Exotic & Exquisite!

Written by Emma Heard – Bernaville Nurseries

Orchids are one of the most popular indoor plants, renowned for their exotic looking flowers in the most exquisite shapes and colours. They are a beautiful addition to any home with the vast range of colours and sizes available. With the right care, they will give a delightful, long-lasting flower display.

Orchids can be found all over the world, in warm or cold climates, hung in trees or on the ground. There are about 30,000 different varieties of orchids, making them one of the largest plant families in the world. Indoor orchids are mainly epiphytic (growing on trees) or lithophytic (growing on rocks). Orchids use trees or rocks as a base support and acquire feed from plant debris accumulated around their roots.

Many epiphytic and lithophytic orchids can be grown in containers filled with free draining specialist orchid compost. They often form aerial roots outside of the container. Re-pot only when the roots have filled the pot, using a container that is only one, or two sizes larger. Do not try to bury the aerial roots in the compost, as they may rot.

Orchids like a variety of temperatures, so choose the best position in the house to suit the needs of the particular orchid you are growing. Cool orchids such as Cymbidiums, Dendrobiums and Oncidiums need a minimum temperature of 10°C. A porch, heated conservatory or an unheated indoor room would be ideal. If grown in a warmer environment, their flowering is often reduced. They can be placed outdoors in the summer if positioned in a shady area.

Intermediate temperature orchids such as Cattleya, Miltoniopsis and Paphiopedilum prefer a minimum temperature of 13-15°C. Warm growing orchids such as the ever popular Phalaenopsis, enjoy indoor room conditions all year round, with a minimum temperature requirement of 18°C. Orchids generally prefer bright but filtered light, protected from direct sunlight.

Re-pot your orchid every two years, regardless of whether the orchid has outgrown its pot. Older orchid compost breaks down, preventing air reaching the roots, which leads to disease. Always use specialist bark-based orchid compost, as a standard loam-based multipurpose one will harm your orchid.

When repotting Phalaenopsis, if the remaining roots comfortably fit within the old pot after removing the old compost and dead roots, then it is best to reuse it. Leaving too much space within your pot means the compost will dry out too slowly after watering, resulting in root rot. Do not try to bury aerial roots in the compost, as they may rot. Phalaenopsis can be re-potted at any time of the year.

Sometimes called the Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis orchids are the most commonly grown of all the orchids by amateurs in the UK. As well as being the easiest to grow, they are also readily available to buy and come in a huge choice of stunning colours. If you are new to orchid growing then the Phalaenopsis is the one to choose. They are native to many areas in tropical Asia. They grow on tree branches under the top canopy of trees, out of direct sunlight.

Phalaenopsis are best positioned in a semi-shaded spot away from direct sunlight, a west or east-facing window is ideal. Fluctuation between day and night time temperatures is vital to encourage flowering. Humidity is also important, so stand your orchids on a tray of wet pebbles – but not in water. On warm mornings you can mist them – no later though, as the foliage must be dry by the evening.

The key point to note about watering Phalaenopsis orchids is that over watering will harm them far quicker compared to under-watering them. They make ideal plants for the forgetful houseplant owner!

Tips for growing orchids…

• Although orchids are commonly found growing wild in tropical rain forests, they do not need heavy watering.

• When it comes to watering an orchid, the golden rule is to ensure the plant is not constantly sitting in water, this causes the roots to rot.

• Watering can be a little bit of a trial and error. Keep in mind that long summer days may require you to water the orchid more and short winter days will require less watering.

• There are multiple ways of creating ideal humidity for your plant. The easiest method for indoor orchids is to mist them regularly.

• Under no circumstances place your orchid in direct sunlight, as they will get sunburn!

• Feed orchids on a weekly basis when they are flowering with a specialist orchid fertiliser.

• Prune orchids back after flowering. With sharp, clean secateurs, trim away any dead leaves, tissue or roots. Prune back spent flower stems above a stem node/notch, this will allow a new shoot to emerge.