Orchid Care For Beginners

Orchids photographed at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, USA

If you have always wanted to try keeping orchids, now is the perfect time of year for a beginner to do so.  The easiest-to-care for orchids can always be found in the stores just prior to Christmas and through the months of January and February. Winter blooming Phalaenopsis and Doritis , both moth orchids are perfect orchids for beginners.

Phalaenopsis is the orchid most likely to rebloom after bringing it home.  With proper care, your new orchid will thrive and will provide blooms for a few months!  Keep in mind orchids are tropical plants that require filtered bright light, humid air, minimal fertilizer, room temperature watering and misting, and well-drained growing medium.  Some things orchids do not care for are drafts, direct sunlight, dry areas of the home, and ice cubes!  Orchids do not like to sit in a draft with freezing cold water dripping onto their feet, and neither would anyone else.  Air circulation is good for orchids by way of a small desk fan not pointed directly at the plant.

Every genus of orchid prefers a certain temperature in which to live.  Phalaenopsis will thrive at a room temperature between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius during the day but no lower than 15 degrees Celsius overnight.  A slight temperature drop of no more than 5 degrees overnight is preferred.  African Violets are a great companion plant for Phalaenopsis as they like the same conditions.

In the tropics, epiphytic orchids, like Phalaenopsis, grow high up in trees so they are not eaten by ground animals and are high enough to be pollinated by insects.  Phalaenopsis orchids have two types of roots:  anchoring and aerial.  The anchoring roots growing inside the medium absorb water and minerals and stores food.  Aerial roots also take in moisture from the surrounding humid air.  Orchids come by their food in the wild by way of a bird or animal dropping here and there.  They do not take nutrients away from the tree.  Orchids can be fertilized during their growing season with special orchid fertilizer diluted with water.  Every few months the orchid can be flushed with just water to remove any build-up of salt left behind from fertilizing.  Phalaenopsis should be watered when the plant is starting to dry out, usually every 7-10 days, and must be allowed to drain completely.  If your clear orchid pot is placed inside another decorative pot, it is important to not allow your orchid to sit in standing water that can cause rot.

Phalaenopsis will require repotting every two to three years.  Pay special attention to the growing medium in which your orchid grows when you purchase it.  Over time, the growing medium will break down and begin to resemble soil.  Growing medium for Phalaenopsis is mostly bark pieces from fir trees with much smaller amounts of sphagnum or peat moss, coconut fiber, perlite, etc.  It’s important also to keep your orchid in a small pot like the one you purchase it in.  Even a mature orchid will not be kept in more than a 6 inch pot.   If aerial roots or flower stems turn brown they can be cut off.

Once you realize your orchid is happy and thriving in your home, you can try growing a new orchid as it does in the wild, upside down so their crowns do not hold water and begin to rot.  Your orchid pot must be secured to prevent it from falling over with the weight of the flower stems.  Two other genus of orchids that are easy to grow for beginners are Paphiopedilum (lady’s slippers) and Cattleya.  Different genus of orchids will require different care so it is important to research the specific requirements for each type of orchid.

When searching for orchid information online, the best places to look are the websites of orchid societies.  There are 10 orchid societies in Ontario including the Southern Ontario Orchid Society, Toronto Artistic Orchid Society, and Ottawa Orchid Society.  Another place to search for information is the Canadian Orchid Congress.

Be sure to keep the label provided with your orchid so you can ask questions about your specific orchid if you need advice!

authored by Shelly Fredericks

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