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ORCHID TIPS & CARE article
  ORCHID FOOD
 


  In their native habitat, orchids scavenge nutrients from whatever happens to be nearby: decomposing leaves, bird or animal droppings, or minerals borne in rainwater. You can help your orchid to grow faster and bloom sooner by feeding it the right fertilizers. Look for products that contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), along with trace elements such as iron. Potassium (K) is mainly responsible for the control of flower, and fruit development. Phosphorous (P) for flower production, and Nitrogen (N) for healthy vegetative growth. The amount of feeding depends on the plant concerned, the time of year and general health of the plant. Investigations have shown that feeding should begin with more Nitrogen just when the new shoots are showing, more Phosphorous and Potassium being necessary towards the end of the season.

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THINGS TO CONSIDER: Orchids growing in bark need more nitrogen than either phosphorus or potassium (in proportions of 30-10-10). This is because the bark is decayed by bacteria that use a large amount of nitrogen, leaving very little for the plant. Therefore, the most important step to remember when feeding your orchid is to correctly identify the type of fertilizer you should be using. Beautiful Orchids has five different orchid foods available from our online catalog. Before feeding your orchid, always read and follow the directions carefully.

 

 

 
    WATERING YOUR ORCHID  
 


  Always water early in the day so that your orchids dry out by nighttime. The proper frequency of watering will depend on the climatic conditions where you live. In general, water once a week during the winter and twice a week when the weather turns warm and dry. The size of your orchid container also helps determine how often you need to water, regardless of climate conditions. Typically, a 6-inch pot needs water every 7 days and a 4-inch pot needs water every 5 to 6 days. The type of potting medium being used can also affect your plant's water requirements. Bark has a tendency to dry out more rapidly than sphagnum moss, for instance. It is important to remember, however, that even when the surface of your pot is dry, the root area may remain moist. Poke your finger or a regular wooden pencil an inch into the pot; if it feels moist to the touch or if the pencil looks moist, do not add additional water. The potting medium should always be damp, but not soggy?neither should it be allowed to get extremely dry. The quality of water used, whether for spraying or watering, is of great importance. Since tap water has often been chemically treated, generally with chlorine, it should be used with caution. The best water for orchids is undoubtedly rainwater. Rainwater, as it passes through the air, dissolves and absorbs many substances such as dust, pollen and other organic matter. This enriched rainwater contributes to the nourishment of the plant.

THINGS TO CONSIDER: The temperature of the water is also important. If the water temperature and the surrounding air temperature are equal, no harm will result, and slight differences either way can be tolerated by healthy plants. Fatal or long-term damage, not easily discernible at first, can result from using water that is too cold.

 

 

 

 
    ORCHIDS LOVE HUMIDITY  
 


  The ideal daytime humidity for orchids is 50% to 70%. During the summer, when the days are warm and dry, humidity can be increased by placing plants in a shallow dish or tray containing pebbles and water. Be sure to keep the water just below the tops of the pebbles. Never let water touch the bottom of the pot; capillary action will expose the roots to too much water, causing them to deteriorate. To maintain the quality of water in the tray, remove the pebbles every 2 or 3 months and wash them in a weak bleach solution to remove accumulated salts and algae. Do not add bleach or algaecide to water in the tray when it is in use. You can also group your plants together in a single evaporation tray to create a humid microclimate and an attractive display. Just don't place them so close together that air circulation is restricted.

 AS A GENERAL RULE: Again, it must be stressed that both temperature and light should be taken into consideration when deciding to increase humidity. Any form of watering, damping down or spraying should not be performed in the late afternoon or evening. Although some growers obtain good results with this method, Beautiful Orchids recommends that beginners avoid the practice. The falling temperatures toward the end of the day can cause unnecessary condensation if highlyhumid conditions are induced; plants will then become covered with a film of water droplets, which can lead to rotting.

 

 

 

 
    AIR MOVEMENT: VENTILATION  
 
  In the wild, gentle continual breezes along the leafy canopy of the rain forest are vital for the survival of orchids and other air plants. Air movement acts as preventive medicine for orchids. It helps evaporate stagnant water, trapped during watering, where fungi and bacteria breed. Without ventilation or fresh circulating air, orchids eventually die from rot, lack of a continual carbon dioxide source, or infection. Ventilation also helps orchids tolerate intense light without getting burnt leaves. You can easily improve air movement in your home so orchids grow happily. During the summer, when temperatures are high, open windows to allow fresh air to come inside. And when wintertime comes, you can use an ordinary oscillating fan to mimic the gentle breezes in the leafy canopy of a tropical forest. It is important to occasionally change the direction of the airflow so the area does not dry out.

 

 

 

 
    GOOD LIGHT vs. BAD LIGHT  
 


  Light is a key factor in growing healthy orchids. Direct sunlight may cause plants to burn, and too little light will prevent plants from flowering. An ideal location is behind curtains or window blinds. If you receive your plant by mail, expose it to light gradually in stages over a period of several weeks. Leaf color is a good indicator of the amount of light a plant is receiving. Orchids should have bright green, healthy leaves. Dark green leaves indicate that a plant is getting insufficient light, and yellowish-green or red leaves indicate that a plant is getting too much light. If you suspect a plant is exposed to too much light, feel the leaves. If they feel noticeably warmer than the surrounding air, move the plant to a location with less intense brightness. Low light, Warm growing orchids enjoy a north or an east, protected west or shaded south windows of the home. Standard household temperatures are adequate. Orchids that are classified as low light, warm growing are: Paphiopedilum or Lady Slipper, Phalaenopsis and Oncidium.

Moderate to high light, Warm growing orchids. These orchids like a lot of light and warm household temperatures. They thrive in a west or south window. From early May to late September, you should watch light levels in south windows to avoid burning; you may have to move your orchid away from the window or place them behind a sheer curtain to decrease light intensity. These orchids like to dry between watering. Orchids that are classified as moderate to high ligh are: Cattleya, Dendrobium, and Vanda.

 

 

 

 
    POTTING ORCHIDS  
 


  Today, there are so many choices on the market to use to make that "perfect" potting mix, or if you prefer, there are companies that sell pre-mixed potting mediums. What exactly is potting mediums/media & what do they do? Potting media are support systems. They help the Orchid plant to stand upright in the pot or container. Because of the physical make-up of each potting material, you have to be sure of the amount of air the mix allows to flow through to the plant and the amount of moisture it holds. Some materials absorb lots of water and others won't absorb any. What is most important to an orchid is the individual pieces of the media and being very familiar with your plant. It has been suggested that for roots that are larger in diameter, the coarser the potting media should be. Coarse roots that are in a fine grade of potting media will eventually rot, because the roots are unable to get sufficient oxygen from the tiny places between the fine particles. On the other hand, fine roots need to be in a fine grade of potting media. If fine roots are in a coarse grade potting media, they will soon dry up. The roots are exposed to too much air in the potting media and they are unable to make contact with the moisture absorbed by the large pieces of bark.


These are a few examples of potting media components.

Following are a few materials and a description of them:

Cork Bark ~ Crushed cork is usually mixed in nearly equal parts with charcoal for potting orchids.


Peat Moss ~ Dead sphagnum moss decomposes to form peat moss. It retains large amounts of water and is a much finer-grade potting material than live sphagnum moss.

Perlite ~ Perlite is a processed volcanic material. It is sterile, decomposes slowly and has excellent water-retention ability.

Bark ~ Different-size pieces of pine bark are the most popular potting materials for Orchids. Pine bark is easy to work with, inexpensive and provides excellent root aeration. It does not provide much nutrition and Orchids potted in bark should be fed regularly.

Tree Fern ~ Tree fern fiber decomposes slowly and provides excellent root aeration. However, it does not retain a lot of water, making it more suitable for Orchid growers living in areas of high humidity (like Florida and Hawaii).

A few potting materials used that are not shown above:

Sphagnum Moss ~ A spongy plant material harvested from bogs. Sphagnum moss is antiseptic and can hold ten times its weight in water.

Lava Rock ~ Lava rock does not decay, is well aerated and retains water; though not as satisfactorily as bark. Its biggest disadvantage is its tendency to accumulate salts. Therefore, if your water contains large amounts of dissolved minerals, do not use lava rock.

Charcoal ~ Horticultural charcoal is antiseptic and neutralizes dangerous bacteria in the potting medium. It also absorbs the acids produced by decomposing bark mixes and is sometimes said to "sweeten" the mix.

* * These are just a few potting materials. There are many resources available to explore ALL the potting media and materials to pot your Orchid plants in.


Selection of planting containers is also important.
Above are three of the more popular Orchid potting containers.

Many Orchids are potted in square boxes made of wooden slats or in clay pots with extra holes and slits in the bottom and sides. These containers allow more air to reach the roots of the orchids than plastic pots or clay pots with a single drainage hole. Excellent aeration is required by most Orchid roots for them to grow well.

  • Plants in non-porous containers, such as plastic or metal, dry out more slowly than plants in containers that are made from porous materials, such as wood or unglazed clay. Pots made from a porous material will lose water through evaporation through the container walls, as well as, through the soil surface. Containers made from non-porous materials will lose water only from the soil surface.
  • Orchid plants that are potted in clay pots or wooden baskets, the potting media will dry out more quickly and provide better aeration for the Orchid's roots.
  • Bark Mounts are another way to allow your Orchids to grow. Remember in nature, Orchids grow perched in trees. Since Orchids are adaptable creatures and growing them in pots is easier, most Orchid growers plant their Orchids in containers. Mounting an Orchid on a bark slab is quite simple, and it is an easy project if you enjoy crafts.

* * Beginning growers frequently over water, and if their Orchids are potted in plastic, this could be fatal. So, if you are just starting out and over watering is a concern, you want to start out growing your Orchids in porous pots.

 

 

 

 
    REPOTTING YOUR ORCHIDS  
 


  Each orchid genus has different requirements for potting media. It is very important to have the correct medium for each type of orchid, depending on whether it is terrestrial or epiphytic?tree dwelling. Growing media commonly include fir bark, coconut husk, sphagnum moss, tree fern fibers and perlite, and frequently a mixture of two or three of these materials. All orchids potted in a typical bark medium need to be repotted every 18 to 24 months, depending on the needs of the individual plant. The primary purpose of repotting is to provide fresh media, not necessarily a larger pot, but pot size should be selected according to the size of the root mass. Orchids like to be a little tight in their pots. Orchids transferred to overly large pots tend to concentrate their energy on root growth and may not show new growth or foliage for several months. Orchids may be potted in plastic, clay or decorator pots, and the type of pot selected may influence watering frequency; plants in clay pots will need more frequent watering, as they will dry out a little faster. Always select pots with drainage holes; orchid roots in contact with standing water will rot and die, killing the plant. Media in the center of larger pots may remain wet for long periods and become an unhealthy environment for roots. This can be avoided by placing pieces of broken terra cotta in the bottom of the pot. A smaller pot inverted into a larger one can also help with drainage and aeration, with the roots of the plant draped over and around the smaller pot. Some orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, have roots capable of photosynthesis. For these plants, clear pots have become popular, as they allow light to get to the roots.

THINGS TO CONSIDER: Orchids should not be repotted without a compelling reason. If, for example, aeration of the potting materials is poor because of decomposition, it must be replaced. Care must be taken to ensure that new growths and shoots are not overlapping the rim of the pot?large, neglected plants that have been potted for a long time are notoriously difficult to handle, and it is easy to break off new shoots and roots. But, when in doubt, put it off for another year!

ANNUAL REPOTTING: Dendrobium, Miltonia, Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis and their hybrids.
EVERY OTHER YEAR: Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Odontoglossum and their hybrids.
EVERY THIRD YEAR: Vanda and its allies, Cymbidium

 

 

 

 
    REBLOOMING YOUR ORCHIDS  


  Each genus of orchid has different requirements for reblooming. Most commercial varieties are very simple to rebloom. Phalaenopsis, Zygopetalum and Odontoglossum require only slight changes in temperature to initiate blooming. Others, such as Oncidium and Dendrobium, bloom on mature new growth and require a change of fertilizer to a phosphorus-rich, blossom-booster formula, such as 20-20-20. Knowledge of watering, temperature and fertilizer requirements for each genus is necessary for successful reblooming year after year.

 

 

 




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