Orchids flourish  under the right condition ©

by Siegrid Stern, Michigan Orchid Society

Orchid growing tips for the novice grower
Original published in the Oakland Press, Pontiac, Michigan

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Cattleya maxima


In recent years, gardening under lights has become a specialty science. The goal of gardening under lights is to create conditions as close as possible to those of the plant's native habitat.
Grown indoors under lights, plants may even be healthier than they would be in some greenhouses where lighting may be inconsistent or even sparse. But plants cannot grow unattended indoors. They must rely upon us to supply their basic needs - the correct temperature, moisture, humidity, soil and lighting.

Potting media
    Some orchids can be mounted with osmunda fiber on pieces of bark or wood and hung on the wall. Others are grown in pots using various potting mixes, which drain well. The potting mixes are based largely on chopped fir bark (the smaller the plant, the finer the bark), mixed with loose, inert mineral products such as perlite, vermiculite and charcoal. Bits of osmunda, spaghnum moss, peat and baked clay pellets are also used.
The idea is to have a coarse, friable non-decaying medium that holds moisture with no trace of sogginess and allows free movement of air.
Orchids need to be repotted when the mix breaks down, but only after blooming.

    Orchids can be grown exclusively under lights - full-spectrum fluorescent types. The lights are positioned from 4 to 12 inches above the orchids, depending on the light requirements of the particular species. Lights should be left on 12 to 16 hours a day depending upon the time of year. These seasonal variations help in controlling flowering.

Water management
    Water the plants in the morning, twice a week or as needed depending upon the species. Use a weak solution of fertilizer at every watering.  A resting plants needs almost no water or only enough to keep the leaves from shriveling.
You may grow the plants on wire racks set over trays with lava rock. These trays are filled with water and allowed to evaporate, creating a continuing source of humidity around the plants. A better solution is the use of a humidifier in the winter months to keep the humidity around 50 percent. Plants will also benefit from a light misting.

Air quality and temperature
    Fans need to run 24 hours a day. These constant breezes help orchids to combat high temperatures and fungus diseases. A temperature differential of 10 to 15 degrees between day and night is recommended.

      These growing tips should only be used as general guidelines. The environmental requirements for each species depends upon the orchid's native habitat. Before you buy the plants, try to research the cultural conditions and how to provide them. Select plants that will grow in the environment you can supply. For more cultural information, growing tips and solving problems, I recommend to join your local Orchid Society.

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