Documents: Special Interest: Orchids:

Orchids - Choosing Your First Orchid
by Marilyn H.S. Light
January 1, 2006

You are viewing orchids at your first orchid show or you are excited by a display of blooming plants at the local shop. A wealth of colour and exotic fragrances tease the senses. You are enthralled and must have an orchid of your very own! Which flowering orchid should you buy? Before you get swept away in the heat of the moment, consider what conditions orchids require to grow and bloom again.


All orchids require sunlight or artificial light. Some orchids such as Paphiopedilums grow well in low light while others such as Cattleyas need much more light to bloom well. Sunlight should always be filtered through a curtain: direct sunlight can burn leaves. Both Paphiopedilums and the Moth Orchids, Phalaenopsis, are excellent choices for apartment dwellers.


Most orchids flourish at room temperature but a few prefer cooler temperatures. Cymbidiums purchased in flower may never bloom again unless subjected to cool conditions during flower initiation and bud development. Others such as Vandas grow best in steamier conditions of a warm greenhouse. Always ask which temperature range an orchid requires before making a purchase.


Most orchids revel in humid, breezy conditions that are difficult to recreate in our homes. Some orchids that are less demanding include Cattleyas and Paphiopedilums. Daily misting combined with weekly watering keeps these plants healthy and happy.


Orchids are sensitive to water quality. They grow best when the water is relatively free of dissolved mineral salts. When possible, use rainwater or deionized water. Well water and even some city water supplies can be lethal. Water quality may be the most common cause of plant demise as damaged roots can no longer absorb water: the plant slowly withers and dies.


Orchids can make do with only a little 'food' but will grow and bloom better if fed regularly. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer containing chelated micronutrients at one-quarter recommended strength on a weekly to monthly basis. Match fertilization frequency with light levels - less when light is less (in winter) or when plants are otherwise dormant, more when light is greater or when plants are in active growth. Water with only plain water once a month to flush away excess fertilizer salts.


If you are interested in growing orchids, why not join an Orchid Society in your home town. Most large cities have a club. Persons interested in growing and showing orchids meet regularly much as they do in garden clubs. For more information about an Orchid Society in your area and how to become a member, visit the web site of the Canadian Orchid Congress.

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