There are thousands of orchid species and hybrids, but there are two most popular genera. On the one hand, there are the phalaenopsis hybrids, which are also known as moth orchids, with broad leaves at the bottom and long stems topped by pink, white, yellow or purple flowers.
On the other hand, there are the dendrobium, hybrids also called reed orchids, which bear several flowers along leafy, erect stems .
Furthermore, you should know that indoor orchids are mainly epiphytes (those that grow on trees) or lithophytes (that grow on rocks). In their natural habitat, this means that they use trees or rocks as a support and a way to feed on the plant debris accumulated around their roots. There are also some terrestrial species that grow on the ground.
Although of this nature, many epiphytic and lithophytic orchids can be grown in pots containing a specialised, free-draining orchid compost. In this way, orchids often form aerial roots outside the container.
How to care for your orchids
The most important thing to know about your orchids is their need for water. Ideally , water them once a week, checking the soil frequently until you have an exact idea of how much water your orchid needs. It is advisable to keep in mind that you should allow the soil to dry out a little between waterings.
Orchids that are grown indoors can benefit from extra humidity. The best way to achieve this is to place a humidifying tray under the plant. To do this, cover the bottom of a shallow tray with a layer of small pebbles (small rounded stones) and then add water just below the top of the pebbles. Place the plant on top, making sure that the bottom of the pot does not touch the surface of the water. Eventually, the water will slowly evaporate, adding moisture to the air around your plant.
Fertilisation, the key to maintaining vigour
Fertilise your orchids once a week with a balanced fertiliser for indoor plants, diluted to a quart. Finally, transplant your orchid every three years or so, transferring it to a larger container, preferably an orchid pot, which allows the roots to receive more air. These pots have holes, slits or other openings on the sides to improve air flow to the plant's roots.
After orchids bloom, the flowers often fall off. This is normal - don't think that you have taken bad care of it! And besides, the plant will take time to flower again. That is why we recommend that you leave your plant near or in the shade of a tree, in a cool place, until it starts to bloom again. Orchids have an extraordinarily long lifespan (up to 100 years or more) so they sometimes outlive their owners. In fact, orchid fanatics leave their prized orchids to others in their wills.
Temperature and light for orchids
Orchids like a wide range of temperatures, so choose the best position in the house to suit your orchid's needs.
On the one hand, there are the cool-growing orchids, such as Brassia, Dendrobium or Oncidium. All of them need a minimum temperature of 10°C, so a greenhouse or an unheated indoor room will be ideal for their care. If grown in a warmer environment, flowering will be reduced. On the other hand, they can be placed outdoors in summer, in a shady spot.
On the other hand, intermediate temperature orchids such as Miltoniopsis and Paphiopedilum prefer a minimum temperature of 13-15°.
Finally, warm-growing orchids, such as the ever-popular Phalaenopsis, enjoy year-round indoor room conditions, with a minimum temperature requirement of 18 ° C.
Watering, humidity and feeding
Orchids prefer high humidity, but their roots rot easily in wet compost, so water once a week with lukewarm rain water .
Ideally, water from above and always pour the water that collects in the saucer under the pot. Alternatively, immerse the container in a bucket of water and let it drain completely. From time to time we recommend that you spray the foliage and aerial roots with water. And remember, reduce humidity in winter if temperatures are low.
So, as you may have gathered, orchids have different feeding requirements. However, as a general rule, we recommend that you feed them with a liquid orchid fertiliser every third watering during the growing season.
when to transplant my orchids?
Repotting orchids can be done every two to three years, regardless of whether the orchid has outgrown its pot, as old orchid compost decomposes and prevents air from reaching the roots, which causes disease.
Always use a proprietary bark-based orchid compost - never a loam-based or standard all-purpose compost! as these will kill your orchid.
When transplanting your monopodial orchids, such as phalaenopsis, if the remaining roots fit comfortably into the old pot after removing the old compost and dead roots, reuse the pot. A pot that is too large will cause the compost to dry out too slowly after watering, resulting in root rot.
With sympodial orchids (which form clumps) it is best to use a pot that is wide enough to allow for two years' new growth . Cymbidiums are best transplanted in spring, just after flowering.
Different ways of propagating orchids
Propagation of orchids from seed requires specialised laboratory equipment, however some orchids can be propagated successfully by other means:
- With seedlings:
These appear at the growing points on the stems of some species. What you should do is separate the seedlings when they have developed several roots and place them in orchid compost. Water sparingly at first and spray them daily.
- From stem cuttings:
Stem cuttings can be taken from many Dendrobium orchids. Cut a stem up to 30 cm long and cut it into 7 to 10 cm sections, with at least one dormant bud in each section. Then the cuttings have to be placed in a tray of moist moss.
- By division:
This method can be used to propagate orchids such as Cattleya, Cymbidium and Oncidium in spring, just after flowering. Only plants that are overcrowded in the pot need to be divided. Cut off the rhizomes that attach to the pseudobulbs, making sure that each division has at least three healthy pseudobulbs. Cut out dead roots and remove brown and shrivelled pseudobulbs before repotting the divisions individually.
What are common orchid growing problems?
The main cause affecting orchid health is usually overwatering, which is noticeable when the roots become soft and soggy. Root death causes the plant to collapse.
Another risk you can run is overfeeding, which causes root damage. In severe cases, the roots and compost become covered with fertiliser crystals. To fix this, you should soak the pot in water to dissolve the excess fertiliser. Do not exceed the recommended application rates and do not feed your orchid during the resting period.
The next common problem is sunburn, which causes bleached and burnt leaves. To solve this, shade your plant and avoid direct sunlight. Another orchid problem is lack of flowering. This may suggest the need for a rest period and/or a period of lower temperature to initiate flowering.
Orchids can also suffer from attacks by scale insects, whitefly, spider mites or mealy bugs.
If you leave your plant outdoors during the summer, also protect it with specific products from slug and snail damage. Orchids can also be affected by various viruses. Symptoms include pale green to yellow spots, brown, black stripes or ring patterns, and other discolouration patterns.
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