Whether you are a beginning enthusiast or a casual hobbyist the below tips should help you become a successful orchid grower.
ORCHIDS CAN BE GROWN and bloomed by anyone who is able to grow plants such as African violets or philodendron. Like any other plant, orchids require light, correct temperature ranges, humidity, water and feeding. The kind of care given an orchid plant determines the rate of success in blooming the plant. Since orchids in cultivation originate in almost all tropical parts of the world, their requirements also vary greatly. It is therefore very important to select the varieties most suitable for available growing areas. Plants like Cymbidium, Odontoglossum, Miltonias, and some Paphiopedilum and Dendrobium prefer the cool 55-70 degree F temperature range of a lightly heated porch or cool greenhouse. Phalaenopsis, Doritis and some Paphiopedilum and Dendrobium like the 65-80 degree F temperature of a home or warm greenhouse. Most varieties, however, require the intermediate temperature and adapt well to varying growing conditions.
GROWING AN ORCHID PLANT UNDER HOME CONDITIONS
HERE IS AN EXCITING CHALLENGE which can be accomplished without much effort. Plants should be placed in an east, south or west window, but should be protected from direct sun during the noon hours. In order to provide additional humidity for better growth, plants can be set on gravel in trays containing some water. Pots should never have continuous contact with water in order to permit weekly drying out. Some varieties like Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, and Cymbidium do well when pots are surrounded by sphagnum moss. This keeps moisture around the pots and plants more even, and promotes better growth. Pots should not remain wet longer than 4-6 days between watering. The ideal growing area indoors is a bright room which can be closed off from the home. If cooler night temperatures are maintained, the humidity condition will be higher, promoting better plant growth. Due to the rather constant 70-75 degree F temperature indoors, warm growing varieties such as Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum callosum, and Paph. sukhakulii are especially suitable for successful home growing.
DURING SUMMER MONTHS this is beneficial in the U.S. Midwest area and where temperatures stay between 55 and 100 degrees F with good humidity. Plants should be set on stones or wood in a shaded area. Cymbidium pots should be submerged into the ground to provide more even moisture. Protection from drying winds and occasional misting on hot days will help to grow strong flower growths. Plants have to be moved indoors when temperature drops to 50 degrees F, or 35° F for Cymbidiums. Phalaenopsis or warm growing varieties with tender foliage do better indoors all year.
LIGHT GIVEN IN THE CORRECT AMOUNT will insure profuse blooming. Orchids are variable in their light requirements depending on genera and variety. 4,000-8,000 foot-candles, or very light shade is needed for varieties like VANDA, CYMBIDIUM, RENANTHERA, BRASSAVOLA, LAELIA, some EPIDENDRUM, and AERIDES.
2,000-3,000 foot-candles, or medium shade is required for varieties like: CATTLEYA, DENDROBIUM, most EPIDENDRUM, PHAJUS, ONCIDIUM, STANHOPEA, CALANTHE, LYCASTE and CYCNOCHES.
foot-candles, or heavy shade is needed for plants like: small ORCHID SEEDLINGS,
PHALAENOPSIS, PAPHIOPEDILUM, ODONTOGLOSSUM, MILTONIA, BRASSIA and many
soft-leaf SPECIES orchids.
In the U.S. Midwest area, protection from direct sun should be provided from March till October. Soft-leaf plants usually need less light than those with hard, leather-like foliage. Those plants with intense light requirements can be hung close to the glass in any greenhouse. This also protects plants below from too much light.
WHEN GROWING UNDER ARTIFICIAL LIGHT, it is important with many orchid varieties to provide light only as long as day light, or about equal hours, in order to initiate flower buds at the proper season. Lights should not be used to extend day length, since this may prevent blooming. Those varieties with lower light requirements bloom most satisfactorily under artificial light culture. Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis seem to bloom most frequently under lights. For best results, choose the fluorescent type of light rather than the incandescent type. High intensity sodium vapor systems are available now for superior indoor orchid growing. With this type of light you can expect to bloom high light types such as Cattleya and Vanda.
CORRECT TEMPERATURES are of great importance in growing and blooming orchids successfully. We classify orchids as WARM GROWING, INTERMEDIATE or COOL GROWING.
WARM GROWING varieties prefer a temperature range of 64 degrees F at night, 72° F during daytime and 80° F with sun.
The INTERMEDIATE temperature range is 60 degrees F at night, 68° F during daytime and 75° F with sun. Some varieties, especially spring blooming Cattleyas and Dendrobiums, require the low night temperature to set buds.
COOL GROWING plants prefer a temperature of 55 degrees F at night, 65° F during daytime and 70° F on sunny days. Varieties like Cymbidium, Odontoglossum, some Dendrobium and Masdevallias require the cool temperatures to grow well and to initiate flower buds. During hot summer weather all varieties will tolerate high temperatures. Additional shade and occasional misting, however, will help to keep plants cool, and growing well.
HUMIDITY IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE for orchid plants, especially during the growing season. 40-80% is a suitable range. Frequent misting during the growing season and hot weather increases humidity and creates a better growing condition. Misting should always be done in the morning so as to hinder disease. Careful ventilation and shading will conserve humidity around plants. During the winter months, or their rest period, plants tolerate lower humidity.
RAINWATER or water with low mineral content will bring best growing results. Water treated by a water softener is unsuitable for growing plants. Generally orchid plants want to dry out well between watering. If kept wet for more than 6 days without drying out at the root system, roots may rot. Varieties with fleshy roots or soft foliage, and seedlings in continuous growth usually prefer even moisture on roots without staying wet. Large 6" to 8" pots may need thorough watering at 6-8 day intervals, while small pots may need to be watered twice weekly. This frequency of watering depends on the amount of misting one does, and on the existing humidity.
FEEDING ORCHID PLANTS is essential for plants growing in potting mixes or fir bark. Plants potted in osmunda fiber need no, or very little feeding. Hausermann's Fertillade liquid plant food is easy to use and should be applied at the rate of 1:2000 each time plants are watered, except during the winter months. It contains 15% nitrogen, 5% phosphoric acid and 5% potash. One half-teaspoon liquid food is used per gallon to water dry plants. This continuous light feeding prevents any burning damage to roots, and provides an even supply of food. Alternating use of fish emulsion fertilizer has brought excellent results with many growers.
During spring, or when new growths appear, plants can be fertilized twice a month with a 1:1000 solution of food in order to start additional and stronger growths. One teaspoon per gallon makes a 1:1000 solution. Also, when plants receive much light, the experienced grower may feed stronger solutions for maximum results.
Feeding of high nitrogen foods should be omitted during winter months or short day periods, especially for Cymbidium and Dendrobium nobile type plants. Paphiopedilums are 'low feeders' and should be given a more dilute solution of fertilizer. Many hobbyists feed at one half the recommended solution.
Orchid plants generally need repotting every one to two years depending on the variety. The ideal time for this is during spring and early summer. Remove all old and decayed potting material from the roots, and cut off any dead roots. Choosing the correct pot size is very important, since 'overpotting' (to use too large a pot) will prevent good root growth. A plant should have enough growing space to remain in the pot for two years.
Only orchid potting mix, fir-bark, osmunda fiber, tree fern fiber, or similar material can be used to repot orchids. Phalaenopsis, seedlings, Paphiopedilum of warm growing type, and many species need repotting every year. Any plant in poor growing conditions usually improves when repotted.
It is important to flame off, or sterilize, potting tools with each plant to prevent the spread of diseases.
Below we are attempting to furnish additional information regarding the plants. This will make possible the choosing of most suitable varieties for your growing condition or color preference. The color ranges given are approximate, and cannot describe the full range of actual color combinations present in a particular bloom. A bloom color described as 'green-lavender' may have a range of colors from yellow to deep purple, or may be attractively spotted. Space limitations do not permit us to describe the varieties in detail at this time.
F = Fall blooming season; W = Winter blooming season; S = Spring blooming season; SU = Summer blooming
C = Cool growing variety for a cool greenhouse or growing space 55 degrees F at night 60-65° F during daytime 70 degrees F on sunny days is ideal
I = Intermediate temperature range is for this plant. 60 degrees F at night 65-70° F during daytime 75 F on sunny days
W = Warm growing means an ideal temperature of 64 degrees F at night 70-75° F during daytime 80 degrees F with sun.
ONLINE CATALOG NOTE:
"Z" numbered varieties designate mericlones. "CH" numbered varieties designate seed grown.
"MINIATURE" OR SMALL SIZE SPECIES SUITABLE FOR HOME GROWING:
BRASSAVOLA nodosa, CATTLEYA walkeriana var. alba, DORITIS pulcherrima, ONCIDIUM equitants, ONCIDIUM EQUITANT hybrids, PHALAENOPSIS equestris, SARCOCHILUS.