Orchid Know How
Orchids have become extremely fashionable indoor plants with their long-lasting exotic blooms that are available in many colour combinations. Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) are the most popular and the easiest to care for as they are suitable for centrally heated homes, but other varieties are becoming increasingly desirable. Most indoor orchids like bright but indirect light and won’t be happy in either direct sun or too little light. A north or east-facing windowsill is usually ideal. Tropical orchids dislike very dry air, so misting the leaves regularly is advisable. (Avoid misting the flowers as this can cause spots on the petals.) When watering or misting your orchid use room temperature rainwater or boiled water as they do not like the chlorine in fresh tap water. Do not leave the orchid standing in water as it can cause the roots to rot. Orchids should not be positioned near cold draughts as this could lead to flower buds dropping.
Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchids) are the most popular houseplant orchids with blooms that can last for months. These beautiful plants are an ideal choice for beginners and with minimal maintenance should flower regularly. They are grown in very loose and airy compost that is mainly made of composted bark.
To encourage flowering Phalenopsis should be positioned in bright light with east or west facing windowsills being ideal. They should be kept out of direct sunlight in summer to prevent the leaves from scorching. Consistently warm conditions of 19 - 30°C (66 - 86°F) during the day and 16° - 19°C (61 - 66°F) at night are required all year round. Keep the plants away from radiators and heaters and out of cold draughts.
Moth orchids should be watered weekly during the growing season and reduced slightly in winter. Correct watering is important as too much water can lead to root rot and too little water may cause the roots to shrivel up and die. Tepid water is ideal with rainwater being preferred. Water from above but be careful not to wet the leaves or get water into the crown. Ensure that any excess water is allowed to drain thoroughly.
Phalaenopsis should be fed lightly but regularly during the growing season with a specific orchid fertiliser. This will encourage strong growth and flowering.
Once flowers have faded they can be picked off so the plant looks at its best until all the flowers have finished. Cut the stem off just above a healthy node (joint) lower down the stem to encourage a new side-shoot to flower. Healthy plants that haven’t flowered for some time can sometimes be encouraged to bloom again by moving it to a cooler spot for about a month or so.
The history of the Cymbidium (Boat Orchid) is fascinating. Records from 500 BC at the time of Confucius suggest that they were grown in China 2500 years ago, making them the oldest cultivated orchid.
Cymbidiums like cooler growing conditions. To prevent damage to the plants temperatures should be kept below 30°C (86°F) during the summer. During winter they require temperatures between 10 - 14°C (50 - 57°F). Good light levels are needed all year round, especially during the winter. Cymbidiums that are kept outdoors in summer will require shading from the midday sun. Temperatures should be kept below 15°C (59°F) while flower spikes are developing to prevent bud-drop, after which they can be moved into a warmer environment to display the plants. Developing flower spikes will require support with a bamboo cane. Cymbidiums will usually flower for approximately six to eight weeks, after which, faded blooms should be cut down to the base.
Water Cymbidiums moderately during spring and summer (depending on the conditions). They should be watered from above, ensuring that any excess water can drain away. The compost should be allowed to dry out a little before watering again. If the plants are positioned outdoors or in the greenhouse more frequent watering may be required during hot weather. Watering should be reduced to weekly or fortnightly during the winter.
A half-strength general liquid fertiliser should be given every third watering during the spring, followed by a high potassium specialist orchid fertiliser such as in summer. Feeding should be stopped altogether in winter or they can be given occasional feeds using half-strength general liquid fertiliser.
Originating from South East Asia, there are over a thousand known species of Dendrobiums. They produce elongated, stem-like pseudo bulbs that bear linear and ovate leaves. Their beautiful, showy flowers are produced from nodes along the stems.
Although Dendrobiums can tolerate a lot of light, they should not be placed in direct sun. They require daytime temperatures of between 18 - 25°C and night temperatures above 10°C.
Water sparingly when the soil is almost dry and add a specialist orchid fertiliser every third watering during the growing season. High humidity can be provided by misting the plant twice a day. Keep the plant in well lit conditions from autumn until early spring and keep dry in winter.
Grow in epiphytic orchid compost from late spring to summer, in partial shade with good ventilation, day temperatures between 18-25°C and night above 10°C, Water freely adding orchid fertiliser every third watering and provide high humidity by misting twice daily. Keep in well lit conditions from autumn to early spring and keep plants dry in winter.
A note about ice cubes:
There is an online debate about the use of ice cubes to water orchids. Apparently this method is supposed to be ideal for slowly hydrating these exotic plants. Please note that we do not recommend using this method. It is essential to know how to water orchids properly. (See above.) Using ice cubes with their cold temperatures can cause the orchid root systems to go into shock and prevent healthy growth. Most orchids are native to areas in South East Asia where they are acclimatised to the warm, tropical rains.
Sonya, our Houseplant Manager will be happy to assist with any orchid care questions or advice that may be needed including how to repot your orchids. We stock everything you need to keep your orchids in tip tip condition including Orchid Focus repotting mix, fertilisers and Orchid Myst as well as clear orchid pots and saucers for optimal drainage and aeration.
Use the right products for success:
Orchid Focus Peat Free Repotting Mix
A specially selected, high quality graded bark to give orchids the perfect balance of air and moisture content. Bark will degrade over time and begin to hold too much water, therefore it is advisable to repot orchids every 12 - 18 months. Doing this will rejuvenate the plant and encourage vigorous growth and re-flowering.
Please note that peat, soil, or very small grade bark will retain too much water and will cause the roots to suffocate which will kill the plant.
Orchid Focus Grow & Bloom Fertilisers