How to Grow Orchids
Growth requirements for growing orchids
The cultural needs of orchids are different from those of other plants because of their structure and native growth habits. Remember, orchids can stand a great deal of neglect, if the neglect is tempered with understanding.
Temperature: Orchids fall naturally into three distinct groups by virtue of their temperature requirements-warm growing (night temperature near 70 degrees, day near 80 degrees), intermediate (night temperature around 60 degrees, day 70 to 75 degrees), and cool (night temperature 50 to 55 degrees, day 65 to 70 degrees). The drop in the night temperature is important, for it slows down transpiration and therefore speeds growth. The cooler nights have also been found necessary in some cases to set the flower buds. No hard and fast rules can be made for keeping plants in their temperature range. It has been found that many, though not all, orchids from different groups can be conbined and grown well in the same room. It is important that you know what the temperature range is in the area where you wish to grow the plants and then obtain plants that will grow well there. Some modifcations can be made for providing some minor variations within the same room. For example, the warm growing orchids could be placed nearer a source of heat more than the intermediate ones. Alittle experience and watching for signs from your plants will soon teach you whether your plants are happy or not.
Light: Here again there is a wide range in requirements, a good rule of thumb to follow is to give your plants all the sun they can take without burning. A lush green plant may look nice but probably won't bloom. Most healthy orchids are light green, any brown spots on the leaves and pseudobulbs mean too much sun. Morning sun is the most beneficial, so locate your plants where they will get as much morning sunlight as possible, and artifical lights can be very satisfactory.
Water: The amount of water and frequency of watering are the most critical factors in the success of growing orchids. if in doubt as to whether to water your plants, don't. When to water depends upon the plant type, size of pot, potting medium and humiduty. A little experience will teach you when to water and how often. Tap the pot, if it sounds hollow, it is dry. Or feel the outside of a clay pot, if it is warm, it needs water. A finger poked down into the potting soil is also a good test. When you water do it well and let the water run through the potting soil, and then soak again. Then let the plant dry out. Types with the monopodial habit of growth always need to be moist, but never soggy. These plants do not have water storage structures so need constant moisture at the roots. If you have many, it will be helpful and time saving to group like kinds together. This way, those of like needs can be taken care of easily.
Humidity: Achieving the required humidity for orchids can prove to be difficult in the house. However, there are a number of things you can do to raise the humidity. Spraying the plants daily with a fine mist will be beneficial, but do not let the plants go into the night wet, as wet leaves could very well promote disease and pest infestations. Another good solution is to place the pots in trays that have been filled with stones. The trays can then be filled with water to a level just below the tops of the stones. the bottom of the pots should not be sitting in the water. A relative humidity of 40 to 60 percent is best, but the plants can do well with lower.
Ventilation: As orchids in nature are constantly refreshed by fresh moving air, this is also an essential ingredient in the home culture of these plants. Orchids will not thrive in stagnant, unmoving air. In providing for ventilation, avoid drafts directly on the plants.
Fertilizing: Most orchid growers sell special fertilizers for orchids and directions for use will be included. Read these carefully and follow them for best results. The type of potting medium you use will dictate the amount and kind of fertilizer that you use. Some need little or no fertilizer, but good success can be achieved with frequent applications of fertilizer that has been diluted to half or less of full strength.
Pests, diseases and control: Orchids are subject to scale, mealybugs, aphids, thrips, beetles, weevils, slugs and snails. The best procedure is to prevent infestations; be neat and clean-wash plants regularly and inspect for any insects. There are a number of diseases to which orchids are subject, and the topic can be complex, if you buy your plants from a reputable grower, you shouldn't have any problem with orchid diseases.
Propagation: Most sympodial orchids can be propagated by dividsion. When they out grow their pots, healthy plants can be divided in two. Seedlings can be purchased from growers, but when first trying to grow orchids it is best to get mature blooming plants. That way you know what you are getting and can enjoy the plant in bloom right from the beginning.
Repotting: It is time to repot when the orchid has out grown its pot or when the potting medium has become decomposed. This usually occurs every two or three years. It is best to repot just after they bloom, at which time the plants are putting out new roots.