Orchid Plant Culture
Tips and hints for growing hybrid and species orchids.
The care of orchid plants is no more than providing the orchid with what it needs not only to survive but also to thrive. A plant needs the basics: water, light, and nutrients. Providing these ingredients in the proper quantity and quality will insure a healthy, well grown orchid.
The key is providing the proper amounts of water, light and nutrients that your plant needs. Too little and your plant will be weak and spindly; too much and you risk burning or drowning your plant.
The following guidelines apply to a great many hybrid and species orchids but they are just that- guidelines, your plant may have other, different needs. A little research done on your plant will uncover any particular needs. You can start your research by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions that you may have
Water quality is very important to the survival of your orchid. Water that contains too many dissolved salts will injure and kill the roots of the plant and a plant with no roots is usually headed for the compost heap. If the water from your tap is not pure enough for your plant then there are many ways to provide quality water. In small quantities you can buy a gallon or two, in larger quantities you may want to purchase a reverse osmosis filtering system. If you use a reverse osmosis filter system be aware that it will remove the calcium and magnesium from the water. These two elements are need by orchids for proper growth so you must supply them either with fertilizer or by using a water soluble form of the element available to and usable by the orchid.
How much and When to Water
Too much water is certainly the leading cause of plant death. Over watering will drown the roots of a plant that has adapted to a cycle of drying out between watering.
Too little water will prevent the plant from carrying out photosynthesis and nutrient transport between root and leaves. This will cause the death of the plant over time.
Generally the plants roots should not be allowed to stand in water. Allowing the water to flow through the pot will help in washing away any contaminants while giving the roots a chance to absorb the water the plant needs. Any more than this is wasted and is not a healthful situation. Looking at the medium and the roots can tell you a great deal about how often to water. A good rule of thumb is: the higher the light levels and the warmer the temperature, the more water. In any case water early enough for any water on the leaves or stems will evaporate before nightfall.
In the wilds orchids are constantly subjected to rainfall or mists that are usually not the same temperature as the air or the plant so if the water you are using is a slightly different temperature than the ambient no long term harm will occur. However, when you can control the temperature of the water, do so it is best to use water that is the same temperature as the plant.
Different Plant Adaptations
Orchids with pseudobulbs have a built in water reserve which they can rely upon in between watering, they have adapted to some degree of dryness, some of them needing a severe drying especially during the dormant season. Orchids without pseudobulbs do not have this reserve and usually like to be a little wetter.
The roots of orchid plants can be short and thin, like some Pleurothallis or long and thick, like Vandaceous orchids. The long and thick roots have more water holding capacity than the short and thin roots do. In either case the absorption of water causes the roots to turn a greenish color. They turn back to a whitish color when dry. If the roots are dead they should be trimmed off.
This color change can help you determine when to water; remember though, the root that you can’t see will remain wetter longer.
Not All Light Is the Same
Sunlight is full spectrum light; meaning that it contains all the colors of the rainbow (the visible spectrum). Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs provide only a part of the light that your orchid needs. For this reason sunlight in the proper amount is best for your plant. Early morning sunlight in an east or south facing window is generally the best light for your plant. Most orchids have light or medium green leaves some with purple spotting and some have dark green leaves. The spotting is known as ‘sunstain’ which is the plants protection of its chlorophyll against too much light. Too little light and the leaves are a darker green than they should be and too much they are faded or a ruby-purple color. Avoid direct sun or strong light through a window as this will increase the leaf temperature to the point of damage or death. However, if the leaves are getting so warm that they may be damaged the exposure should be lessened either by partially shading the window or reducing the time of exposure.
The light requirements for orchid plants varies widely among the genera so a little research on your plant will yield the proper amount for your plant’s needs. These needs will be listed as a range of candle-power which is the measurement of light intensity. If you have a light meter you can take readings where you orchid will be to determine what the daily amount of light will be. Take these readings in all directions since light will be coming from all directions including from the sides. The intensity of full sun on a clear day is about 10,000 foot-candles.
Here is a partial list of light needs by orchid genus:
Brassavola 2,000 to 4,000 foot-candles
Brassia 2,000 to 3,500 foot-candles
Cattleya 3,000 to 3,500 foot-candles
Cymbidium (standard) 2,000 to 4,000 foot-candles
Cymbidium (miniature) 1,000 to 3,500 foot-candles
Dendrobium 1,500 to 4,000 foot-candles
Epidendrum 1,500 to 3,500 foot-candles
Laelia 2,000 to 3,500 foot-candles
Ludisia 1,000 to 2,000 foot-candles
Masdevallia 1,000 to 2,500 foot-candles
Miltonia 1,000 to 3,000 foot-candles
Odontoglossum 1,000 to 2,500 foot-candles
Oncidium 2,000 to 4,000 foot-candles
Paphiopedilum 2,000 to 3,000 foot-candles
Phalaenopsis 1,000 to 1,500 foot-candles
Phragmipedium 2,500 to 3,500 foot-candles
Sophronitis 1,500 to 3,000 foot-candles
Vandas 2,500 to 4,000 foot-candles
With specialized equipment orchids can be grown under lights.
Plant nutrients are known as fertilizers or plant foods. There are many available for your orchid and all are good but remember to get fertilizers made for orchids. The better plant foods contain what are known as micro-nutrients.
The water soluble kinds are generally recommended following the old adage of ‘feed your plant weakly-weekly’.
We recommend you mix the plant food at a concentration that is ¼ the label directions and use that at each watering during the growing season. Many orchids require a rest period and go dormant for this time so feeding is not recommended until activity resumes.
About one a month you should leach out all of the excess fertilizer salts that accumulate in and on the pot. It is a simple process but can contribute a great deal toward having a healthy orchid. First dampen the growing media with plain water then wait about 30 to 45 minutes and flush out the pot with water using at least 2½ times the pot volume.
Miscellaneous Growing Topics
Air flow is important for all orchids. A breeze can help dry excess water and help control the spread of water borne diseases. Also, it will dissipate any harmful air borne toxins and gases.
Orchid plants tolerate different average minimum winter night temperatures depending on the species; they are grouped into cool (50F-55F) , intermediate (56F-60F), and warm (60F-65F) growing plants. Usual daytime temperature should not exceed 95° F. The day time temperatures should range 10 to 15 degrees higher than night temperatures both summer and winter. (See the statement above on water temperature.)
Most of the orchids that we ship do not need immediate repotting. Repot your plant when the growing medium begins to break down usually after 1 or 2 years. Repot when new growth begins and move into a pot that will allow about two years growth. There are some orchids that resent root disturbance and you should make an effort to safely extend the time between repotting or make provisions to not have to repot.
Adequate humidity for your plant is necessary for maintaining your plant in good health. Humidity can be supplied in a number of ways including pebble trays, room humidifiers, conservatories, or greenhouses. If your humidity is moderate to high be careful not to over water your orchid. For most orchids an average relative humidity of 50% - 65% will suffice.As night approaches and temperature begin to fall the relative humidity will begin to rise it will fall at the beginning of the day when temperatures climb. This is fine but you should avoid allowing the orchid to have wet leaves during the night so water early in the day and give the leaves a chance to dry before nightfall.
Copyright © 2004-2011 Lowe's Orchids All rights reserved.
If you experience problems with this website please email: email@example.com