Proper Orchid Care
By Terry Dunford
A majority of orchids are rewarding indoor plants. Once you have bought your first orchid or have received one as a gift, there are steps to take in order to maintain persistent flowering. Orchids are much stronger and resilient than a majority of people believe, and are, commonly, tremendously adaptable. There is an ancient legend that orchids are intricate and complex, and not practical to grow, particularly lacking a greenhouse. There are over 20,000 species of orchids and over 100,000 hybrids that are grown today. There are particular orchid species that conform better to the lighting and conditions of the average home. This article will explain General Orchid Care tips so you too can grow and enjoy your own orchids at home.
The first thing to remember is that orchids are not like any other houseplants. Orchids do not get rooted into the ground, so always avoid potting orchids in soil. Orchids in the wild usually entwine their roots around trees and branches. Orchids have adapted to living in those conditions.
In the household, orchids are grown in pots that are filled with bark chips, stones, tree fern, or other loosely packed material that will keep the roots aerated and permit the flow of water to drain fast. Besides from potting an orchid in potting soil, the other major factor to NEVER forget when caring for an orchid is to NEVER allow the roots to sit in water. Always make certain that the pot is aerated and that all the water drains quickly.
Even though orchids cannot have their roots in water, they do need to get thoroughly watered generally once a week. One method to determine if you are watering an orchid thoroughly is to use the wood portion of a sharpened pencil and stick it into the pot and see if it gets wet from bark chips. If the pencil head is not wet when taken out of the pot then that is an excellent indication that the orchids need more water.
A major factor to understand is that orchids in nature experience a dramatic difference between day and night temperatures. In the average home environment, the temperature only changes about 10 degrees at night. To initiate buds on an orchid, a good trick to employ is to lower the temperature in your home at night so the change in temperature between day and night increases to parallel closer to orchids' natural environment.
Because there are many different orchid species, and because orchid species act differently to atmospheric temperatures, it is always best to find out specific information for the particular orchid species that you are growing.
A majority of orchids necessitate ample light. A general amount to consider would generally be about 6 hours of light a day. Numerous orchids can endure more or even less than the suggested quantity of light, but supplying additional light enhances the changes of an orchid flowering. On the other hand, insufficient light can inhibit orchids from flowering, even though they will continue growing.
To determine if an orchid is acquiring sufficient amount of light, one method is to look at the leaves. Dark green leaves usually mean that an orchid is not getting adequate light. If an orchids leaves are a grassy, shiny green color, then your orchid is receiving enough light.
Windows that face to the south and west are ideal locations to locate your orchids for proper lighting. Direct sunlight should always be avoided. If an orchid receives too much light, then you will notice burn marks on the leaves. To adjust the lighting conditions, you can move the orchid around the room to manage conditions.
If you wish to grow orchids where there are no windows, then you can consider artificial lighting. Generally, four 4-foot fluorescent tubes that are placed about 6 inches apart side by side should be sufficient. There are also other types of artificial lighting that are available. For example, you can use shop lights, grow lights that are made for orchid growing, and other special growing lights. A good rule of thumb is to locate the orchids under the lights and set a timer between 13 to 16 hours a day. Certain species of orchids such as vandas and cymbidiums will require more lighting to bloom.
No plant can live with just air and water. The majority of orchid potting medium supply support only, and do not contain enough food nutrients. When the plants are planted in bark they require a high nitrogen food (30-10-10). Plants potted in other mediums require a different amount (18-18-18). Always use the specified amount of water located on the label of each fertilizer. If you begin noticing that the orchid leaves are shriveling up, then that is a sign that the plant is receiving too much fertilizer. A safety precaution is to flush the pots with plain water to prevent salt accumulation.
Most orchids only require fertilizer every couple of weeks. Accurate lighting is more important for flowering than a scrupulous fertilizer treatment.
If you have successfully grown other types of houseplants, then the humidity in your home should be sufficient. However, if humidity was an issue in growing other houseplants, then the amount of humidity will surely be a concern with orchids. Not to worry, there is a simple trick to solve the humidity problem. Find a tray large enough to hold your pots. Then fill the tray with gravel and put water in the tray. Then place the pots in the tray and make sure that the orchid's roots are not sitting in water. The evaporating water will provide the necessary ingredients that the orchids will need to thrive.
© 2008 by Hana Tropicals
Terry Dunford is the owner of American Creations of Maui. This business specializes in web design and development, graphic design, business marketing, search engine optimization, book publishing, book and article editing and publishing, and print design services. Terry has 4 years of College training in this field, and over 60 clients in Maui, Hawaii and more around the world. Terry owns and operates an online bookstore. Terry loves to write and is now giving back to the community by sharing his knowledge and experience to those who seek it.