By Gail Vanik
If you are like many people, that lovely orchid plant you received as a gift for Christmas, now has you scratching your head.
How do I take care of this? Well, not to worry because exotic orchids aren’t nearly as difficult to grow and care for as many people would have you believe.
Orchids make up the largest species of plants, and since one out of every 10 plants in the world is an orchid and they’ve been found growing in practically every corner of Earth – from the Russian tundra to the treetops of tropical rain forests – they grow and thrive in all sorts of diverse and difficult conditions. Because of the dainty and delicate appearance of the blooms, orchids are usually perceived as finicky plants to grow, yet in reality they are hardy and resilient. Like any other plant, they’ll do best when given the conditions that most closely match their native environment. Orchids don’t have to be difficult if you remember the following points.
First, if you weren’t gifted your orchid but are looking to purchase one now, choose the best orchid for your setting. Don’t fall in love with an orchid and then try to change your environment to suit its needs. If you aren’t certain what type of orchid you have, here are a few of the more common ones.Phalenopsis, or the “moth orchid” produces sprays of long-lasting flowers in winter. Their blooms resemble moths, hence their name. This is one of the most common and best choices for a houseplant. Grow in northern or eastern exposure.
Cattleyas are some of the most popular and commonly grown orchids, which you see most often used in corsages. Cattleyas like it a little brighter than most orchids. East, west or south-shaded windows are best, but no direct sun in the middle of the day.
Oncidiums are known as the “lady slipper” orchid, and this plants flowers are on tall, graceful spikes that bear many beautiful flowers that will last 8-12 weeks. They’ll bloom more often than most orchids when given the proper growing conditions and can be grown in the home or in a sheltered area in the garden. They prefer filtered or direct sunlight, except at midday.
Second, you don’t have to have a green thumb to grow them. There’s nothing fancy about growing orchids. All they need is consistent care in a friendly environment.If there’s one common thread, it’s that almost all orchids like it more humid than your average houseplant- about 50 percent humidity, which is sometimes difficult to achieve in our high, dry climate.
I care for the ones in our house by passing them under a stream of water once a week, then empty the saucer and put them back on the counter but you can also place the pot on top of a saucer filled with pebbles and water. Although orchids like humidity, they don’t like sitting in water, and the No. 1 cause of orchid failure in the home is over-watering. Just remember – plants are like people – neither like wet feet! Water in the morning so that the foliage has a chance to dry by night. Do not allow moisture to stay on the foliage overnight- this makes them susceptible to rot and fungus.
Third, don’t be shy about seeking help if you need it, either from your local garden center, orchid supplier or a gardening club. Any of these sources will be glad to give you the benefit of their expertise.Spring is generally considered the best time for repotting, but no matter when you repot your plant, you need to be sure not to injure the roots. Don’t over-water after transplanting. Since they grow naturally with their roots exposed, those are the conditions that you are trying to replicate by planting in a mix that will allow air circulation. Most orchids grow best in bark, charcoal, fiber, or cork.
Finally, if at first you don’t succeed – try again! Don’t give up if you have a setback or two. Their beautiful blooms make orchids well worth the effort.Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.