how to water orchids ? All orchids in cultivation require a suitable environment in which to grow, with adequate light, warmth, water, and food. Most plants sold for the home grower are no more demanding than other houseplants.
Orchids such as Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Cymbidium, and
Oncidium are among the easiest to grow and are ideal for the beginner; they will give great rewards once a few basic rules are mastered. Other genera can be more demanding, but the enthusiastic grower can succeed, given the right information. Tips on
general care and tasks, such as repotting and dividing, are included in the following article.
Watering and feeding
Taking care of your orchids need not be time-consuming. Many are tolerant of neglect, but all orchids will respond well to good care. Follow this straightforward advice to help you water and feed your plants correctly.
Orchids absorb water ( how to water orchids)
from their growing medium; epiphytic orchids also take up moisture from the atmosphere via aerial roots.
Most prefer water that is low in calcium; rainwater is ideal, but filtered or distilled water can be used. Use water at room temperature to keep from shocking the plant. To help judge when to water, weigh the pot in your hand when it is dry, then well watered.
Most pot-grown orchids should be watered thoroughly from the top and allowed to drain don’t let the plant stand in excess water.
Take care to keep the center of the plant dry to prevent rot.
If water gathers between the leaves or in the crown, dab with some clean, twisted tissue to absorb.
Overwatering ( how to water orchids )
is the most common cause of death in orchid houseplants, that’s why you need to know how to water orchids.
Roots become “mushy” and unable to absorb moisture, and so the plant dehydrates and eventually dies. The commercial use of clear pots enables growers to check the health of the plant’s roots.
Underwatering symptoms vary from shriveled pseudobulbs in Cymbidium and Oncidium, or floppy, wrinkled leaves in Phalaenopsis. Check the plant’s roots to make sure that these signs of dehydration are not caused by overwatering before adjusting your regime.
Leaves can be cleaned gently with a damp cloth when dusty or watermarked. Avoid the over-use of commercial sprays that make houseplants’ leaves shine too much product could affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, causing serious problems.
Mist foliage gently in a dry atmosphere to increase humidity, but not at low temperatures or grey mold, Botrytis (see p. 135) may take hold.
It is essential that epiphytes growing on a slab or suspended are misted, since this is the only way for them to absorb moisture.
Most orchid compost contains very few nutrients.
On the whole, orchids require very low levels of fertilizer, but the purer the water used, the more important a feeding regime becomes. Ordinary houseplant food is too potent for orchids as its chemicals can cause root burn.
Be wary of ready-mixed orchid fertilizers; the amount of food required for different species can vary considerably, and one rate of dilution does not suit all.
Use two specialty orchid fertilizers : a balanced one to help good plant growth during spring and summer; and one with a little more potash for fall and winter to encourage flower production.
The changeover of food will coincide with the changing seasons and day lengththis can come at any point in the orchid’s growth cycle.
Overfeeding of orchids can cause problems : in the case of Cymbidium, too much nitrogen will cause plants to grow lush, strong green leaves instead of concentrating on flowering.
If this happens, stop feeding for at least four months, and start again at the beginning of the fall/ winter cycle.
As with watering, the rule of thumb for feeding is: if in doubt, don’t.
Liquid orchid fertilizer should be diluted according to the package instructions.
For most orchids featured in this book, add the fertilizer when you water your orchid, but leave out the fertilizer every fourth watering to allow any residue to be washed through the compost.
Using a pebble tray
Create a microclimate for your orchid by using a pebble tray and a few small ferns.
This easily maintained system helps to increase humidity levels and looks attractive.
Plants should be removed for watering.
Top up the tray regularly, via the pebbles, making sure that the water level does not rise above the rim of the saucer, how to water orchids.
1 Use a tray at least 11⁄2 in (4 cm) deep. The choice of color and shape is yours, but the tray must be waterproof.
Fill with clay pebbles readily available from garden centers and most home stores to within 1⁄3 in (1 cm) of the rim.
2 Place an upturned saucer on top of the pebbles and gently nestle it in, making sure that it remains above the level of the pebbles.
Check that the saucer is large enough for your orchid pot to sit on comfortably
3 Place the orchid pot on top of the saucer.
The bottom of the pot must be high enough above the pebbles to keep the plant’s roots out of direct contact with the water.
The roots will soon rot if they become saturated.
4 Surround the orchid with ferns of your choice, standing their pots directly on the pebbles. These will help to regulate humidity levels. Most garden centers have a selection of small ferns at very reasonable prices.
Encouraging your orchid to reflower
Try this trick to help bring a Phalaenopsis back into flower.
Alternate with cutting the stems down to 1 in (3 cm) to avoid exhausting the plants.
1 Just before the final flower dies, cut the flowering stem carefully with pruning shears or a clean knife, just above a node.
Leave about 10–12 in (25–30 cm) of stem.
Continue with routine watering and feeding.
2 Often, the node produces a secondary flower spike. If nothing appears after eight to 10 months, try reducing the plant’s ambient temperature by 9°F (5°C) for four weeks.
If the cut stem goes brown, remove it near the bottom.
Cymbidium orchids (how to water orchids )
Cymbidium orchids need good light and a significant lowering in night temperatures during the summer to initiate flower spikes for the following season. Ideally, the temperature differential must be about 14°F (8°C) for a couple of weeks, which is difficult to achieve in the home.
After any danger of frost is over, put the Cymbidium outside in a protected position with dappled shade.
Gradually acclimatize it to more light.
Watering depends on the weather, but make sure that the plant has good drainage.
Placing the pot on a brick helps water to drain away and also deters slugs.
Continue to feed the plant with a spring/summer fertilizer until the end of June.
Stop feeding during July, starting again in August, using a fall/winter fertilizer; Cymbidium are not gross feeders and appreciate a break.
Bring the plant back indoors before the first frost and place it in a cool location. It is important to acclimatize Cymbidium gradually to an increase in temperature, since too abrupt a change will cause bud drop.
To enjoy the flowers in the house as long as possible, wait until the blooms start to open before moving the plant.
Potting media and containers
Using the correct growing medium and container for a particular type of orchid is vital to the plant’s health.
The variety of pots and media can be daunting, but these tips will help you to choose.
Orchid potting media
Orchid potting media can be divided into two types : organic and inorganic.
Organic materials include sphagnum moss, bark, and peat (see opposite), varying proportions of which are used as ingredients in potting mixes.
Most inorganic media
Most inorganic media are based on absorbent rockwool. This material is not recommended for the home grower, since it can cause irritation to the skin and respiratory tract if not handled carefully.
Mixing rockwool with organic materials should also be avoided.
which are produced by all epiphytic orchids, absorb moisture from the atmosphere and should not be forced down into the potting medium.
Any aerial root that has died off can be neatly removed without harming the plant.
A healthy orchid
A healthy orchid can usually be kept in the same container and growing medium for two to three years, how to water orchids.
When the roots fill the pot and the medium starts to break down it is time for repotting.
Orchids can thrive
Orchids can thrive in many different types of container, including plastic or clay pots, slatted hanging baskets, and on cork or tree fern rafts.
Whatever type of container you use, make sure it allows for good drainage.
You can also place your plants in decorative pots, but make sure that surplus water does not pool in the bottom of these.
Sphagnum moss mixes are used for seedlings, and orchids that like their roots to be cool and moist.
This medium breaks down quickly and needs to be replaced annually. Water with rainwater or distilled water.
Orchid bark is the main ingredient of most mixes and is available in several grades, from fine to coarse.
A medium or coarse mix provides good drainage and usually suits epiphytes, how to water orchids.
Some orchids will grow in unmixed bark.
An open mix of peat or peat substitute (coir fiber), medium bark, and perlite keeps most terrestrial orchids happy. The mix ensures good drainage, but also allows a certain amount of moisture to be retained.
Spring is the best time for repotting an orchid, preferably when the plant is not in flower. Being repotted every two or three years suits most orchids, which benefit from a change of medium and the extra space for new growth.
1 The Cymbidium shown here has filled its pot with roots.
To repot a healthy plant like this, support it with one hand and carefully knock it out of its pot. Strip away any old potting medium and trim back decayed or broken roots.
2 Select a new pot with good drainage that will allow space for no more than two years’ growth. Compared with most plants, orchids grow well in pots that appear to be too small. Put a handful of potting medium into the pot.
3 Hold the plant in position and fill around it with more potting medium. Tap the pot lightly to work the mix through the roots. Lightly press the top of the medium and then fill the pot to within about 1 in (2 cm) of the rim.
4 Most potting mediums should be watered lightly and left for two weeks. If you are using sphagnum, water with rainwater thoroughly and allow to dry out completely before watering again.
Do not give fertilizer for six weeks.
Repotting on a raft
Many epiphytes, particularly the small ones, take well to being planted on a raft, which is a piece of sterilized cork or bark.
This allows the plants to grow in a natural-looking habitat.
When you tie your orchid onto the raft, use thin wires to fasten them.
They can then be loosened easily if the plant needs to be given more room for growth.
1 To remove an orchid from an existing raft, carefully untwist or cut the wires that hold it in place. Gently tease out any spent sphagnum moss clinging to the roots and neaten up the plant by removing any dead material.
2 Either use a new raft or thoroughly clean the old one. You may find it easier to work if you place the raft on a support. how to water orchids? Wet a piece of sphagnum moss with rainwater and apply it to the front of the raft.
3 Mount the orchid on top of the sphagnum. The moss serves to hold moisture and stops the roots from drying out. Tie the orchid and moss to the raft with garden wire, making sure the plant is held firmly but not too tightly.
4 Lightly spray the finished raft with rainwater and then place it in your chosen growing position. You can either suspend the raft or use a stand. how to water orchids, For dramatic effect, several rafts can be suspended together on a frame.