How to grow and care for orchids

Orchids can thrive and produce their exotic blooms in any house with the right amount of water, light and fertilizer.

Orchids are known for their exotic blooms, but not so well known for their easy growing habits. Once establish, orchids just need the basic requirements of water and some fertilizer, and they will produce annual long-lasting blooms.

Types of Orchids

While there are over 28,000 species of orchids, the most common and easiest to grow are the Phalaenopsis, Cattleyas, Dendrobium, Epidendrum and Oncidium orchids. Most florists and nurseries sell the popular Phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth orchids. It, along with Epidendrum orchids, are the most forgiving orchids to raise and will survive in most home environments.

Cattleyas produce corsage orchids, large single blooms that will last for up to six weeks. Cattleyas and Dendrobium orchids need double the sunlight of Phalaenopsis, so they prefer indirect sun from a south facing window. Dendrobium and Oncidium come in double colors, like white and lavender, or yellow and brown.

Where to Grow

Orchids are originally from the tropical forests of the world. They prefer warm temperatures, high humidity, and diffused light. Your home is an ideal location for orchids, as well as a greenhouse. If you live in a warm climate, orchids can also be placed outside if they are protected from direct sunlight and extreme heat or cold.

Starting in a Good Pot

Unlike most houseplants, orchids require a soilless planting material to provide needed drainage. Orchids need to have air circulating around their roots, so remove any decorative plastic wrap that may come with your orchid. You can also transplant your orchid in to a specially designed orchid pot that has holes in the side to allow for drainage and air circulation.

Orchids also like to be root bound. You only need to repot orchids if the planting material is rotting or it has completely outgrown its pot. If you begin to see roots on the surface of the soil, cover them with some moss to keep them moist. If you do need to repot your orchids, use a specially make orchid potting mix made of fir bark or osmunda fern fibers that can be found at your local nursery. Once repotted, it may take some time before your orchids will bloom again.



Lighting

Orchids need sufficient light to bloom, but not too much. They work best on the west or east side, not the north. A southern window with a sheer curtain to diffuse the light can also work. Some varieties of orchids can bloom anywhere, but others need more light. If you notice that your orchid has not bloomed for a year, consider changing its location to increase or decrease the light exposure.

Water and Humidity

While water is needed by orchids, they do not like damp soil. Their fleshy roots quickly soak up needed moisture, so you only need to water your orchids about once a week. If your plants are flowering or in a clay pot, you will need to water more often. When you water, completely soak the planting medium and dampen the leaves.

Orchids need a higher humidity than what is normally found in homes. To remedy this, place your plants in a dish filled with pebbles. Then fill the dish with some water so the plant is not sitting directly in water. The water will slowly evaporate, creating the right humidity level.

Fertilizing

Orchids do not need excessive fertilizing. Once a month, water your orchids with a liquid fertilizer. A 30-10-10 orchid fertilizer works best, but you can also use a 20-10-10 fertilizer. After your orchids stops blooming, reduce the amount of fertilizer until new leaves appear.

Avoiding Disease and Pests

Disease and pests do not usually infect orchids. Rot is a common problem that can be avoided by not allowing plants to sit in water for extended periods of time. If you place your orchid outside, it can become infected by insects. Before you bring your orchids in the house, inspect and remove any bugs that you may find.

Encouraging Orchids to Bloom

Once an orchid has bloomed, cut the stem back to the base to encourage development of more blooms. Orchids do not have a seasonal blooming cycle, but they usually bloom once a year. If your plant has never bloomed, you may have a young plant. Orchids raised from seeds take up to seven years to bloom. If your orchid bloomed when you first received it, make sure it is getting enough light. Also, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer you are giving your plant. An orchid needs to feel some stress to develop buds. Check to see if your orchid is suffering from temperature extremes by being too close to a window. Orchids prefer temperatures to range between 55 and 75 degrees.

Orchids are not the trouble that some houseplants can be. They are easy to grow and produce beautiful blooms.

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