Tips for Easy Orchid Care

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Phal orchidOrchids truly are a very adaptable to their environment and much easier to grow than their reputation has afforded them. There are certainly easier varieties to grow than others, and you will need to provide the orchid of your choosing with the right conditions of light, temperature, and humidity if you are going to be successful.

Light is the key ingredient to successful orchid growing. The best rule of thumb is to give your orchids as much light as they can tolerate without burning their leaves. It is often difficult to really measure light without a light meter, but on an average light coming through a sunny window can register up to 4 to 5 thousand foot-candles, where the window view on the shaded side of the house would be only 600 fc. or less.

Two varieties that can be grown in lower light, which would be below 1000 fc are Miltonias and Phaleonopsis.

Cymbidium, Dendrobium and Vanda orchids need more medium light which is between 1500 to 3000 fc.

Orchid Light tips

  1. Watch new plants in the area you bought them for to make sure they are not burning as they adapt to the new environment.
  2. If you suspect your orchid is getting too much light, touch the leaves and if they feel warmer than the surrounding air, move them to an area with lower light intensity.
  3. Keep your plants and windows clean, as this gives them more available light.
  4. Once the orchid blooms, move the plant out of direct light, as the flowers will last longer.
  5. Turn plant occasionally (but not when they are in bud) to keep them from getting lopsided.
  6. If you need to move an orchid into brighter light do so on stages over a period of several weeks so the plant can acclimate itself to the stronger light without burning.

Temperature

Orchids are used to a temperature fluctuation. Cooler temperatures at night allow them to store the sugars made in photosynthesis which is what they need to make miltonia orchid3flowers.

Most orchids prefer temperature ranges that people prefer, with an average night temperature between 55-65 degrees.
Orchid Temperature Tips

  1. Place orchids with lower temperature needs closer to the floor and those with higher temperature needs on shelves.
  2. Don’t let your orchids touch the windows.
  3. A fan can be used to circulate warm air or bring cool air from another part of the house.

Humidity

Orchids thrive best in a relative humidity of 40-70 percent. This is not normally the range inside, as humidity refers to the moisture in the air, not in the soil or on the plants. Gentle movement of air can be helpful to your orchids. It cools down the leaves and allows your plants to tolerate higher light intensities with out burning.

Orchid Humidity tips

  1. Placing orchids on top of an inch or so of gravel with water surrounding them will help with humidity. (Just do not let the plants sit in water). You will want to clean the stones with a mild solution of bleach about every three months, just make sure they are well rinsed before you place them back in the saucer as bleach is toxic to plants.
  2. Misting can help but do so only when you know the plants can dry off before nightfall. You want to mist around the plants, not directly spray the flowers and leaves.
  3. Grouping orchids together will create a more humid environment, just makes sure there is still room between them for air to circulate.
  4. Adjust air vents so air does not blow directly onto plants.

The care of your orchids once you find the environment in your home that best suits the variety you have chosen to grow, is also a key factor in your overall success.

Watering

Over-watering the major cause of death to orchids (and most interior plants).

Orchid roots enable them to capture and retain water, but these roots also need air so keeping the orchids too wet, or sitting in water can be very detrimental.

Orchid Watering tips

  1. It is best to let your orchids reach a point of getting almost dry and then when you do water to water thoroughly, ideally by taking to a sink or bath tub and watering deeply, and then drain but not letting them sit in any water. This will flush out any salts that may have accumulated.
  2. Use room temperature water if possible as cold water shocks the roots, and preferable water in the earlier part of the day.
  3. If your water is hard, or has a lot of dissolved minerals, flush with distilled water (or rainwater) every so often to keep the minerals from building up.
  4. NEVER let your orchids sit in water.

Phaleanopsis orhcidFertilizing

Remember that in the wild orchids receive their nutrients from the decaying organic debris that collects around their roots. They do not get nutrients directly from the organic material but from the bacteria that created through the breakdown. Orchids will grow best if you can mimic this process by fertilizing them frequently but weakly. A good term to remember is fed them weekly but weakly. What type of fertilizer you use depends on the growing medium the orchid is in.

Orchid Fertilizing tips

  1. Orchids grown in bark need a fertilizer that has more nitrogen because the bark decays so rapidly. A good formula would be 30-10-10, or 15-5-5.
  2. Plants grown in tree fern fiber do better in a balanced formula like 20-20-20, as this material breaks down slowly and you do not need as much nitrogen.
  3. Orchids in lava rock do well in a balanced fertilizer as the lava rock does not break down at all, but you need to watch out for an accumulation of salts.
  4. Do not fertilize your orchid if the plant is dry or under any stress.
  5. Resist the urge to force your orchids. Adding extra fertilizer actually stunts the growth.
  6. Fertilize only when the plants are actively growing, and let them rest from the time the new growth has matured until it starts to produce new growth or spikes.

It is our hope that this simplified article may assist you as you experiment and delve into the wonderful world of orchids. There are many resources available to assist you if you want to find out more detailed specifics regarding orchids, such a re-potting or specific information on growing certain varieties. Several website you might find helpful would be:

The American Orchid Society – They have a lot of information on this site regarding growing etc. You could also use this site to find a local Orchid Society Chapter in your area.

The Cymbidium and Phaphiopedilum Society of America

Orchids and their Origins

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dendrobium orchidOrchids were first discovered by British Horticulturists in the early 19th century, and people were so taken back by these colorful and intricate flowering plants it created what was called Orchidelirium, an obsession in the truest sense of the word that continues to this day. The demand for these exotic flowers was so great it became a big business overnight. What may have appeared to be a Victorian fad to the wealthy in the early 19th century, has remained a fascination for all people around the globe today.

There are certainly an abundance of beautiful flowers in the world, but orchids stand out as one of the most advanced and intricate in the entire plant kingdom. As orchids have evolved they have become specialized in developing complex mechanism that causes insects and other small animals to pollinate their blossoms. As a result there is a huge variety of orchids, well over 25,000, with new ones being discovered every year.

Orchids grow all over the world and can tolerate most environments except the most severe arctic or desert areas. Most orchids of course were discovered in the tropics and were either terrestrial orchids which means they grew in the ground, but mostly they are epiphytes, which means they are tree dwellers. They would actually get better light in the by attaching themselves in the heights of the trees where the sunlight penetrated the dense forest. They would absorb their nutrients from the decaying organic matter that would accumulate around their roots and from the sugars created by photosynthesis. In adapting to these aerial environment epiphytic orchids developed strong roots coated with kind of a spongy material (velamen), that allowed them to attach to the bark of the trees and absorb water rapidly.

There are two kinds of growth habits that orchid exhibit.

Monopodial orchids grow predominately upward. It has a main stem and the new grow produces leaves from the tip and flower buds from the juncture of the leaves and stems.

The other growth habit is a sympodial orchid which grows outward along the surface of the growing medium. Its stem called a rhizome is often horizontal and new shoot spring up from the buds on the rhizomes and send out there own roots.

Plant of the Month – Ficus Triangularis

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ficus+triangularisIn the interior world it’s not that often that we get a plant that’s new and different from the common Palm or Dracaena.  That’s why, Ficus triangularis is definitely a top pick when it comes to an unusual specimen plant that will stand out and woo your guests. My Mom just fell in love with this plant the first time she saw it, reminding her of her Gingko biloba trees and their fan-shaped leaves.

The leaves of Ficus triangularis are by far the main attraction, with their very cool triangle shape and dark stem coming out of the tips creates contrast on this free-formed plant.

These native Malaysian plants are rare, so when you see them, I would recommend grabbing them while you can.  I bought a beautiful 6 foot specimen for my Mom on Mother’s Day and told her that I’d take care of it for her (knowing how little care it would need).

Being in the Ficus family, these plants need at least medium to bright light and don’t want to be over watered.  I sub-irrigated my Mom’s in a Jardiner and water it about every other week, right now since it’s been hot.   The dark green, fleshy leaves seem to de-tract dust and only fall when you’ve stressed it out, unlike it’s Ficus benjamina relative that seem to rain leaves on a regular basis. I’d consider Ficus triangularis to be a clean interior plant, even with it’s yearly production of pea-sized green figs that dry up and fall off the tree in the summer months. This small nuisance is forgivable given all of the other wonderful aspects of this beauty.  It can grow about 8 feet max and 4 feet wide, but with their slow growth they could easily controlled at shorter heights making Ficus triangularis an excellent choice for any amateur interior plant enthusiast.