often in a window with sheer curtains to protect from the direct mid-day sun. If that’s not possible, growing your plant under plant lights will work.

Generally, an orchid’s leaves should be bright green. If the leaves are darkening, you’ll know that your plant isn’t getting enough light. Leaves that are colored reddish-green tell you that the plant is getting too much sun.

How much sunlight? Cymbidiums and Vandas prefer as much sun as possible. Cattleyas, Dendrobiums and Oncidiums like bright light, not direct on the leaves, for about half the day. Miltonias and Odontoglossums like medium light. Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilums need low and Indirect Light, and prefer the shade.

Potting orchids

Most orchids grow in a combination of tree bark, charcoal, or pebbles. Fir or redwood tree bark is best for the majority of orchids.

The plants should be grown in terra cotta pots, and excellent draining is very important. Your orchids should be repotted yearly.

Watering orchids

Good draining is very important, and so is watering only when your orchid is dry (about every 5 to 12 days). Use water that is room temperature or warmer, and water your plant until it begins to come out the bottom.

Note that over-watering will kill the plant.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer your plant regularly (about once every couple weeks), and more often when they are flowering. Make sure to use a fertilizer that is made especially for orchids, and dilute your fertilizer to about one-quarter strength. Fertilizing too much may burn your plant’s roots.

Pets & bacteria

The most common problems affecting orchids are insects and fungus, but both are easily preventable and treatable. Aphids and thrips often plague orchids, but a monthly of insecticide will keep an insect problem under control. Contact a local gardener to find out which insecticide is best for your problem and your plant.

Often orchids develop a fungus problem. But again, using a fungicide monthly will help prevent a problem. During the heat of the summer, spray the fungicide most often.

Pruning & cutting

At some point, you’ll probably want to give an orchid flower as a gift or enjoy your orchid in a vase. Use a sharp blade and cut as close to the base of the spike (or the flowering stem) as you can. Also, after your orchid has finished blooming, you’ll want to cut off the spike.

What mix should I use?

For Vandaceous orchids, use large fir bark volcanic rock. For Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis orchids, use medium bark, medium charcoal, and fine volcanic rock. For Paphiopedilums, use fine bark, fine charcoal, or course sand. For Cymbidiums, use equal parts of fine and medium bark.

Orchid life cycle

Some plants will bloom once a year, others will bloom more than once a year, and some are continuously blooming. The blooms will usually last a month or two.

Orchids live for a very long time; there is record of plants that are from the 19th century and still growing and flowering.