The Wonderful World of Orchids
Orchids have an undeserved mystique. They are easily grown indoors by mimicking their growing conditions in the wild. Most are epiphytic and grow attached to trees.
By Debbie Colombo and Steffie Littlefield
(This article first appeared in The Gateway Gardener January/February 2016)
Orchids have an undeserved mystique. They are easily grown indoors by mimicking their growing conditions in the wild. Most are epiphytic and grow attached to trees. Orchids grow best in bright filtered light followed by a deep watering (afternoon thunderstorm). Higher humidity can be achieved by placing orchids together and on a pebble tray. Orchids that are root bound bloom more reliably. It’s easy to overwater orchids if they are put in too large a pot.
Watering should occur when the potting medium is thoroughly dry. (This is once a week for my orchids in a south window with temps in the 60s-low 70s). PLEASE do not water with ice cubes. Melted ice cubes will not give enough water to your orchid….and besides there are no ice cubes in the tropics. Water thoroughly until water pours out of the many holes of the orchid pots. Many successful growers fertilize every time they water but diluting the fertilizer from ½ to ¼ strength. Otherwise soak the orchids in diluted fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.
Orchids that are root bound bloom more reliably. It’s easy to overwater orchids is they are put in too large a pot. They should be repotted every few years or when the orchid mix has broken down. Remember to choose an orchid pot only slightly larger than the existing pot and don’t be afraid to tuck any adventitious roots (ones growing out of the soil) into the new soil.
Getting your orchid to set bud is dependent on the health of the plant, enough light and sometimes a fluctuation of 10 to 15 degrees between day and night temperatures. Some of the easiest types of orchids to grow in a home environment are Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchids), Dendrobium, Oncidium, and Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper Orchids).
Phalaenopsis are called Moth Orchids because of their beautiful wide wing like structure, commonly in whites, lavenders and pale yellows. This is easiest orchid to keep blooming all year with many blooms developing on one spike. Can be planted in either a bark or moss mix.
Dendrobiums have tall spikes with large clusters of flowers in bright tropical colors.
Prefers to be root-bound, to initiate blooms reduce fertilizer and
grow in brighter location. Use bark soil mix.
Oncidiums are also known as dancing ladies with the longest lasting flowers. These beauties prefer more sun and a medium to fine fir bark potting mix.
Paphiopedilums are ground orchids, with botanical looking single flowers on short stems. Preferring shady damp locations, repot regularly in a fine bark medium and fertilize with a bonsai food (7-9-5).
Debbie Colombo has been with Garden Heights Nursery since its opening in 1996, and was in garden center management for 15 year prior to that. Steffie Littlefield is a horticulturist and garden designer at Garden Heights Nursery.