Orchids have the reputation of being a hard-to-grow-plant, one that only the greenest of thumbs should attempt. This is not true. It depends on the type of orchid as to how it survives in an average house.
Their requirements are different than the average houseplant but they can still flourish in homes and offices.
Cattleyas are the flowers that one usually thinks of when orchids are mentioned. Large corsage flowers come from hot house cattleyas. Smaller varieties are more likely to thrive in a home.
Cymbidiums are another type of orchid that is easily recognized by its growth habits and foliage. These plants grow from bulbs just below the surface senting flower spikes and grass like leaves upwards.
Cymbidiums are classified as cool house orchids and thrive in temperatures between 60 to 80 F (15 to 26 C). Plants need the cooler temperatures at night to set flower buds. Placing the plants on a covered deck or by an open window during the summer months should help set buds for the winter. If left to grow in a warm climate the plant will produce many new leaves and very few flowers.
Dendrobiums can be divided into two different types of plants that are easily identified by their growth patterns. One sends up hard canes with leaves and flowers forming at the top of the cane while the other has a soft cane with flowers and leaves up the entire cane.
Plants with a hard cane like bright warm areas. These ones will thrive in a bright window as long as they have plenty of moisture.
Soft cane dendrobiums like to be warm from spring to fall but need cooler temperatures to form flowerbuds. This variety rarely blooms on a first year cane. It usually waits until the following year to produce flowers.
Phalaenopsis have up to six basil leaves at a time. Healthy plants have stiff upright leaves. stiffer the leaves. Plants with soft leaves will have a weak root system which will not produce flowers. Healthy plants send up a spike that is lined with flowers. Once the flowers are spent, cut the shoot off just below the last flower. Chances are that the plant will send out another flower spike. If a new spike does not appear within a month, cut the spike off at the roots to allow the plant to conserve energy.
Phalaenopsis will thrive in most houses as they require a warm, bright area preferably with humidity.
Orchid roots are different from most other potted plants. Their roots are thick with few if any thread or hair like roots. White roots with green tips are an indication of a healthy plant.
As with any plant, the success of the plant is determined by the person’s ability to recreate its natural surroundings. Orchids like humidity; 60 per cent is average. Humidity can be created in a number of ways.
Orchids thrive in the window of a bathroom. The plant will get bright defused light as well as frequent bursts of humidity with each bath or shower.
Another alternative is to mist the plant frequently. Placing orchids by other plants such as maidenhair ferns, that transpire is an easy way to achieve a high humidity in one area of the home. Another easy method is to place a tray of water under the plants. Rocks are then placed in the tray to ensure that the pots are not sitting in water.
As with most houseplants, it is best to water well and less frequently than give the plant a little water every few days. When watering, give the plant enough water that it will flow through the soil and out the drainage holes in the pot.
Be sure to adjust the amount of water to the time of year. Plants will take in more water when they are actively growing in the spring and summer as opposed to the winter when they are dormant.
Tap water is not always the best water to use on plants. If possible, water with rain water. Fertilize on a regular basis as most of the soil mixes contain little if any nutrients. Purchase a liquid fertilizer and follow the instructions on the container.
Many different substances are used as a growing medium for orchids. They are all porous materials that allow the water to leach through the soil ensuring the roots have both moisture and air.
Orchid mixes often contain: sphagnum moss, coconut fibre, charcoal, and depending on the variety, potting soil work. In the wild, orchids usually attach themselves to trees or other plants.
They are rarely found growing on soil in the ground.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at email@example.com