What plants can be easily grown indoors, require
minimal care, and produce beautiful exotic flowers? The answer,
which may surprise you, is orchids. For many people the thought of
growing orchids conjures up images of wealthy
orchid growers with expensive greenhouses. But that
perception of growing orchids couldn't be farther from the
truth. Orchids are one of the most fascinating,
beautiful and peculiar varieties among the flowering plants.
Orchids have always been considered difficult to
grow and characterized as finicky plants that need greenhouses or
other specialized care, but many orchids grow very successfully
alongside other houseplants. Given the right climatic and cultural
conditions, growing orchids is something anyone can
The huge family of orchids contains 880 genera, 28,000 species,
and over 300,000 registered cultivars worldwide. With so many
possible varieties, most flower
gardeners will be able to find an orchid that will thrive in their
home. Once the cultural needs of these fascinating
plants are understood, growing orchids is relatively
simple. If given the right climatic and cultural
conditions, they can thrive anywhere and will flower regularly.
Some species of orchids may flower two or three times a year and
some flower annually.
Growing Orchids - Types of Orchids
According to their different growth habits,
orchids are generally divided into three main
categories namely epiphytes, lithophytes and terrestrials.
Epiphytes are suited for home culture and are grown perched high in
the trees clinging to branches or in the trunk apex of the tree.
They derive their nutrients from the air, rain, and any decaying
vegetation. They have specialized aerial roots that have a white
spongy layer of cells called velamen. This protects the inner root
tissues and absorbs water. These roots will also often dangle free
in the atmosphere. Lithophytes are also found mostly in the
tropics. They can be seen covering the bases and forks of trees or
filling crevices in rocks where they can absorb a maximum supply of
nutrients from decaying mosses, humus and washed-down soil.
Terrestrials are soil-loving plants growing in the ground, having a
symbiotic relation with a special fungus. This fungus invades the
cells of the root's outer layer, providing the plants with the
nutrients and is essential for the seed germination of most
orchids. It is the lack of this fungus that prevents many
terrestrial orchids from surviving when removed from their natural
environment to a home garden.
Most orchid enthusiasts agree that the best orchid for novices
is Phalaenopsis. One of the easiest and most popular orchids to
grow in the home, they are better known as the "Moth
Orchid." They require average house temperature and moderate light.
They adapt well to the typical temperature in homes (65ºF
nights and 75ºF days) and the bright light near an east
window. Phalaenopsis may be grown exclusively under artificial
light. No other orchid is easier to grow indoors. You can also try
growing orchids that are hybrids between Phalaenopsis and
Doritaenopsis that are just as easy to grow. Moth orchids are
widely available and relatively inexpensive. When properly cared
for, plants will last a lifetime. Other commonly grown orchids are
the Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper) that is another low light grower.
Epidendrums produce an abundance of small (1inch) flowers. Like
Phalaenopsis, they are considered very easy to grow.
Cattleyas are a large and showy orchid. Cattleya plants need
twice as much light as Phalaenopsis. Indirect light in a south
window and/or supplemental lighting is recommended. They also
perform better in slightly lower temperatures of 60ºF at night
and 70-75ºF during the day.
Oncidium (dancing dolls), Vandas, and Dendrobiums, all need
bright light to flower. Oncidium orchids are called dancing girls
because of their dainty yellow and brown or white and brown blooms.
These tough plants flower reliably under most conditions.
Dendrobium orchids are white, lavender, or a combination of the two
colors. The long lasting flowers are borne in lengthy sprays. They
grow best in conditions similar to Cattleyas. For those of you that
live in mild climates growing Cymbidiums in your gardens is a lot
Beyond the basic cultural suggestions, the key to
successfully growing orchids is matching the type
of orchid to the conditions in the home. Beginners should buy
flowering or mature sized plants because orchids take five to seven
years to reach to bloom size. Or use MegaGro to help boost blooming cycle and
Growing Orchids - Growing Rules
Growing orchids is really not much different from growing
any other type of houseplant. Most orchids will thrive in your
home if you follow a few basic plant care rules when growing
Growing Orchids - Rule #1
Don't overwater. Over watering kills more orchids and
houseplants than anything else!
Growing Orchids - Rule #2
Provide the right amount of light for the variety of orchid
Growing Orchids - Rule #3
Keep the temperature in an acceptable range.
Growing Orchids - Rule #4
Use a balanced fertilizer when feeding orchids
Growing Orchids - Rule #5
Keep the humidity high. Orchids like 40%-70% humidity.
Growing Orchids - Rule #6
Orchids like Good air movement.
Growing orchids is much like growing any other blooming
houseplant. But remember most orchids are epiphytes, which means
they draw moisture through their leaves, not their roots and are
planted in orchid bark, lava rock, or mounted on pieces of bark.
Don't plant orchids in soil unless you know they are the are the
Growing Orchids - Light
A bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal
for growing orchids. Generally 12 to 36 inches away from a
south window is best. Plants should be placed in an east, south or
west window and protected from direct noonday sun. Orchids are
variable in their light requirements, depending on genera and
variety. Plants that need high light, such as Cymbidiums, can be
placed close to the window. This protects other plants that need
medium light, like Cattleyas, by blocking direct sunlight. Low
light can be maintained indoors by varying the distance between
plant and window. Phalaenopsis is an orchid needing low light. If
only a south window is available, a sheer curtain helps prevent
scorching during months when the sun is low in the sky. Orchids
also grow and bloom well under artificial fluorescent lighting.
Artificial lighting is an option that makes sense in many
situations for growing orchids. If you wish to grow under lights,
provide artificial light only during daylight hours to initiate
flower buds during the proper season. Varieties with lower light
requirements bloom better in this type of culture. For best
results, use wide spectrum fluorescent tubes such as grow lights.
Warm and cool white tubes used together are also satisfactory.
Lights should be on at least 12 hours per day. However, flowering
will be improved in plants receiving natural and artificial light
versus artificial light alone.
Read the leaves. Pay attention to your orchid's foliage to learn
if the light you are providing is right. If new leaves are lush,
soft and darker in color than the mature leaves, the plant is not
getting enough light. Plants won't flower if the light is too low.
Foliage that is stunted, hard and yellow indicates the light is too
Growing Orchids - Temperature
Growing orchids generally require the same temperature
range as houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70's and
nighttime lows of 55-65ºF will keep orchids and houseplants
growing happily. Warm growing orchids should have a day
temperature of 72-80°F with sun and nighttime low temperature
down to 65°F. Day temperatures for intermediate growing
orchids should range from 68-70°F with sun, and night
temperatures should be around 60°F. Cool growing
orchids require a day temperature of 65-70°F with sun,
and night temperature of 50-55°F. Orchids (and other
houseplants) next to windows on extremely cold nights may be cold
damaged and should be moved away from windows. Plants grow faster
in higher temperatures but they also need more humidity and air
movement when it's hot. All varieties tolerate higher temperatures
in hot summer weather, but additional shade and misting is
necessary to keep them cool.
To initiate flower spikes, provide nighttime temperatures to 55
degrees F for several weeks in the fall. An occasional drop below
the recommended night temperature norm during the colder months
will not harm the plants.
Avoid exposing plants to fluctuating temperatures as the buds
develop or the buds may drop just as they are ready to open. Good
ventilation is essential. Air movement around your orchids helps to
prevent diseases. Good cross-ventilation is usually sufficient, but
keep plants away from drafty, cold windows.
During the summer months, you can place growing orchids
outdoors, after the danger of frost has passed, usually by
the end of May. Orchids flourish outdoors on a porch or under a
tree if they are raised off the ground to receive light and ample
sun. If the temperature rises to around 90°F, mist the leaves
several times a day to avoid sunburn.
Growing Orchids - Watering
Proper watering is critical to successfully growing
orchids. Over watering will rot the plant's roots,
causing it to die. Depending on your climate and the season,
frequency of watering may range from every other day to every 10
days. In general, water once a week. Orchids growing in clay pots
may need more frequent watering. Don't allow bark around orchids
roots to dry completely. Nor should the plant's roots stand in
water. Add enough water each time to run out of the drainage holes
in the bottom of the pot.
When you do water, flush the growing medium with water until
excess runs out the drainage hole. The best time to water is
morning so that leaves are dry by nightfall, making them less prone
to disease. Use tepid water to keep terrestrial orchids moist below
the surface of the media. Allow epiphytic orchids to dry out below
the surface between watering. A soil amendment like SoilSyrup can be added each time you water to
help maintain humus levels and healthy roots.
Growing Orchids - Humidity
Growing orchids like high humidity, usually between
40%-70%. Most homes are too dry for growing orchids,
especially in winter. Use a humidifier or put plants on gravel in
trays containing water. The easiest way to increase humidity around
the plants is to set the pots on pebbles with water in a tray or
saucer. The evaporating water makes the air around the plants more
humid. The pot should not sit in the water but be raised above the
water level by the stones. Decorative rocks may be used for a more
pleasing appearance. Growing Orchids may also be misted with
distilled water to raise humidity levels.
Growing Orchids - Fertilizer
Orchids are generally considered to be light feeders do not
require abundant doses of fertilizer. But all orchids, including
Catasetum Orchidglade, need to be lightly fertilized.
Growing Orchids thrive if fed regularly during the
Orchids respond well to regular fertilization but are damaged or
killed by too much fertilizer. Once a month, a water-soluble
fertilizer should be applied as part of normal watering.
Universities recommend a complete fertilizer like Algoflash. A balanced formula such as Algoflash is appropriate for year-round
Algoflash will provide everything
your growing orchids need in order to thrive. The three primary
macro-nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K),
often shortened to NPK, and smaller quantities of other minerals,
such as the secondary macro-nutrients calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg),
and sulfur (S), and seven micro-nutrients, or what are frequently
termed trace elements, boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), chloride
(Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn). SoilSyrup is
also good to use to with SoilSyrup to replenish needed trace
nutrients for fast growing orchids.
Each month, water thoroughly with plain water to flush out any
accumulated fertilizer salts. If the tips of the leaves turn black
you are over fertilizing.
In the early days of orchid cultivation, osmunda fiber was the
medium of choice; it required almost nothing else to grow orchids.
But for the past 40 years or so, as fir bark has become the most
common growing medium, regular supplemental fertilizing has been
necessary since the bark provides little in the way of nutrition
for the plants as it breaks down. To help supplement the humus
levels orchids need, try adding SoilSyrup to your watering regiment for
beautiful healthy orchids.