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Growing Orchids

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  • 8/10/2019 Growing Orchids


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    Flowering orchid plants are so popular becausethe flowers last for one month or even longer. What might be a surprise is orchid plants are easy to grow and flower againand again for many years. Orchids, like all plants, flower once a year aboutthe same time each year. Various orchids flower in the spring, summer, fallor winter. With about 10 to 12 orchid plants selected for flowering time,you could have an orchid in flower all year.

    Dendrobiums produce many 1- to 2-inch white, purple, yellow or magentaflowers and grow well on a south windowsill or outdoors in morning sun.

    Cymbidium orchids have large leaves with 3- to 4-inch flowers on a tallspike. Dont miss the Houston Orchid Societys show at the HoustonHome Show Apr. 4-6 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

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    Orchids belong to the largest plant family in the world with 600 genera and30,000 species both in the tropics and temperate plant hardiness zones. Thediversity of orchids and their habitats make growing orchids an exciting,never-ending challenge.

    Orchids grow from the edge of the Arctic Circle to the islands that rimthe Antarctic. In the temperate regions, orchids are herbaceous perennials.In the tropics, orchids are epiphytic plants growing on trees, rocks or in leaf litter.

    Epiphytic orchid roots are covered with a spongy tissue that helps theorchid cling to a tree or rock and absorb water and nitrogen from the air.Orchids range in size from the tiny 3 mmBulbophyllum minutissimum with its 4 mm flowers to the massiveGrammatophyllum speciosum with5- to 10-foot pseudobulbs and a 10-foot-tall inflorescence.


    The popularity of orchids as flowering pot plants has increased productionof orchids all over the world and increased the number of improved hybridsbeing made each year. The increased number of orchid growers also hasmade orchid plants very affordable. The price of orchids is reasonableenough for all budgets. Flowering orchid plants range in price from $20to $75. Orchids now are available at corner flower stalls, local gardencenters, farmers markets and grocery stores, as well as the traditional floristand mail-order orchid businesses.

    CARE & SELECTION While the orchid is flowering, place the orchid where you will enjoy theflowers. Once the flowers all fall off, cut the flowering stem off and place theplant where the plant will grow like other houseplants. With the correctlight and water, orchids will flower again every year for many years.

    Conditions necessary for growing orchids are as diverse as orchid habi-tats. Whatever growing conditions exist in your home, greenhouse or patio,an orchid will thrive. Light, temperature, humidity, water, fertilizer andgrowing material all influence the selection and culture of orchids.

    To select your first orchids, identify your growing conditions, such aslow light from a window or high light in a greenhouse or patio. Light is the

    most limiting factor for growing and flowering orchids. There are low light-requiring orchids that will grow and flower on a windowsill and high andmedium light-requiring orchids that will grow and flower in a greenhouseor outdoors on the patio during the summer. Purchase orchids that grow in your existing conditions or be prepared to supplement the light.

    General requirements for all tropical orchids are 50 to 80 percenthumidity; loose, fast draining potting material; good air circulation; and water with neutral or slightly lower pH and little sodium. Light and tem-perature requirements vary greatly depending on the natural growing condi-tions of the orchid. If growing indoors, select orchids that require low light.If a greenhouse is available, grow high light- and low light-requiring orchidsby shading one end of the greenhouse for the low light-requiring orchids.

    Light is influenced in a greenhouse by shading the greenhouse in variousdegrees. In a house, light is influenced by the direction the window is facing or by artificial lights. Florescence lights, high-intensity discharge lights orhigh-pressure sodium lights are used to supplement light or as the sourcelight for orchids. Basements and spare rooms often are turned into indoorgreenhouses by using artificial light and humidifiers.

    Temperature is the next most influencing factor. Orchids that grow highin the mountains require low night temperatures. During the summer, low night temperature is not possible to provide in greenhouses or homes in thesouthern United States. Orchids are commonly divided into three tempera-ture categories: cool night temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees, intermediatenight temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees and warm night temperaturesof 60 to 68 degrees.


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    Some cool growing orchids are Anguloa, Cymbidium, Dracula, Disa,Lycaste, Masdevallia, Miltonia, Odontoglossum, Pleurothallis andSophronitis. Some intermediate orchids are Cattleya, Dendrobium,Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedilum and Zygopetalum. Some warm growing orchids are Angraecum, Ascocenda, Calanthe, Phalaenopsisand Vanda. Many of these will adapt to various conditions, but the coolgrowing orchids require the cool night temperature to grow and flower.Before purchasing an orchid, explain to the salesperson what your growing conditions are like and ask him or her to advise you what to purchase.

    Humidity is easy to correct by wetting greenhouse floors, using a mistsystem or placing the orchid over water using saucers and pebbles. Indoors,create a microenvironment around the orchids using an electric humidifieror placing orchids on pebbles sitting in a pan of water. Do not allow orchids to sit in water because the potting material will wick up the water,creating an over watered situation.

    Water orchids about once a week, depending on the potting materials water-holding capacity and humidity. Most orchids like to grow on the dry side before watering. Water by thoroughly soaking the roots and potting material. Most city water is fine for orchids. If you have doubts or are using well water, test your water or call your water provider for a written analysisto make sure there is not too much sodium or total dissolved salts in the water. Sodium should not exceed 25 ppm and total dissolved salts should

    not exceed 250 ppm.Fertilize with water-soluble fertilizer about once a week during the

    growing season. Use a 3-1-1 ratio fertilizer with orchids potted in a bark material. This high nitrogen fertilizer will not interfere with the orchidflowering. For orchids planted in non-bark potting material, use a 1-1-1ratio fertilizer.


    Four genera of orchids are commonly sold in garden centers and at florists.Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium and Phalaenopsis are most com-monly found because their flowers last a long time and these are easy togrow and flower.

    Phalaenopsis, the moth orchid, is the most popular orchid because thegraceful arching flower spike lasts for three months. The 3- to 4-inch flow-

    ers are white, pink, yellow and red. Many Phalaenopsis have colored stripesor spots. These orchids are easy to grow and freely flower under normalhome conditions on a south windowsill or under lights. Phalaenopsis flowerfrom April through June, although these beautiful plants are availablealmost year-round because Phalaenopsis are grown in both the southernand northern hemisphere.

    Dendrobiums have a 2- to 3-feet-tall cane-type growth habit witha 1 foot or longer flower spike that grows from the top of the cane.Dendrobiums produce many 1- to 2-inch white, purple, yellow or magenta flowers. Dendrobiums flower in the fall and winter. These plants need goodsun. Grow Dendrobiums on a south windowsill or outdoors in goodmorning sun. Bring these orchids indoors when the night temperaturedrops below 60 degrees. There are fall and spring flowering Dendrobiums.

    Oncidiums have pseudobulbs (above ground bulbs) with leaves 1 inch wide and 1 foot long or longer. The yellow, gold or reddish 1-inch flowersemerge from the base of the pseudobulb on a 2- to 3-foot branching spike.Oncidiums make wonderful specimen plants that produce many flowersyear after year. Grow Oncidiums on a south windowsill or outdoors in fullmorning sun. Bring these orchids indoors when the night temperaturedrops below 60 degrees. There are fall and spring flowering Oncidiums.

    Cymbidium orchids have a large pseudobulb with leaves 1 inch wideand 3 feet long. The leaves grow from the top of the pseudobulb. The 3- to4-inch flowers are on a spike that is as tall or taller than the foliage. Theflowers come in white, red, pink and even green. The plants usually are sold with two to three spikes of flowers any time from Christmas to MothersDay. The flowers last a long time. Grow Cymbidiums outdoors in good

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