Orchids are non-woody plants that have been globally cultivated for their beautiful flowers. Like all other houseplants, orchids need certain environmental conditions and other important inputs. Considering these, beginners find it difficult to keep the orchid alive. Read on as this guide will help you how to care for orchids properly.
How to Identify Your Orchid
There are about 28,000 species of orchids in the world, most of which are found in the tropical regions. Basic knowledge in botany would help you correctly identify what kind of orchid is in your garden. Some orchids are monopodial or having only one vertical main branch. Sympodial orchids have branched, horizontal stems that make drooping flowers.
The presence of flowers is crucial to orchid identification. For instance, flowers of Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.) were named after the insect that resembles them. Another distinct orchid plant is Venus’ slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum sp.) that forms a hollowed petal beneath the flowers like a lady’s slipper. Petal color is also a good morphological tool that varies among species and hybrids.
If the orchid blooms are not evident, take note of how the leaf, stem, and roots look. In Dendrobium orchids, a specialized feature called a pseudobulb is found at the base of the stem. Cattleya orchids also have a pseudo-bulb stem, but the leaves are sword-like and the roots resemble noodles. When in doubt, seek assistance from the local orchid supplier. Knowing an orchid’s identity has a lot to tell about its preferred microclimate conditions that must be artificially recreated at home.
Potting Medium for Planting Orchids
Orchids are epiphytic plants that do not need soil media to grow. However, they have to be planted in potting mixes so that the roots are kept in place. The potting medium functions as a nutrient reservoir when the organic matter component decomposes through time.
In general, the potting medium available in the market consists of organic materials such as sphagnum and peat moss, tree bark, coconut coir dust, charcoal, and rocks. The typical mixture in most orchid types is sand, perlite, and peat moss so that there are adequate pore spaces for aeration and drainage. Note also the appropriate size of orchid pots following the stem growth form. A monopodial orchid needs a regular round pot. In contrast, sympodial orchids are fit in horizontal boxes to allow spaces for lateral growth.
What Type of Light Do Orchids Like?
For most orchids, the location of the pot should be where there is bright and indirect light. It is preferred that the orchid pot is placed on the east-facing window. This is to prevent too much heat radiated from the west-facing window during the afternoons because excessive heat dries up the potting medium.
How Often to Water Orchids
Keep orchids hydrated but, never overwater them. Water your orchids using a mist sprayer every morning. The frequency of watering depends on how dry the potting mix is. Gently poke the pot with your finger. If it comes clean, then it is the only time to water it.
When to know if Orchids are Diseased
In some cases, root rot occurs on potted orchids due to decay pathogens. You can cut off the diseased roots using a sterile blade to prevent further invasion in the host plant. Leaves showing yellowing or discoloration also indicate a nutrient deficiency, so fertilization must be done. If there are signs of fungal mycelia, you may opt to apply chemical fertilizers while cinnamon is also a great organic substitute. Leaf feeding insects like aphids and some caterpillars are easily spotted if you see deformed leaves. Mechanically remove them by hand or using tweezers.
Temperatures for Growing an Orchid
Orchids prefer a certain temperature range to induce flowering like Phaleonopsis that optimally grows at 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit. To produce flowers, the nighttime temperature should be lowered to 60 degrees for three consecutive weeks. Extreme temperatures during winter may not harm orchids as long as the leaves are frost-free. While this case is species-specific, ensure that the orchids are placed indoors to prevent cold injury on the vital parts.
Should You Fertilize an Orchid Plant?
Unlike in the wild, potted orchids are limited with the nutrient reserves in its body. Thus, it is recommended to use a balanced fertilizer to keep orchid leaves green and flower spikes blooming. Commercial fertilizers that can be used for orchids are slow-release (pellet form) and foliar that is applied via mist spray. Do not overapply fertilizers because doing so can cause leaf necrosis and make the potting mix acidic. It is best to apply one to two times a week only of the diluted fertilizer.
How to Care for an Orchid While in Bloom
Blooming orchids are in a sensitive state. As much as possible, prevent moving your orchid from a different direction of a light source as it can affect the growth form of flower spikes. Lower frequency of fertilization to once a week upon the appearance of growing spikes.
What to Do with an Orchid After It Blooms
Orchid flowers can last up to 2 to 4 months with proper care. When the flowers wither and drop, there are three actions that you can take. The first is to keep it as it is without doing anything to the spike. Some varieties only flower once in a single spike, which leads you to the second option. Using a clean knife, make a sharp cut on the spike so that the stem regenerates and re-grow spikes later on. In case the stem of the spike has completely withered, the third option is to cut it off from the base of the plant.
How to Propagate an Orchid
Orchids can be easily propagated asexually, meaning a mother plant can produce another without cross-fertilization. First, select an orchid with desirable traits like good stem form, prolific bloomer, and resistant to disease. Using a sterile knife, chop off a few inches of the stem. Keep it moist by planting it on damp sphagnum moss with sand and perlite until new roots emerge after 2-3 weeks. Repot the orchid afterward, careful enough not to damage the new roots.
Learning how to care for orchids is much easier than you might think. Orchids are definitely one of the best houseplants to raise. More than their aesthetic blooms, orchids are low maintenance plants. This article presented useful and practical tips on raising orchids for amateur and experienced orchid-raisers alike.
Choosing the type of orchid, potting media, and fertilizers to be applied are essential considerations. Also, the environmental requirements for an orchid are more or less the same in every species. But among all of these, the key ingredient is proper care and consistency. Growing orchids is a rewarding activity once you see the beautiful flowers bloom in an assortment of colors and shapes.