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How to Grow and Care for Orchids


Orchids are a beautiful addition to any indoor plant collection.  While they look complicated to grow, they really are not.  Below are the ends and outs of growing orchids.

One of the most important factors when it comes to growing orchids is the amount of sunlight they receive.  The requirement is based on the type of orchid you have.  Vanas and angraecams require the most intense light that needs to be unobstructed.  To maximize the amount of sunlight, place these orchids on a south-facing windowsill and make sure there are no tree or building obstructions. 

Phragmipediums, oncidiums and dendrobiums like a medium-high light but not direct.  This type of light can be found on a west or east facing window.  On the other hand, only the phalaenopsis likes a medium to low light that can be found pouring through a east or west window.  The Jewel orchid is the only orchid that tolerates low light, which can be found on a northern-facing window. 

The next requirement for orchids is temperature but just like the light requirement each type of orchid has its own temperature requirement.  The best bet is to decide where you would like to place an orchid and measure the temperature.  Once you have that information, then you can make a discussion on the orchid type. 

Humidity is another limiting factor when it comes to orchids and in doing so the typical home is not the best place for high humidity.  To mimic the tropics, place your orchid on a humidity tray.  This tray is created by filling it up with pebbles and then with water.  Place the orchids on the tray.  Another approach to use is to just group your plants together.  The simple process of transpiration will create the humidity. 

Watering can is a challenge to the beginning orchid grower.  The reason for this comes from the fact that orchids are not planted in traditional soil.  Instead, they are placed in bark or moss.  To give this type of medium a chance to absorb the water, you need to submerge it.  Before you grab your plant and put it in a bowl of water, you will need to know what type of pot it is planted in.  For orchids that are planted in plastic, place the pot in a bowl of water and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  After that time has passed, pick the pot up and allow it to drain before placing it in a decorative container.  On the other hand if the plant is in terra cotta, place the pot in a bowl and then fill with water until the water level reaches the rim of the pot.  Allow to sit in the water for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove to drain.

How often you water depends on a lot of factors.  The more light the plant receives the more often you will need to water.  Also, if you do not have your plants on a humidity tray, you will need to water more often.  The type of orchid you have will also affect how often you water.

The type of planting medium and its container are also factors when it comes to watering.  Bark and clay pots require more frequent watering while sphagnum moss and plastic containers requires less. 

Orchids normally do not require fertilization but if you insist on feeding your plants, feed them a half strength fertilizer every other time you water and only do this during the growing season.  To prevent salt buildup in the pot and planting medium, make sure to water with clear water at least once a month.

While the requirements of an orchid have been covered, there is always the question as to how to force an orchid to bloom or bloom again.  Orchids have a 3 month bloom cycle.  What this means is that if the conditions are correct, the plant will bloom.  If your plant is blooming right now, you can encourage it to bloom again right away by simply pruning back the flower stalk before the entire flower dies.  This will encourage the plant to produce a secondary flower stalk that will give you another month or so of bloom.

Part of learning how to grow and care for an orchid not only comes from learning the growing requirements and how to provide them but also how to transplant the orchid.  This process should begin when the weather has warmed, the plant has stopped blooming, the planting medium has broken down and/or the roots are coming out of the pot.  Or, you can just plan on transplant your orchid every 3 years.

Since this planting process can make a mess, plan on doing the planting process outside.  The night before you plan on transplanting your orchid, water the plant.  This will make separating the roots from the planting medium easier to do.  Also, soak the planting medium in water overnight.  This planting medium can be pine bark, sphagnum moss or soil.  The type of planting medium that you use will depend on the type of orchid you are transplanting.  If you are not sure what to use check out what is in the pot right now.

While the soil and orchid are soaking, prepare the pot.  Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole.  This will prevent one from drowning the plant.  Next, wash and sterilize the container by washing it in warm water and capful of bleach.  Once the pot has been cleaned, rinse it in clear water and place in the sun to dry.   Next, place a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot.  Once that is done, remove the orchid from its old container and remove the spent planting medium.  Also, trim any dead or damaged roots and then place in the prepared pot.  When placing the orchid in the container, make sure that the roots are placed 1-inch below the rim.  Fill the pot with your chosen planting medium and gently tap on the table to settle.  Add additional planting medium as needed to secure the plant into the pot.  At this point, push a stake into the planting medium.  This will give you a surface by which to tie up the flower stalk. 

Now move your orchid to its permanent location but make sure that this location addresses its individual light requirement.  To address the humidity requirement, make sure that you have plants grouped together or the orchid placed on a humidity tray.  When using a humidity tray, place the plant on top of the tray not inside the tray.  This will prevent any wicking, which will keep the planting medium too wet.


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