Orchids with their beauty, diversity and complexity are hard to beat in the plant kingdom. You can’t help but marvel at their uniqueness and I must say they are often as close to perfection as you could possibly get in a flower. Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants on earth, boasting over 30,000 different species, with an excess of 200,000 hybrids. The versatility of orchids means that you can find them at home in the equatorial tropics and just as comfortable in the arctic tundra, and anywhere else in between. The orchid’s adaptability has allowed it to flourish in all these environments where most plants fail. So the good news to orchid enthusiasts (or beginner orchid growers for that matter) is that it is this very adaptability to different growing conditions that allows you to easily find an orchid that will grow in your climate. By and large, most cultivated orchids are tropical and in their natural habitat, they are epiphytic ie they attach themselves to the bark of trees, or the surface of other plants. They have thick roots which are very efficient in absorbing moisture and nutrients. Tropical orchids prefer good air circulation and light and would flourish in conditions that provide these every day of the year.
Top 10 Orchid Care tips
Orchid care tip 1
Most orchids will bloom only once a year. Having said that, if you provide them with optimal conditions they may reward you with more frequent blooms. The best thing to do if you’re after an orchid that will bloom in a particular season is to buy it in bloom when you’re after the orchid blooms
Orchid care tip 2
The amount for light required for different species of orchids is variable. You can get clues as to the amount of light your orchid needs by looking at its leaves. If the orchid has only a couple of leaves and if it’s leaves are leatherlike, then it’s highly likely that it will need LOTS of light. If on the other hand your orchid has limp and soft leaves then it’s probable that it’s actually quite sensitive to light and therefore should not be put in a south facing window sill.
Orchid care tip 3
Many an orchid has died from excessive watering – orchids can actually put up with drought far better than over watering. Sitting your orchid in a water logged potting mix with no air circulation through the roots is the surest way of sending your orchid to the grave! Allow the growing medium to actually dry out between waterings. Watering your orchid weekly is sufficient. The only time you should probably ease off on the weekly waterings is during any dormant time in their growth eg in winter and after you’ve repotted.
Orchid care tip 4
Pick the right growing medium. Whilst there are some orchids which do grow in soil, most tropical orchids are epiphytes (ie they have roots which are exposed and pretty much live in a soil-less environment). To mimic this, you need a growing medium that will provide excellent air circulation and drainage as well as give the roots somewhere to adhere to. Fir bark nuggets are by far the most popular orchid growth medium.
Orchid care tip 5
Living in the tropics means that most orchids love humid conditions – 60-80 percent is best. These conditions will probably be okay in summer and spring but in the winter where most homes are heated and humidity, your orchids will need some form of artificial provider of that 60-80 percent humidity. You can purchase a humidifier for your orchids or if it’s just one lone plant that you have, you can increase the humidity in it’s local microclimate by setting the plant on a gravel filled tray -mind that you don’t submerge the whole root system in the water, remember point 3 – the whole plant has to be sitting ABOVE the water. Some orchids also benefit from being misted.
Orchid care tip 6
There isn’t much nutrients in orchid growing media so you will need to provide the plant with its food in order to sustain healthy growth. Frequent fertilizing with a weak dilute fertilizer regularly is by far better than the feast of famine situation where you fertilize heavily and then forget about it again for weeks! Only fertilize when the orchids are actively growing ie this means no fertilizing after re-potting and in the dead of winter.
Orchid care tip 7
Orchids hate to be re potted, and will usually sulk and refuse to flower for at least a year after the event. If you’re thinking about buying your orchids as a bareroot specimen, then this tip is vital to know – you may not see a single bloom from your orchid till 1-2 years (or more) later! Better to purchase your orchids in established pots AND in bloom to avoid disappointment.
Orchid care tip 8
Orchids like being crowded so don’t be overly liberal in your choice of orchid flower pot. Most orchid growers will use plastic flower pots because it’s easier to detach the roots come repotting time or some would even snip the pots apart.
Orchid care tip 9
When potting up your orchid, you can fill the bottom inch or two of the pot with Styrofoam “peanuts” this ensures good drainage and adequate air circulation. Then put the orchid over the pot, and fill the rest of the flower pot with fir bark. Ensure that the crown of the plant is just a bit below the top of the flower pot.
Orchid care tip 10
At some stage in your orchid’s life, you will need to repot (and propagate the other plant divisions). Just remember that if you do divide a plant, the parent plant (and usually the babies) will probably sulk and not bloom for at least a year. Don’t just pot up one plantlet, pot a couple together so that the pot is more “crowded” and the plant is more likely to then bloom sooner for you. The larger the orchid plant the more flowers it will produce for you.