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If you can grow houseplants, you can grow orchids. Like any other plant, orchids must have the right growing conditions they need to survive.  But there are amazingly sturdy and resilient. Of course having the proper information goes a long way toward success.

Hobbyists often coin common names for orchids to facilitate communication among their peers. Below are some of the more frequently encountered common names with their botanical equivalents.

Common names of some orchids

Common Name                Botanical Name    
                  

Bamboo orchid   Arundina graminifolia 
Bee orchid  Luisia, Ophrys apifera
Braided orchid Lockhartia species
Bucket orchid  Coryanthes species
Butterfly orchid  Oncidium papilio
Christmas star orchid Angraecum sesquipedale
Cigar orchid Cyrtopodium punctatum
Cow-horn orchid   Cyrtopodium punctatum, Schomburgkia tibicinis
Dancing-lady orchid  Oncidium species
Dove orchid (Dove flower) Peristeria elata
Frog orchid  Polyrrhiza lindenii, Coeloglossum viride, Habenaria viridis
Ghost orchid  Polyrrhiza lindenii
Grass pink Calopogon tuberosus
Jewel orchids Anoectochilus, Dossinia, Goodyera, Ludisia species
Ladies' tresses Spiranthes species
Lady-of-the-night orchid Brassavola nodosa, Epidendrum nocturnum
Lady's-slipper Cypripedium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium, Selenipedium
Moth orchid  Phalaenopsis
Mule-ear orchid   Oncidium luridum and its relatives
Nun's orchid (nun's lily) Phaius tankervilleae (syn. Phaius grandifolius)
Pansy orchid Miltoniopsis species
Spider orchids Arachnis, Brassia, Epidendrum ciliare, Caladenia
Star-of-Bethlehem orchid Angraecum sesquipedale
Swan orchid Cycnoches, especially Cycnoches chlorochilon
Tulip orchid  Anguloa, especially Anguloa clowesii

Our aim to promote interest in, and increase cultural knowledge  of orchids. We hope this page will help to promote the hobby of growing orchids and dispel the myth that they are "fragile" and "hard to grow".


Phalaenopsis

 

Don't be intimidated by growing orchids. These regal plants are one of the most rewarding and easy to grow houseplants. Also, most of them bloom during winter or early spring, just when all of us are eager to see some warm, tropical colors. Two of the easiest types to grow are Oncidiums and the Dendrobium phalaenopsis hybrids.


One of the more appealing features of orchids is that given reasonable care, they will continue to grow bigger and better every year. As they develop more divisions, they will produce blossom spikes. A fully developed, 10 year old orchid is a spectacular sight to see. Even before it reaches this size, it can be divided and shared with friends.

Dendrobium

Each variety of orchid that you grow will require slight differences in its environment, but they will all respond to the same basic care instructions. For more specific information on each variety, click on the links listed below. For general care, refer to the following guidelines.


Oncidium


Light
Orchids require bright light and should optimally be placed in a southern or southeastern window. For those with limited window space, artificial light may be supplemented. Group your orchids together in the window or under the light but allow them "elbow" room so that the light is evenly distributed on the leaf surface of each plant. While a deep green color on the leaves indicates that light levels are too low, a reddish tint means that the light is too intense and should be adjusted. Areas with poor lighting may be intensified by surrounding the plants with reflective materials. For better light absorption, keep the leaf surfaces clean by wiping them occasionally with a damp cloth.

Humidity
Orchids require 50-70 percent humidity in the growing environment. If the air is dry where you live, you may increase the humidity by placing the containers on trays of pebbles filled with water or by misting the plants and the surrounding air in the mornings. Avoid using chemically softened water to mist or water the orchids.

Air circulation
Air movement is also of the utmost importance. Fans should be placed in the room to circulate the air. Periodically move the fans to different locations in the room to simulate the changing of winds in the natural world. Heating and air conditioning vents are not considered simulated winds and should not be directed at the growing orchids.

Water
Water on a regular basis, but allow the plants to dry out somewhat between waterings. Either rain or tap water may be used, but make sure that the water is room temperature. The easiest way to water is to either plunge the container into a bucket of water or to place the container under a running faucet, flushing out dust and other foreign particles while drenching the soil. Remember to water the container and not the foliage or the flowers. Most importantly, avoid overwatering.

Fertilizer
Use a complete fertilizer to feed orchids that are grown in a soil mix, but use a high nitrogen fertilizer if you are growing orchids in a bark mix. Bark is a decomposing material and requires a higher nitrogen formula to assist in the breakdown process. Fish emulsion is a natural and organic fertilizer and may be used to feed the orchids in place of the complete formulas. Dilute the fertilizer and apply it to the orchids more frequently than recommended. Once the leaves mature, the plants will enter a more dormant like phase and will require less food and water. You may resume the regular feeding and watering once growth resumes and new shoots or flowers appear.

Temperature
Orchids grow in varying temperatures depending on their natural environment. Those that grow in lower elevations will prefer warmer temperatures than those that normally grow at higher altitudes. The home environment may range in temperature from 50-90 degrees, with adjustments made in between.  Whatever their normal daytime temperature needs may be, most orchids will benefit from a 10-15 degree drop in temperatures during the evening to mimic nature. Lower the thermostat, open a window, or allow the orchid to live outdoors during the late summer and early fall to experience the natural temperature fluctuations of the late summer night air.

How do I treat orchid pests and diseases?
Before any treatment for bugs and disease is implemented, you must first review the cultural conditions under which your orchid has been grown. The plant may just be suffering from a condition related to its environment. Go through the checklist of cultural requirements such as humidity, water, light exposure, fertilization, and potting medium. Adjusting one of these factors will usually improve the condition without requiring the help of botanicals or harmful pesticides. However, on occasion, there are viral and fungal problems that do attack orchids and require further treatment.

Why won't my orchid bloom?
If the blossoms wilt and drop to the floor your orchid plant is suffering from bud blast. There are several measures that you can take to decrease your orchid's susceptibility to this weakened condition. First, try to protect your plant from extreme fluctuations in temperature. Keep the plant away from air conditioning vents and heating vents. Also, select a humid location for your orchid. As the orchid starts to bud, a high consistent moisture level is very important.


Cattleya

Your plant does not require intense light exposure and too much sunlight will harm the buds. Decrease the light exposure after blooming to make the blooms last longer. Keep in mind that your orchid plant may produce different shades of blooms, depending upon the temperature and the season.

Watering techniques can also affect the blooms of your orchid. Keep the roots of the plant moist and be sure the temperature of the water is not cold. Also, avoid watering the buds and foliage, where water can get trapped and cause rotting.

Finally, try to protect your orchid plant from exposure to the gas given off by appliances, as well as that produced by plants. Several plants, fruits in particular, give off a gas called ethylene. Orchids are extremely susceptible to this gas and must be distanced from the sources: apple, avocado, papaya, peach, pear, plum, passion fruit, etc.

Recommended Reading:

Easy Orchids : Simple Secrets for Glorious Gardens, Indoors and Out (Garden Style Book)
by Mimi Luebbermann, Faith Echtermeyer (Photographer)
List Price: $14.95
Paperback,108 pages, March 1996

Orchid Growing Basics
by Gustav Schoser

Price: $12.95
Paperback (September 1993)

Orchids Simplified : An Indoor Gardening Guide
by Henry Jaworski

Price:$21.00
Paperback (November 13, 1997)

 

 

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