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.
Let me tell you this. You worry for nothing. In nature, most orchids grow like weeds. In fact, many orchids are considered to be “weeds” in some countries. All you have to do is: Choose orchids that are easy to grow and can grow in your area. Orchids that would reward you with beautiful flowers every year.
Consider the facts:
1. Orchids can be found and grow wild in some of the coldest inhabited and un-inhabited places on earth, as well as in tropical countries; for example: The are orchid species native to Canada, Greenland and Norway as there are in Africa, Borneo, East Asia, China and Australasian. Hundreds of genera and thousands of species exist around the world, and you can be assured that there are orchids that can grow successfully in you area.
2. New hybrids not only produce beautiful, lasting flowers, but also tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
The basic steps to become a successful grower are: 1. Establish contacts with the outside world. 2. Orchid management.
1. Contact with the outside world:
Clubs: If you reside in an English speaking or European country, (I am not familiar with South America and Africa), you can be assure there is an Orchid Club with monthly meetings somewhere near you. Unfortunately, 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?
* The members of a well run Club meet regularly, at least once a month, in a Club house.
* Clubs usually invite “guest speakers” to talk about specific issues i.e. diseases, cultural issues, national or international shows and events, day trips, etc..
* Some clubs have “extra" meetings, often for novices, to discuss cultural issues and exchange views and experience.
* Occasionally, Clubs organize day trips, visits to other successful and experienced growers, nurseries, shows, or observe orchids in their natural habitat.
* It is common for clubs to run an in-house competition that last a full year. In every meeting, club members table their orchids. These orchids are judged and the winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd) receive points. At the end of the year, the overall winners are announce and receive a price.
* In every monthly meeting, members discuss future activities (shows, sales, displays, etc.).
* Clubs welcome visitors.
Because club members grow a variety of orchids and have many other interests, visiting a club meeting is always a "good place to start”. Experienced club members are always helpful, and prepared to share their knowledge and experience with new members.
Orchid nurseries: As the name suggests, orchid nurseries specialize in growing and selling orchids and some even grow orchids from seed (seedlings). I have seen orchid nurseries in Holland with many hundreds of thousands of plants, ready to sell. Experienced employees can and do give reliable advice. In your “local” orchid nursery, you can find orchids that grow easily in your area and if they do not have what ever you would like to buy, they can tell you where to go. Many nurseries also have “exotic” lines for the experienced growers.
A good nursery is a also good place to start. You know what you buy and all orchids have name-tags.
Off course you can buy orchids in your local supermarket and many do; however, orchids sold in supermarkets are commercial strains, predominantly mericlons, and have no “name-tags”. Experts may suggest a name or two, but because these orchids are commercial clones their guess is a good as yours. “Supermarket orchids” may have beautiful flowers, but rarely last after the flowering is over.
By contacting a club or a nursery you help yourself in finding good, healthy orchids, suitable to your area and to your facilities
2. Management issues: You purchased your first plants, now you must look after them.
a) The most important requirement of orchids is: Excellent Air Circulation. Good air circulation keeps bacterial and fungal diseases under control and reduces the risk of infections like "Crown Rot".
b). Orchids need light. Many wild orchids tolerate full sun; however, at home, because we cannot reproduce their natural environment, it is best to keep them protected. Most plants require up to 80% shade, “filtered sunlight”. Some orchid plants can be trained to tolerate morning or afternoon sun for a few hours.
c). Worry when you see Orchid plants with beautiful glossy dark green leaves, because these plants are not as healthy as you may think. The beautiful dark green leaves are telling you: "HEY, You keep us in the dark, please let us have more light”. Plants with beautiful dark green leaves do not flower very often. On the other hand, "Yellow" leaves, unless there is another problem or a deficiency of some sort, simply tell you that the plant can do with less light.
d). 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. Ask the plant what it needs and observe the leaves for answers. 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.
e). Orchids flower best when the plants are happy. Sufficient light, day and night temperatures, nutrients and moisture bring happiness and flowers.
f). 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.
g). 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.