Prized for their exotic, long-lasting flowers, orchids are usually regarded as difficult plants that are suitable only for growing under controlled greenhouse conditions, but several species can be grown successfully in the home.
Some species of orchids are terrestrial, growing in soil, but most of those grown as indoor plants are epiphytic and in the wild grow on trees or sometimes rocks. In addition to roots at the base, these orchids usually have aerial roots and need a special medium and container if they are to do well in the home.
There are two types of epiphytic orchids: monopodial orchids that produce a single stem from the roots at the base, and sympodial orchids that have many stems arising from a horizontal rhizome. The latter have pseudobulbs—variously shaped swollen stem bases that look like bulbs and store water and food for the plant.
Among the best orchids for growing in the home are the epiphytic cymbidiums, cattleyas, coelogynes, dendrobiums, lycastes, miltonias, odontoglossums, and vandas. Phalaenopsis are the easiest to grow.
Orchid flowers come in an enormous variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, but they always have she petallike parts, three of which are true petals and three—the topmost one and the lower pair—sepals.
The two upper petals are usually larger than the sepals, while the lower petal, or lip, is always a different shape and color from the others. The flowers are often luscious looking, with a waxy or velvety or sometimes lustrous texture to the petals.
ALSO RECOMMENDED INFORMATION OF Orchidaceae ORCHIDS
- Cattleyas are probably the best-known orchids. They produce flowers singly or in small groups ranging from rose pink to white and pale lavender, and most have a deeper-colored curled, frilly lip.
- Dendrobiums bear groups of flowers, often fragrant, on short stalks, which grow from tall, usually stemlike pseudobulbs. Flower color ranges from white to pink, lavender, and deep purple.
- Miltonias, known as pansy orchids, have velvety, sometimes fragrant blooms in small groups on long stems. Flowers are fairly small and strikingly colored, with attractive markings on the large, lobed lip.
- Oncidiums bear clusters of many small flowers on long slender stems that rise from the base of ovoid pseudobulbs. The large-lipped flowers vary from white to red, pink, yellow, green, and brown.
- Paphiopedilums Slipper orchids are the only terrestrial orchids that do well in the home. They bear single flowers on long stems; flowers have a pouch-shaped lip and a streaked or spotted top sepal.
ORIGIN Epiphytic orchids: most common in tropical regions of the world; hybrids.
Terrestrial orchids: most common in temperate zones; hybrids.
HEIGHT Up to 2ff/60cm.
POTTING MIX Special free-draining orchid medium.
REPOTTING Repot only when roots or clumps of pseudobulbs are almost bursting out of the pot.
PROPAGATION Divide clumps of pseudobulbs into smaller groups; cut through the rhizome that joins them with a sharp sterilized knife.
KEEPING PLANTS Some orchids flower in 18-20 months, others may take 5 or 6 years before they flower. Blooms usually last 3-6 weeks, but some may last up to 12 weeks. Cut off the flowers when they start to fade.
Orchidaceae ORCHIDS PLANT CARE
Orchidaceae ORCHIDS PLANT CARE
- Epiphytic orchids: Bright light shaded from direct sun.
- Normal warm room temperature in summer, 50°-60°F/10°-16°C in winter.
- Moisten the medium thoroughly; allow the top l/iva/Yimm to dry out between waterings. Water less in cooler temperatures. Pseudobulbs will rot if the plant is overwatered.
- Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks in the growing season.
- Mist foliage regularly and stand pots on a tray of moist pebbles. High humidity is important.
- Good ventilation is essential.
- Terrestrial orchids: Medium light, but generally not direct sunlight.
- Normal room temperature.
- Water actively growing plants moderately; allow the top lin/2.5cm to dry out before rewatering. Water sparingly for 6 weeks after flowering.
- Stand the pot on a tray of damp pebbles. Mist- spray daily in temperatures over 70°F/21°C. Apply a foliar feed every 2-3 waterings.
PESTS & DISEASES OF Orchidaceae ORCHIDS
- Aphids and mealybugs may infest the plants, and if the atmosphere is too dry, red spider mites can be a pest. Orchids can be infected by viruses, especially cymbidium mosaic virus; this cannot be treated and plants must be destroyed.
- Each showy flower remains attractive for several weeks. Several flowers are borne on one stem, which may be erect or slightly pendulous.
- Phalaenopsis hybrid. These flat-faced orchids are known as moth orchids because the numerous pale-colored flowers on arching stems look like moths in flight. Since they are monopodial orchids, aerial roots are produced from the stem, but there are no pseudobulbs. The leaves are thick and fleshy.
- Brown scorch marks on the foliage are caused by direct sun falling on the leaves. Good light is essential, but it must be diffuse.
- If moisture is allowed to lie on the leves, black spots will appear, and fungus infections may attack the plant.
- Colonies of aphids are attracted to young growth and flower stems. They can sometimes be removed with a damp cloth, or they can be treated with a contact insecticide.
- Mealybugs, with their white waxy coating, can sometimes be found clustered at the base of leaves or flower stalks. A systemic insecticide is usually necessary to control them.
- Unless a thick layer of stones is placed in the bottom of a conventional flowerpot, the soil will become waterlogged and sour, and the roots will rot. Good drainage is essential.