Saturday, 14 March 2009

Orchids As Houseplants ~ Easier than you think!

Popular belief is that orchid growing is way too difficult and can only be done under greenhouse conditions.

The fact is that if you can grow African violets, then growing orchids will be easy for you!

Orchids compromise the largest family of flowering plants on the planet, and varieties of orchids, i.e. Lady Slipper's aka Cypripedium's, grow right here in Canada, but I'm getting off topic!

These durable plants with long blooming cycles, (up to 20 + weeks), provide a spectacular show during the winter when most indoor plants are recharging their batteries.

A friend of mine has a collection of 50 or so plants and she has told me countless times how orchids, particularly the Phalaenopsis, known to most as the Moth orchid because of the flower shape, is one of the easiest plants to bring into bloom.

Due to the foolproof nature of the orchid, it’s key to success is in the adaptability to thrive under different circumstances and conditions.

Whether it’s a bright window sill or under fluorescent lights, the Phalaenopsis orchid, with colours ranging from yellow, pink, purple, white, spotted, and yes, even striped, along with it’s unusual foliage, will likely become a favourite addition to your home.

My advice is to purchase from a florist or garden centre where the orchids are well cared for during their wait for you to find them.
The foliage should be a solid colour of green, without spots or other marks on them.
The potting medium used is bark, peat and vermiculite. It’s best when not mushy, since this could signify rotting roots, and the roots themselves, should be firmly entrenched in the pot.

One or two orchids will demand little of your attention. Providing them with a natural east or south facing window, (never full sun, but indirect, or they will burn), or if you have the room and feel like investing more money with a fluorescent light garden stand, success will be yours with these unusual and spectacular plants.

Don’t believe it when you are told that Phalaenopsis orchids require high humidity. During winter, when the air is really dry, just placing them on a tray, atop some rocks to keep their feet dry, which should provide ample humidity.

This addition to your home should be watered on a schedule, unlike other plants that get watered by demand.
Once a week, fill the sink with tepid water, with the level at half of that of the pot, and place your orchid in for one hour. Watering from the bottom, as with violets, will ensure there will be no damage to the foliage. The exception to the timing of watering is during the five or six weeks that the orchid plant has it’s dormancy period. At that time, cut your watering schedule to once every two weeks instead.

Feeding is recommended every third of fourth week. Water soluble fertilizer works best, and I suggest something higher in nitrogen. All that is required is about one teaspoon to a quart.
Having said that, orchids need to be repotted at the most, every five years or so.

If you feel uncomfortable with doing that, the florist or garden centre that you purchased it from is usually happy to do this for you, if you ask nicely! When I was a floral designer at a shop in Toronto, we often sold orchids, and many clients brought them in for some maintenance!

Orchids are relatively pest free, but if problems do develop with mealy bugs, scale or mites, a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and dabbed on the pest will usually fix the issue.

Once people realize that orchids are not difficult to grow, then success with these unusual specimens is almost guaranteed, and will be appreciated as a beautiful addition to your home plant collection for many years to come.
Related Links: The Central Ontario Orchid Society & The Southern Ontario Orchid Society have a plethora of orchid information.


Pricilla said...

Oooh, I had an orchid before I moved to Montana. I don't recall it's name - I bought it in Hawaii and had it sent home to NJ. It smelled like chocolate! It had beautiful small white and brown flowers. I loved that plant. It was almost always blooming. I gave it to my sister in law when I moved into our fifth wheel for our big traveling adventure.

KarenSloan-WallFlowerStudio said...

Pricilla, so sorry you had to give that up! But I imagine your travelling adventure more than compensated!
I know of one orchid that definately smells like chocolate. It's an Oncidium, called "Sharry Baby". I suppose there's way more out there as growers are constantly crossing hybrids for things just like this. Thanks for commenting!