Exotic & Exquisite!…

Written by Emma Heard – Bernaville Nurseries

The Orchid is one of the most popular indoor plants, renowned for its exotic looking flowers in the most exquisite shapes and colours. They are a beautiful addition to all homes with the vast range of colours and sizes that they come in. With the right care, they will give a delightful, long-lasting flower display that repeat flower making them great value for money.

Orchids can be found all over the world. In warm climates and in colder climates, hung in trees and on the ground. There are about 30,000 different varieties of orchids, making it one of the largest plant families in the world. Indoor orchids are mainly epiphytic (growing on trees) or lithophytic (growing on rocks). In their natural habitat this means using trees or rocks as a support and feeding from plant debris accumulated around their roots. There are some terrestrial species that grow on the ground.

Many epiphytic and lithophytic orchids can be grown in containers filled with open 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 summer if in a shady position.

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.

Repot your orchid every two years, regardless of whether the orchid has outgrown its pot, as 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 kill your orchid.

When repotting Phalaenopsis if the remaining roots comfortably fit the old pot, after removing the old compost and any dead roots, then it is best to reuse it. Too large a 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 repotted 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, with many blooms striped, spotted, mottled or blotched. If you are new to orchid growing then this 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 plants 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 evening.

The key point to note about watering Phalaenopsis orchids is that overwatering will kill them far quicker compared to under-watering them. They make ideal plants for the forgetful houseplant owner! If you forget to water them occasionally they are very forgiving, if you give them too much water the crown and roots will quickly rot.

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 so that it 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, by far 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 to just above a stem node/notch, this will allow a new shoot to emerge.