ORCHID CULTURE 101…
You want to make your orchids happy. The first thing you need to know is that EVERY PLANT, orchids included, is a weed somewhere! Your goal in growing orchids should be to give each plant the conditions it would get where it is a weed. The obvious problem with this is that where most orchids grow the habitat is very different from your porch or your living room – so some accomodations must be made to give your orchids the proper habitat. As you’ll read in other parts of this website, if your orchids are given conditions that make them happy, you will have far less problems with disease and a much higher chance of blooming.
Since orchids are such a diverse family, the question of “how do you grow an orchid” cannot be answered simply, but once you know how to grow the specific orchid(s) you have, or at least the type of orchid you have, the rest is easy!
STEP 1: KNOW YOUR ORCHID!
With thousands of orchid species and thousands of hybrids this may sound like a daunting task. But there are actually only a handful of orchid alliances into which the vast majority of orchids fall. Knowing what growing conditions the alliance requires is oftentimes all you need to concern yourself with. Here’s a brief overview:
|Vanda, Neofinitia, Aeredes, Arangis, Rhynchostylis||65°F-85°F||5000-8000 Footcandles||High humidity (daily misting) weekly watering||Do not get water in the leaf axils|
|Phalaenopsis, Doritis||65°F-85°F||2000-2500 Footcandles||Slightly dry between weekly waterings||Do not get water in the leaf axils|
|Pahpiopedilum, Phragmapedium (also Cypripedium)||58°F-85°F||2500-3500 Footcandles||Dry slightly between weekly waterings||Cyps grow temperate, Paphs &Phrags are tropical – temperatures reflect the latter|
|Cattleya||Cattleya, Laelia, Epidendrum, Brassavola, Encyclia||55°F-85°F||3500-5000 Footcandles||Totally dry between weekly waterings||Overwatering will rot the roots|
|Oncidium||Brassia, Miltonia, Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Psychopsis, Tolumnia||58°F-85°F||3500-4500 Footcandles||Totally dry between weekly waterings||Overwatering will rot the roots|
|Cymbidium||Cymbidium, Ansellia||45°F-80°F||4500-7500 Footcandles||Moderately dry between weekly waterings||Cool (40°F) fall temps will set the bloom|
|Dendrobium||Dendrobium, Epigeneum||50°F-80°F||4000-5000 Footcandles||Totally dry between weekly waterings||Many need cool (55°F) & dry winter to bloom|
|Pleurothallid||Dracula, Masdevallia, Pleurothallis, Restrepia, Stellis||50°F-75°F||1500-2500 Footcandles||Keep moist
(but not wet)
|Air movement to avoid fungus|
|Bulbophyllum||Bulbophyllum, Cirrhopetalum||62°F-85°F||2500-3500 Footcandles||Keep evenly moist (only allow slight dry)||Grows best in shallow pots|
|*Footcandles (fc) are a measurement of light intensity that can be read with a light meter or you can use this guide to get a general idea of your light intensity – hold your hand half-way between the light and a white piece of paper and observe the shadow it casts to tell the footcandle reading at the paper:
1500fc=well lit room with no shadows
2500fc=light room with fuzzy shadow cast
3500fc=dark shadow cast with fuzzy edges
5000+fc=dark shadow with clear edge
STEP 2: KNOW THE BEST GROWING MEDIUM
To meet these different growing conditions orchid hobbyists have developed multiple options for growing media. What needs to be kept in mind is that there is a balance between the media you use and the space you have. If you have a dry space, your media should hold more water (for orchids that want that) but more humid spaces would have different media.
Some media options for orchids include:
Bark, Sphagnum Moss, Pumice, Charcoal, Cork Mount, Tree Fern, Coconut Chips, Hanging Basket…
STEP 3: KNOW YOUR GROWING SPACE
While the diversity of orchids’ growing habits may come across as confusing, the good thing about it is that virtually every growing space can accommodate some type of orchid. If you want to be a successful orchid grower you should take an honest assessment of your growing space and only acquire orchids that will thrive in that space. If you want to make the effort to change your growing space to accommodate certain orchid types you may need to set up grow lights, increase humidity or maybe even get a greenhouse – but if you can be rewarded with blooming orchids isn’t it worth it?
STEP 4: ENJOY!
Unlike most plants, orchids prefer neglect over doting. Sit back and ENJOY!