Unlike other plants and animals, Orchids can produce hybrids between species, and also between related genera. This permits a mind-boggling number of hybrids, and is the reason for the very complex names given to most orchids.
- Most orchids bloom once a year, but if they are really happy, they may bloom more often. If you want an orchid that blooms during a particular season, the best bet is to purchase a plant that is in bloom at that time.
- When an orchid does flower it usually remains in bloom for six to ten weeks.
- Orchids resent re-potting, and usually will not flower for at least a year after they have been disturbed. If possible, purchase your orchids in pots, rather than bareroot.
WATERING - In the house, orchids are grown in pots filled with chips of bark, stones, treefern or some other loosely packed material, which keeps roots well-aerated and permits water to drain quickly. Nothing -- repeat, nothing -- kills an orchid faster than letting it sit in a water-logged pot, since a lack of oxygen will cause the roots to suffocate and rot. Water orchids thoroughly, usually about once a week, then allow them to dry slightly before watering again. Orchids are better equipped to withstand periods of forgetfulness than they are to being overwatered.
TEMPERATURE - Another difference between orchids and many houseplants is that in nature most orchids experience a big difference between day and night temperatures. Manipulating the temperature of the home so it will drop at least 10 degrees at night, especially in autumn and winter when many orchids initiate buds, will induce the orchids to set flower buds more readily. Achieve this by lowering the temperature on the thermostat. This little trick can mean the difference between an orchid plant that merely lives, and one that thrives and flowers.
Orchids are usually classified as warm growing, intermediate and cool growing, with regard to their temperature needs. Many tolerate exposure to warmer or cooler temperatures without suffering damage. The temperature groupings refer to the lowest temperature the orchid prefers during winter nights. Warm-growing orchids, such as phalaenopsis, sulk if temperatures drop much below 60 F. Intermediate growers, such as cattleyas, prefer winter nights around 55° F. Cool-growing orchids, including cymbidiums and odontoglossums, are accustomed to winter nights of 50 F. At the other extreme, most orchids perform poorly when exposed to temperatures above 90° F.
LIGHT - Orchids are also classified into three other groups depending on the intensity of light they require -- high (3,000 foot-candles), medium (2,000 foot-candles) and low (1,000 to 1,500 foot-candles). Most orchids require plenty of light, preferably at least six hours a day. Many orchids can withstand more or less than the amount of recommended light, but providing more light enhances flowering potential. Conversely, inadequate light prevents orchids from flowering, although they will grow.
Leaf color indicates if the amount of light is adequate. The lush, rich, dark green of most houseplants is not desirable in orchid leaves. Dark green leaves are attractive, but signal there is not enough light. A grassy green color (light or medium green with yellowish tones) means the plant is receiving sufficient light to bloom. Gauge light intensity with this simple hand/eye test: Put your hand 6 inches above the leaves and look at the shadows cast. A sharp-edged shadow means high light; a soft-edged shadow indicates medium to low light; no shadow at all means the light is insufficient for an orchid to flower.
Southern- and eastern-facing windows work best for orchids; western windows canbe too hot in the afternoon; and northern ones are usually too dark. Too much direct light causes leaves to sunburn -- the leaves bleach out to white, ultimately dying and turning black -- so it may be necessary to reposition plants as the seasons change. Move plants away from or toward the window to manipulate the amount of light. A sheer curtain will cast light shade. Positioning sheets of Mylar or another reflective material in the growing area will increase usable light, a handy trick for the winter when light levels are often reduced.
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