Orchids Abloom In Every Room
by The English Lady
Hello everyone and thank you for inviting me into your garden once again. A friend of mine is always surrounded by about fifty or more Orchids in his California home for he has the ideal conditions; however, a good friend in Lyme also has tremendous success with the Orchids which he has in windows facing east and south; so you can also enjoy them with the right cultural conditions here in New England.
I am sure that many of you received Orchids as gifts for the holiday and saying to yourself “how do I keep these lovely creatures alive and kicking?” So on that note, I would like to give you some of the general rules of Orchid culture which is quite straightforward if you follow the rules. Here in New England do not try to grow Orchids that require full intense sun for twelve months out of the year. One you can grow is Phalaenopsis, which is a shade lover. Phalaenopsis are some of the easiest to grow and particularly for those of you who are beginners, very rewarding with or without a greenhouse. Phalaenopsis comes from the Greek term”phalaina” meaning “moth” and “opsis meaning “appearance,” referring to the moth-like look of the flowers.
In your home the ideal light conditions are a south-facing windowsill with indirect sunlight. In winter, they require twelve hours of filtered light which can be achieved with shading made of fine mesh curtain or plastic sheeting. In summer, they require fourteen hours of filtered light. To supplement the winter light you may have to use an artificial fluorescent light. The fluorescent tubes should be 40-watts with a minimum of four for good light. Verilux Tru-Bloom bulbs, which were originally designed for use in museums, are ideal because they copy the sun’s spectrum and have a “natural light” look.
The main requirement is that the Orchid has good drainage. The majority of Phalaenopsis grown in the United States are grown in a medium fir bark and will need to be repotted every couple of years because the bark decomposes. You get what you pay for so the better the quality of fir bark (good, clean bark without any wood in it), may mean the plant will actually outgrow the pot before the bark breaks down. When you are repotting, the plant should be dry and the bark should be moist; mix a little dolomite lime in with the fir bark, and sprinkle with water before potting. Then do not water for about ten days; this will give the plant time to recover from the shock of repotting.
The ideal temperature is 64 degrees at night and mid to upper seventies in the day. A humidifier will benefit both you and your plants. During the day the humidity should be about 70% and at night about 50%, because, when the temperature drops at night, the relative humidity increases. The easiest way to provide adequate humidity is to place the plant on a tray about the diameter of the leaf spread of the plant with a layer of rocks or pebbles. Keep the tray full of water and make sure the bottom of the pot does not come in contact with the water. As the water evaporates, the plant will benefit.
Air movement is essential for all Orchids; this will prevent fungi and bacteria from forming on the plant. Good cross ventilation is sufficient but if you have a closed home or apartment it is most important to circulate the air with a fan placed at a distance from the plant.
A Phalaenopsis in a pot with an average day temperature of 75 degrees will dry out every five to seven days; this depends on whether it is grown in a clay or plastic pot, clay pots dry out faster. The roots of Phalaenopsis adhere to the bark, which is the medium you use for potting, and the plant absorbs the water directly from the bark. Make sure you give the Orchid a complete drenching on the week’s watering; during the summer if you have your plants outdoors they will dry out faster, so keep an eye on them.
Fertilize a blooming plant twice a month with a high nitrogen fertilizer (30-10-10); if you fertilize every other watering you should not cause a mineral or salt buildup inside the pots. Always use an organic or eco-friendly fertilizer.
If you follow all of the above requirements, you should have great success, enjoyment, and a happy and healthy Orchid. These rules apply to many of the Orchids that are found in the garden centers in this area. Happy New Year and I’ll see you next time in your garden.