Very often, orchids are an impulse purchase, or received as a gift. Usually, this will be a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis), which is among the easiest to grow, but will often come with little or no growing advice, and will be thrown away after flowering.
An unhealthy orchid or one that is unsuited to your home conditions is likely to fade quickly and bring disappointment.
With tips on what to look for? where to Buying orchids? and how to find the right position for your orchid? this article will help you avoid potential pitfalls and choose the perfect plant for your home.
What is an orchid?
How orchids grow?
Where to buy orchid?
Choose the right orchid type
Orchid Health check
What size orchid plant to buy?
Positioning your orchid
What is an orchid?
In spite of their enormous variety, orchid flowers share common characteristics. They are symmetrical but, unlike many blooms, can only be divided in half along one vertical plane, and all have a distinctive labellum or lip.
Each orchid flower has three sepals and three petals, one of which is different in size, shape, and sometimes color.
This distinctive petal is known as the labellum or lip. The male and female parts of the flower are fused together in a waxy column.
This fusion is a key identification feature of the orchid family.
Unlike most other flowers, orchids have pollen that is packaged into small masses called pollinia, which lie at the top of the column, under the anther cap; below the column is a stigmatic surface, usually sticky, to receive pollen.
Each orchid seed pod can hold millions of dustlike seeds.
These do not contain nourishment, so for the seed to develop, it must come into contact with a mycorrhizal fungus, which supplies the nutrition it needs.
How orchids grow
Orchids may be classified according to where they grow :
in the ground, supported by other plants, or on rocks. They are also classified by how they grow, exhibiting one of two different growth habits.
Sympodial orchids, such as Laelia, have a horizontal stem or rhizome system that produces new shoots successively.
Often more than one growth is produced at a time, and the orchid is then described as having more than one lead.
Monopodial orchids have one main upright or pendant stem. Each year, growth occurs from the apex, which can be quite small, as in Phalaenopsis, or much larger, as in Vanda.
Terrestrial orchids grow on the ground with their roots in the earth. They get their water and nutrients from the soil, which is usually an open mixture of humus and leaf litter.
Paphiopedilum and Cymbidium are both examples of terrestrial orchids.
Epiphytes grow on other plants, often trees. They are not parasitic and use the host plant purely for support.
They obtain water and minerals through absorbent aerial roots. Phalaenopsis and Vanda are epiphytic orchids.
Lithophytes grow on rocks or in crevices.
They get their nourishment from rainwater and thin layers of plant detritus or moss. The best known example is the rock orchid, Dendrobium speciosum.
It’s always worth taking your time when choosing an orchid, since it is easy to be seduced by them. Check them over thoroughly for health, and make sure you know what conditions they require.
Where to buy orchid?
Reputable nurseries are the best places to purchase orchids; their experienced staff will be able to advise you. If buying over the Internet or by mail order, bear in mind that you will not be able to inspect the plant in advance, so choose your source carefully, and make sure that the orchid will be properly protected in transit. For a wide selection, consider going to an orchid show, usually held from late fall to early summer.
Here, you will have the opportunity to compare and buy from a number of nurseries. Orchids are protected species, so be certain that the plants have not been taken from the wild when you buy. Import permits issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are required for orchid purchases made outside North America.
You will be able to browse and choose from a wide selection of healthy orchids at a specialized nursery
Choose the right orchid type ( Buying orchid )
First, consider the type of conditions you are able to offer an orchid: cool, intermediate, or warm. Then decide whether you want a plant in bloom (some warm-growing orchids are available year round) or the satisfaction of raising a young specimen, bought from a nursery or online.
is often a good orchid to start with if you have a centrally heated home and Cymbidium are some of the easiest cool-condition orchids.
Always check the label to see what care the plant requires before buying orchid. If the plant is unlabeled, seek advice from staff, or choose another specimen.
A healthy orchid like this Oncidium should have fresh flowers and green, pert buds. Reject any substandard plant.
Clear pots allow you to look for a healthy
root system before buying orchid plant.
Orchid Health check
If you can see the orchid before you buy, inspect it carefully to make sure you’re buying a healthy plant. Check for really fresh, blemish-free flowers, with no drooping blooms or brown edges to the petals; any buds should be green and pert.
Inspect the leaves, including their undersides, for any signs of pests and disease.
Reject any with shriveled leaves, which could be a sign of dehydration or root rot.
If the growing pot is transparent, check for a healthy root system. Unless you’re buying an outdoor orchid, reject any plant that is displayed outside.
Selecting and transporting
When you have chosen your plant, make sure it is wrapped well for the trip home, since orchids don’t respond well to a cold shock. Before you buy an orchid online, check that you know exactly what is offered and how it will be delivered.
A healthy plant, like this Burrageara Nelly Isler, has clean, unblemished foliage and flowers, with no sign of shriveled buds. Given suitable care and conditions, it should continue flowering for weeks.
What size orchid plant to buy (Buying orchid)?
It takes several years of growing before an orchid plant is mature enough to flower, but they can be bought from breeders at various stages of development.
If you buy online, it can be difficult to understand the size of plants on offer, unless the site states clearly that the orchid is in bud or blooming.
Here are a few terms used by nurserymen to describe the stages of growth :
- Seed Growing from seed is not recommended for amateurs.
- In vitro These plants are babies growing in sterilized jars on agar: a challenge for beginners to grow.
- Ex vitro These plants have been removed from their jars, and either planted singly or as a small group growing in a “community pot.”
- Young plant Already several months or years old, this orchid may soon reach flowering size.
- Near-flowering size This plant may flower in the coming season but might need another year to mature fully.
- Flowering size This orchid is capable of producing a flower spike and may have already done so.
- Mature This plant has flowered for several seasons, although it may not be in bloom at the time of purchase. Check before buying orchid.
Taking your orchid home
Make sure that any orchid is wrapped well for the journey.
It will become distressed and is likely to drop its buds if exposed to cold or extreme temperatures.
Wrap and unwrap carefully. As soon as you have the plant home, remove the transparent sleeve promptly to avoid any danger of grey mold, Botrytis.
Place the flower pot on a large sheet of tissue paper, which should be gathered up around the pot.
This will help you get the plant into a sleeve.
Lower the plant into a transparent flower sleeve. Gently pull thesleeve up to protect the leaves.
A longer sleeve protects the flowers, too.
Place the sleeved plant inside a box or bag lined with tissue paper.
Pull the paper up around the top of the box, and gently over the flowers.
Positioning your orchid
Whether you have a single orchid or asmall collection, finding the right spot for the plants in your home is essential.
Be wary of drafty rooms or those with low light levels, and don’t be tempted to place an orchid above a radiator.
Light is a basic requirement for plant growth.
The majority of orchids are epiphytes and grow best in indirect sunlight that mimics the conditions they enjoy in the wild, such as the shade provided by their supporting tree.
In your home, a windowsill with no direct sunlight, or a shelf close to a window, is ideal.
To check the light level at your chosen spot, place your hand between your orchid and its light source, about 10 in (25 cm) away from the plant.
If a shadow falls on the plant it is too near the light; either move it away or provide some shading, such as a sheer curtain.
Be aware that the intensity of light changes throughout the year, and you may need to provide additional shading for your orchid in summer to help maintain a suitable temperature, as well as its preferred humidity level.
Temperature ranges should be as close as possible to those found in the orchid’s natural habitat, and the simplest way to achieve this is to choose an orchid from a group that thrives in your home conditions.
The following minimum temperatures are guidelines only; daytime temperature is the most important :
- Cool orchids : day 64°F (18°C), night 50°F (10°C)
- Intermediate orchids : day 68°F (20°C), night 55°F (13°C)
- Warm orchids : day 68°F (20°C), night 60°F (16°C)
Remember, rooms will be colder if the heating is off during the day, especially bathrooms, where tiles can be very cold.
At night, don’t trap your orchid behind curtains, away from its heat source and close to cold glass.
Humidity is essential for orchids, and the dry air commonly experienced in centrally heated houses can cause problems.
The first symptoms are brown leaf tips or petal edges, some orchids drop their buds. Ensure that the room is well ventilated, and put your plant on a pebble A heated bathroom helps maintain humidity (Buying orchid).