Anyone can grow beautiful orchids easily in their own home garden. If they can grow naturally in the Australian bush then they can grow anywhere. Australia has temperatures from as low as minus 7 and as high as 50 degrees in the summer. These temperatures will vary of course in different areas. On the Nullabor for instance in the middle of summer the temperature can drop to as low as 5 or 6 degrees on the open plains at night.
Orchids also love warm climates Southeast Asia and South America. They can live in rainforests and can survive many hardships, like the lack of water and wind and they can grow without any water at all.
Did you know that there are approximately 20,000 varieties of orchids and at least 600 of these grow in Australia? Orchids are different in some ways to other plants as they carry both the male and female parts in their column instead of the usual stamens in the centre of the flower. These can actually trap a bee inside long enough to collect the pollen.
Western Australia has many varieties of orchids. The Donkey orchid, Cowslip and the Spider are three of our small well known wild flower orchids. You may see these while walking through the bush. They can grow on the sides of trees, on rocks or any natural hillsides.
The next time you go for a drive out in the country be sure to look along the roadsides. Quite often after a bushfire has gone through an area the new growth will encourage the orchids to grow, some are very tiny so keep your eyes open.
House and garden orchids
There are so many choices of beautiful colored orchids for us to grow in our own homes, under the patios or in the gardens. While growing in their natural habitat in rainforests orchids obtain their food from decomposing leaves and bark, or bird droppings which collect about their roots. Orchids love Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus minerals.
Buying your orchids
Before you buy any orchids you need to know where you want to grow them in your garden or inside the home. If you buy an orchid that loves the heat it will not grow inside your home. The same goes for one that likes shade it will not grow in full sun. Ask the assistant at your garden centre for advice on which ones to buy. If they are not sure then read the labels on each plant so you know which ones to buy.
The easiest ones to try growing for the beginner is the Cymbidium. These are hardier and will grow either indoors or out in the heat. Once you have grown these with success, then try some of the more exotic types. There are so many to choose from and yes they all look beautiful.
How to grow and care for your orchids
If you have bought your orchids without blooms then you need to fertilize them with a specific fertilizer to encourage growth and increase the size and production of color and number of spikes. There are many products on the market. If you chose the powder then follow the directions on the packet and mix it with water and apply weekly over the foliage and surrounding roots.
Dividing and repotting orchids
Do this after they finish flowering not before. Orchids need to be divided and repotted if the bulbs are squashed tight in the pot. If they are not too crowded you could put them into a larger pot and leave without separating. These should still flower next year. Sometimes when you separate orchids and repot orchids they may not flower the next year. When repotting you have to remove from pot and remove about a third of the bulbs and any dead bulbs. Force a garden spade between the bulbs to separate into smaller groups.
It will depend on the type of orchid you have as to what you use when repotting. Never use the normal potting mix as they need good drainage and potting mix will hold the moisture. Buy some bark chips or orchid compost. By using a larger pot than required it will reduce having to repot each year.
Hold the orchid bulbs up on top as you only want the root in the bark. Place them in a shady spot, fertilize and water now and forget about them until the next season when the weather cools off. When the weather changes move them back into the sun and fertilize early to encourage more growth. Check which fertilizer to use on each of your beautiful orchids.
Orchids are expensive, although once you start a collection you can always swap for different types and colors with your friends to save buying all the different types.
Pests and Diseases
Like any other garden plants you need to be aware of some pests and diseases. You can treat mites, thrips and aphids with malathion. Orchids are also susceptible fungicide, therefore you have to treat with a suitable fungacide to protect against mildew or root rot.
By following the instructions above then you should know how easy it is to grow beautiful orchids.