How to Care for Orchids
Have you ever received or purchased a beautiful blooming orchid and questioned how to care for it? I received an orchid plant from my son for Mother’s Day this year. The orchid bloomed for months, then the blooms all faded. I wanted to keep the plant, but I questioned how to continue to grow and care for it. Because it needed to be kept indoors, I wondered if I had the right conditions to grow orchids.
With a little research I found that orchids aren’t as hard to grow and care for as I thought. Now in November, it has new buds and if I can grow orchids, anyone can. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned.
History of Orchids
There are 15,000 - 20,000 species of orchids with 110,000 different varieties. Orchids date back all the way to the Greek ages. Orchids have been touted over the ages to help virility, cure illnesses, and have even been used in love potions.
No one can deny the beauty of orchids. Orchids were at one time considered a flower for the very wealthy. By the 18th century, orchid collecting and gardening became a pastime of the rich.
William Cattley was the first botanist to research orchids. Later the name Cattleya was given to orchids naming them after him.
In the late 19th century, the orchids were being harvested in Europe and sold, but they weren’t concerned with saving the plants themselves. The wild orchids were almost gone. Now wild orchids are not allowed to be harvested. The orchid plants you find now are grown in greenhouses.
Common Orchids You Will Find
There are so many types of orchids, that I can’t list all of them.Listed below are the two most likely you will find. Some orchids have large leathery leaves and some have thick grass like leaves. Orchids come in many colors and sizes. It is up to individual which one you prefer.
The most common orchid that can be found is the Moth Orchid or Phalaenopsis. If you are a newcomer to orchids this is the one you will probably receive as a gift or buy in the store. When these orchids grow wild they are found on trees and in a constantly moist environment. They will bloom only once or twice a year, but the blooms should last 3 months before wilting. Mine lasted even longer, so these plants will give you months of enjoyment.
A type that grows well outdoors in warmer climates such as southern Florida and California is the Boat Orchid or Cymbidium. These orchids bloom only once a year, but put on a profusion of blooms.
When Your Orchid Arrives
If your orchid has been purchased in a store and has cellophane wrap and moss around the plants, remove the moss immediately. The roots of the plant need to dry out and the moss won‘t allow it to do that. If it just has cellophane around the plant, remove it right away.
Growers differ in how much light to give an orchid. I have mine under a window without much light which helps the leaves to stay a very dark green. Some growers say to give the orchids a lot of light which will cause the leaves to be slightly yellow in color. They claim this gives more bloom. Too much light will burn the plant. Buds can also be destroyed by wet rot in this way. You have a choice here depending which advice you would like to take. I would think a spot that gets a medium amount of light would be best. A south window in the winter should be perfect, unless it is drafty.
Another good idea is to keep the orchid in a cool place at night. My orchid came with directions to water the orchid with an ice cube and let it melt slowly on the surface of the soil. Since I don’t always have ice cubes in the house, I water about every 5 days being careful not to water so much that moisture sits in the pot. Orchids don’t like it too wet and this can cause root rot if water is left standing in the pot.
Misting the plant is also helpful. Since most orchids grow in a moist environment, this is helpful to the plant.
First a word of caution should be given. Never repot an orchid when it is in bloom. This may damage the plant. Orchids only need to be repotted about every other year. When transplanting an orchid you should plant it in just a slightly larger pot that has good drainage. Use the soil that is specially formulated for orchids. Fill the pot about 2/3 full with soil. Place your orchid in the pot and tamp dirt around the other third.
Temperature requirement for orchids is quite simple. They like a temperatures between 65 - 80 degrees during the day and slightly cooler at night. Nighttime temperatures should be a range between 55 and 75 degrees.
Most orchid growers fertilize once a week, when they water the plant. They use very diluted fertilizer, only about 1/3 strength. Any all purpose fertilizer that can be diluted with water will work well.
You will enjoy your orchid when it produces it's blooms and it will bloom for months at a time.