You like orchids and for quite some time you are considering the option to grow a few in your place. BUT, you don’t have “green fingers” and you are afraid you may fail. Lack of confidence influences you in a negative way. You worry for nothing. In nature, most orchids grow like weeds. In fact, many species are considered to be “weeds” in some countries.
Orchid lovers and growers are divided between those who express the view that orchids are easy to grow and those who oppose that view and believe that Orchids are difficult to grow outside a greenhouse or other suitable facilities. The truth is in-between.
There are many popular, easy-to-grow orchids that adapt to a variety of temperatures and light conditions.
Orchids grow wild in some of the coldest inhabited and un-inhabited places on earth, as well as in tropical countries. Hundreds of genera and 10's of thousands of species exist around the world. You can be assured that there are orchids that can grow successfully in your area. New hybrids not only produce beautiful, lasting flowers, but also tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
In the wild, orchids attach themselves to the sides of trees and tree branches, adapt and learn to survive when rain is scarce, accumulating water pseudo-bulbs, thick roots, leaves, and stems
To grow orchids successfully remember the five basic requirement: Air Circulation - Light - Temperature – Humidity – Nourishment.
Air Circulation. Good air circulation keeps bacterial and fungal diseases under control and reduces the risk of infections.
Light: Many orchids tolerate full sun; however, growers cannot reproduce their natural environment, and therefore it is best to keep them protected. Most plants require “filtered sunlight”. Some orchids tolerate morning or afternoon sun for a few hours.
Worry when you see Orchid with beautiful, glossy dark green leaves, because these plants are not as healthy as you may think. The attractive green colours are telling you: "HEY, You keep us in the dark, please let us have more light”. Plants with nice green leaves do not flower very often. "Yellow" leaves, unless there is a problem or deficiency of some sort, tell you the opposite, the plant can do with less light. Too much direct light causes leaves to sunburn.
The right amount of Light enhances flowering potential, less light prevents orchids from flowering
Temperature: Orchids are usually classified as warm growing, intermediate and cool growing, with regard to their temperature needs; however, in nature many orchids experience substantial day/night temperature differences. Manipulating temperatures, especially in autumn and winter, helps to induce the orchids to set flower buds more readily.
Humidity: Good humidity around orchids will result in better plants and flowering.
Water: Nothing kills orchids faster than too much water, especially stagnant water (water-logged pot). Lack of oxygen will suffocate the plants and the roots will rot. Orchids can and are equipped to withstand periods of drought.
Nourishment: Orchids do not require great amounts of fertilizer. As epiphytes, orchids absorb water and nutrients from the air and rain, and from whatever drips down the tree. To maintain healthy plants that bloom on a regular basis use commercially available for orchids fertilizers.
Choose easy to grow orchids, which can grow in your area. The reward: beautiful flowers every year.
The basic steps to become a successful grower are:
1. Establish contacts with the outside world:
Clubs: In most English speaking or European countries, you will find an Orchid Club with monthly meetings. Sadly, in some countries, Orchid-clubs exists in name only and are managed by the State Government.
What does an Orchid Club do or can do for you?
* Club Members meet regularly, at least once a month.
* Clubs invite “guest speakers” to talk about specific issues i.e. diseases, cultural issues, national or international shows.
* Some clubs have meetings for novices, to discuss cultural issues, exchange views and experience.
* Clubs occasionally organize day trips, visits to other successful and experienced growers, nurseries, shows, or observe orchids in their natural habitat.
* Most clubs run an in-house competition that last a full year. In meetings, members table their orchids. The orchids are judged, the winners receive points. At the end of the year, the overall winners are announce and receive a price.
* Most Clubs welcome visitors.
Orchid nurseries: Orchid nurseries specialize in growing and selling orchids. I have seen orchid nurseries in Holland with many hundreds of thousands of plants, ready to sell. Employees can and do give reliable advice. Many nurseries also have “exotic” lines for the experienced growers.
2. Management issues:
a) Water and fertilize your plants according to their requirement, either early in the morning or late afternoon.
Seasons, day temperatures and humidity and the potting mix used, determine the frequency of watering and amount of water to be used. You may water certain plans once a week in winter, but is summer, the same plants may require watering 2-3 times a day. There shouldn't be any moisture on the leaves or stems during a "warm" day. (That's why you need good air circulation). The presence of water on leaves or stems during a warm day can be fatal. It can burn the plant or parts of the plant or assist in the establishment of bacterial or fungal disease.
b) Orchids flower best when the plants are happy. Sufficient light, day and night temperatures, nutrients and moisture bring happiness and flowers.
c) Check your plants daily for pests, diseases and injuries. You can control many pests by "removing" ants from the area you keep your orchids. Protect useful predatory insects, like praying mantis, spiders, lady beetles, certain wasps, etc... You always need them.
d) From time to time, orchids require re-potting. Always use a clean new one size larger pots and a new potting mix. Do not forget to add some charcoal. Many growers, including experts, re-pot plants when they notice a “smell” coming from the old potting mix. Please, take time and think about it. Organic matter only smells if it rots and it rots when it is diseased with bacteria. Fungal diseases have no smell, only bacterial diseases smell. If the potting mix smells, than you should seriously consider if you should keep the plant. If you do keep the plant, make sure you dip it in a good bactericide/fungicide solution a few times and let it dry before re-potting. Keep spraying the plant with a good systemic bactericide.
Off course, there are also Terrestrial orchids, not covered here.