Orchids are some of the most popular blooming potted plants. What can be done to make it bloom beautifully? How to take care of it to make it please our eyes? I have prepared a mini-guide for you so that you can find the most important information about the plant. At the end of it I will give away my grandmother’s secret. She claims she knows the best way to grow these plants!
Orchids growing in the wild
In the wild orchids grow in environments poor in nutrients. They are often associated with tropical climate, that is warm and humid weather. Orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on the bark of trees and other plants, using them as supports.
Interestingly, orchids grow on all continents apart from the Antarctic.
Varieties of orchids
There are 800 categories of orchids.
The total number of their species is almost 30,000.
Another interesting thing is that there are twice as many orchid species that bird species and 4 times a s many as mammal species.
Each species has got its own preferences. Do some background reading to find about the one you have at home. If you have more of them, you have to divide them according to species and, consequently, their preferences. Taking care of them will be much easier. To control the condition of soil and roots transparent pots are recommended.
Growing medium for orchids
Orchids prefer light and airy medium that permits water. You can buy ready mixtures or prepare some yourself using pine bark, peat, pieces of coconut, gravelite and pieces of charcoal.
Remember that apart from their ‘regular’ roots, orchids also have air roots that pick up water and collect it. In the wild the plant uses them to hold on to the tree stems. You can remove them only when they are dry.
Orchids like spots with good sun exposure, but they prefer dispersed light. Avoid exposing them directly to the sun, especially in the summer. If you keep them on window sill, choose the one overlooking the east. Or put the plant behind a net curtain.
Species that prefer spots with very good sun exposure include Catasetum or Epidendrum denticulatum.
Paradoxically, orchids coming from the same location might have various preferences, for example those coming from mountainous areas. Orchids coming from plains differ from those growing in the highlands.
To water them properly orchids must be watched carefully. We only water the plant when the leaves become softer or when the soil is dry. It is commonly accepted that they should be watered once every 7 – 10 days, or even less frequently. Water them soaking the entire content of the pot, preferably in a bathtub. Water should be at room temperature. Ideally that could be rainwater, boiled water or distilled water. Reverse osmosis water will be fine, too.
Please note that the roots cannot be left in water for too long. The plant should thoroughly dry by the evening so that mould or fundus won’t develop on roots or leaves.
Orchids – air humidity
Most species prefer humidity at the level of 60%. However, there are species that grow even better at 70-80% humidity rate.
To ensure appropriate humidity you can keep them in a big glass container near an air humidifier. It is also a good idea to mist the leaves.
Did you know that in the wild orchids live longer than people?
The best temperature for orchids is 24 degrees C in the summer and approximately 18 in the winter.
With all species temperatures below 10 degrees C must be avoided.
Taking care of orchids
If taken care of properly, orchids grow without any problems.
Gardening centres offer fertilisers dedicated for orchids. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
The colour of leaves indicates whether the plant needs to be fertilised. When they are dark green, it means it has enough. Pale green leaves mean the plant must be fertilised. If the edges of leaves go black, it means there is too much of fertiliser.
Fertilisation only works if the plant gets enough light and grows in appropriate temperature range. This is when the plant makes use of the fertiliser.
Fertilisation has to be more intensive when the orchids grow.
In the spring and in the summer the fertilizer should be richer in nitrogen.
One of the methods of supplying the fertiliser is leaf dressing. Be careful, though, with the buds or plants already blooming.
As for the mount of fertiliser, deficiency is always better than excess.
After a few doses of fertiliser, the medium has to be washed through.
Never fertilise plants that have been too dry.
When and how orchids should be transplanted?
Transplanting orchids depends on such factors as, for example, the kind of water used to hydrate them. If it is tap water, orchids should be transplanted every year due to the salt residue on their roots that might appear.
When do we transplant orchids?
– when the medium has decomposed
– when the plant is too big for the pot
– when the plant it too large and keeps falling
When the plant is too big, we need to transplant it into a bigger container of the same kind.
The best time to do it is the spring.
Always cut off dead rotten roots.
While transplanting an orchid, leave some of the new roots outside the pot.
After transplanting don’t water the orchids for a few days so that the roots can regenerate after transplantation.
Fertilise your orchid for the first time only when the new leaves or roots appear.
Never transplant blooming orchids!
The best way to propagate orchids is to separate a new plant with its roots and leaves while re-potting.
Sometimes, when the flowers wither the orchid will develop an outgrowth, which, once it develops its roots, can be cut off and planted in another pot.
Did you know that orchids have some of the smallest seeds in the world.
The temperature differences between the day and the night are favourable for orchids blooming. If they are kept outside in the summer, the temperature differences stimulate blossoming.
When the flowers wither, we cut off the flower shoots. However, if it is still green, we cut it at 2-3 ring counted from the base.
Did you know that vanilla beans are orchid seeds? It is so because vanilla belongs to the family of orchids.
How orchids relax – my grandmother’s trick
This is my the grandmother’s secret how to take care of orchids. She waits until two months lapse after it the flowers withers.
Step 1. Shower
Wash the plant with a strong jet of water to remove the fertiliser residue in the soil/ medium. Put it in a cool place, for example near a slightly open window.
Step 2. Stop fertilising
Stop fertilising the orchid and water it modestly. However, make sure that the leaves and shoots surface doesn’t start to wrinkle due to dehydration.
Don’t cut off old leaves until they go completely yellow.
Step 3. The end of therapy
After 6 – 8 weeks of such treatment begin to water the orchid again and fertilise it on regular basis.
Orchids – disease and pests
If you notice anything alarming, separate the orchid from the rest of the plants. The disease and pests are often a consequence of our mistakes.
Spider mites and thrips sometimes attack our orchids, especially if we don’t provide appropriate humidity and misting.
Mealybugs and San Jose scales – once you see them, resort to appropriate chemical agents to fight them off.
Bacterial decay – the symptoms include soft, smelly and slimy leaves.
Bacteria-caused leaf spot – small light stains on leaves.
The infected leaves have to be removed. If it doesn’t help, the plant has to be thrown away. Other plants have to be sprayed with anti-bacterial and anti-fungus agent containing copper compounds.