By Carrie Shimada, Weld County Extension
They come in white, yellow and pink. They are beautiful, exotic, and sexy; and while they do not cost two month’s salary- they are often linked to status. Yes. . . .Orchids, are the ultimate in plant couture. With over 300,000 licensed cultivars, the orchid is to the plant enthusiast, as the diamond is to the gem-lover- rare, long-lasting, and a symbol of beauty.Orchids typically carry the stigma of being a difficult plant to grow, but with a bit of care, anyone can be successful at growing an orchid, even though they could be considered the plant world’s diamond.
There are a few species of orchids that fare well as a houseplant: phalaenopsis, cattleya, and dendrobium, and cymbidium– each with their own characteristics.
Phalaenopsis species, or the moth orchid, are the most elegant indoor orchids. They have long arching sprays of flowers that bloom in winter and last for several months and they adapt well to the home setting.
Cattleya species are commonly used in corsages. They bloom once per year in the spring or fall and the flowers last anywhere from 2-6 weeks.
Dendrobium species bloom during the fall or winter and they remain for 3-4 weeks. Their floral displays are showy, long sprays of white, lavender, or a combination of the two.
Cymbidium species have thick, waxy petals, with petals ranging from one inch to five inches in diameter and they can have up to 20 flowers on one stem.Temperature:
In short, they should be fine in your house during the normal night-time temperature. Just don’t leave them in a window during a winter freeze.Light:
Phalaenopsis species thrive under low light levels. They perform best in bright windows with little or no direct sun, such as an east-facing window. They can also be grown in artificial light, such as in an office setting.
Cattleya and Dendrobium species grow best in bright light to some sun. They do not like direct midday sun, but they do like a slightly shaded south or west-facing window.
Cymbidium species have very high light requirements- a south facing window is best.
If you want to kill your orchid- let it sit in a waterlogged pot, as overwatering will kill your plant. To avoid this, follow a couple rules:
-When orchids are actively growing, water once a week and allow them to dry slightly before the next watering. Unless it is of the phalaenopsis species- they do not like to dry out.
-When watering- apply enough water to get water to drain from the bottom of the pot.
-When the orchid is done flowering, reduce watering.
-Do not allow water to remain on the leaves of your orchid, as this may lead to disease.
FertilizationWhen orchids are actively growing and flowering they need to be fertilized on a regular basis. Be sure to follow the fertilizer label- over fertilization will quickly kill your orchid.
Fertilize once a month using a water-soluble fertilizer. Select a 30-10-10 fertilizer if your orchid is grown in a bark media; select a 20-10-10 fertilizer if you orchid is growing in any other medium.
After flowering, reduce fertilization until new leaf growth appears.
HumidityOrchids prefer an environment with 40-60% humidity; since that is too humid for your home ( we live in Colorado after all) it is important to supplement the humidity.
Placing the orchid pot in a tray of pebbles with a small amount of water, having a humidifier in the room, or occasionally misting the orchid with distilled water can supply your orchid with the needed supplemental moisture.
Planting MediaDo not plant your orchid in regular potting mix- this will kill the plant. Since most orchids are epiphytes, they grow best in soilless mixtures with bark or cork. (Epiphytes are plants that grow by attaching themselves to tree bark in order to absorb water and nutrients.) Orchid planting mixtures are commonly available on the market- it is best to use these, as they will provide the orchids with good aeration and drainage.
As with any brilliant diamond- beauty and grace require care, but the payoff is big. The long-lasting, sometimes fragrant, and always elegant orchid may not fit in a small blue box, but they will add a bit of sexy to your home without the hefty price.