Growing Beautiful Orchids

Types of Orchid

There are more than 25,000 different species of orchid, with new varieties being discovered and cultivated regularly. You are more likely to come into contact with hardier varieties of orchid than the more delicate types.

Moth Orchid

The moth orchid is commonly seen in Asian grocery stores and comes in whites, pinks and purples. They grow on trees in the wild but are also commonly grown as houseplants. Blossoms grow on the end of long, willowy stems and bloom about three times a year. Blooms can last two or three months if properly cared for.

Dendrobium Orchids

These plants are native to southeast Asia and parts of Australia. They come in a variety of colours, including white, purple, pink, yellow and green. The blossoms of the dendrobium orchid are typically small and clustered along the stem of the plant. They can be difficult to grow as they often require tropical temperatures during the day but much cooler temperatures at night.

Slipper Orchids

Slipper orchids are named for their beautiful shape that resembles a slipper. They are delicate and can be very difficult to grow in captivity. They are typically seen in light pink, pale yellow and white. But they are also available in darker colours like deep purple, brown and red. This type of flower can have petals that hang a foot or more down from the plant itself.

Boat Orchids

Boat orchids are known for their huge, beautiful flowers that can last for months after being cut. They come in bright peaches, pinks and yellows as well as in combinations of colours. They grow very well in warm climates and will bloom more brightly each year. They are native to parts of Asia such as Japan, Malaysia and northern India as well as northern Australia.

Caring For Orchids

Orchids are known for being a challenge to keep alive, and it is true that some types are very delicate. For the most part, you can keep them healthy if you concentrate on a few major areas.

Water

They actually require little water and may only need to be watered lightly once a week, or even once a month, depending on conditions. Overwatering is a major cause of death to orchids. Most orchids should be in soil which stays just slightly moist all the time.

Temperature

The temperature needed for good growing depends on the type of flower you are growing. Most plants will do well in temperatures ranging from 70-80 degrees, but they often require about a 10 degree drop in temperature at night if flowers are going to bloom.

Humidity

Orchids are naturally tropical plants. That means that they need to be in air that has plenty of moisture.

Sunlight

Sunlight can be a problem for orchids. Like all plants, they need light from the sun to grow. However, the delicate blooms can easily burn in direct sunlight. Indirect but consistent light is ideal.

Their leaves can give you a clue about its need for sunlight. An orchid’s leaves should be bright green. Yellow or red leaves indicate that the plant is getting too much direct light. Dark green leaves mean that the plant needs more light.

Fertilizer

Most will get along just fine without any fertilizer at all. But many growers find that appropriate fertilizing can lead to a stronger plant with larger, healthier and more abundant flowers.

The main thing to keep in mind when fertilizing orchids is that less is more. It is easy to kill an orchid with too much fertilizer (hattip from GardenEaze). Start with a very small amount and continue from there. Many growers follow a policy they call weakly weekly, which means they give their orchids a very weak fertilizer once each week.

Dealing with Pests

Orchids are vulnerable to infestation of pests, and it is important to watch your orchids carefully for signs of damage by bugs or small animals.

Aphids

Aphids are tiny bugs that can collect on the leaves of the orchids and cause damage. You can fight aphids by gently washing the leaves with warm water. If aphids continue to be a problem you can buy an insecticidal wash for the leaves or you can try adding a small amount of orange oil.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs can be on the orchid’s leaves or in the roots. If mealybugs are on the leaves, gently treat the leaves with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. If the bugs have infested the roots, you will need to very gently remove the plant from the soil and soak the roots in an insecticidal soap solution. Then repot the orchid in clean soil.

Thrips

Thrips can be extremely difficult to remove from an orchid. Start by treating the leaves with insecticidal soap. If that doesn’t work, you can try harsher methods like Malathion and Orthene.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are likely to infect an orchid when daytime temperatures are excessively high for several days in a row and when the soil around the orchid becomes too dry.

Treat a spider mite infestation by washing the plant with warm water. If spider mites continue to be a problem, wash the plant with an insecticidal soap.

Snails

If you find snails on your orchids, the best way to fight them is to attract them to another area. Snails are notorious for enjoying beer. Put out a shallow plate of the beer near your orchids. Snails and slugs will choose the beer instead of your plants.

Mice

Mice will damage and kill your orchids. Fight mice by placing old fashioned mouse traps around your plants.

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