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The  orchid family is the largest plant family, and its members come from a diverse environments in most every country. Plants vary considerably among the genera; from the thimble-sized  to the 20-foot-tall specimens,  in amazingly different shapes, forms and growth habits.  Some orchids blooms are no larger than a mosquito; others are as large as a dinner plate. All are exotic, architectural and so beautiful, some may think orchids are difficult to grow. But most are no more difficult than other flowering plants as it is not that difficult to provide similar conditions orchids receive in their native habitats.

Most orchids live in the tropics, and many of these are epiphytes that use roots to hold onto trees at a height where they receive appropriate light and benefit from good air circulation. Epiphytic orchids get nourishment from organic matter collected along the branches.  Terrestrial orchids, on the other hand, find nutrients in organic matter at ground level.

Success with orchids,  as with other plants, is a matter of balancing water, light, air and fertilizer needs.

Epiphytic orchids will grow outdoors here (except in cold weather), on windowsills and in greenhouses. Orchids have fewer roots than other plants, yet these are highly sensitive and do not like to be restricted and therefore thrive  in porous mediums such as bark chips, tree fern fiber and stones.

   

Orchids like wet-dry cycles - going from being wet to almost dry. Those with with velamen, a layer of cells covering the roots that helps prevent moisture loss, require a long drink of water. Cattleyas, the “corsage” orchids, do not need as much water as phalaenopsis, the popular moth orchids, because they store water in thick stems, or pseudobulbs. Vandas like their velamen-coated roots to hang freely and are often grown in charcoal - or even in empty wooden baskets.  Vandas, therefore, need watering almost daily, if the sun shines; less often during cloudy conditions.

There is some variation in light needs among the genera, but too much light will sunburn any plant. Too little light results in dark green but weak foliage and no flowers. Early morning sun is fine, but give the plants filtered light 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Vandas are at the high end of the light scale.  Cattleyas and dendrobriums, the spray orchids, need good light.  Phalaenopsis, loved for their long-lasting, mothlike blooms, prefer less light than the cattleyas, and paphiopedilums, the lady’s slippers, are suitable for windowsills since they are on the low end of the light-requirement scale.

Generally, orchids are comfortable when we are. Heat tolerance increases with air circulation. Try to avoid temperatures much below 60 or higher than 90 degrees. 

A weak application of fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 weekly is an easy schedule to follow.

We carry books in our gift shop on orchid culture, along with a wide array of orchid supplies and growing materials.

 

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