Friday, April 13, 2012

Dear Iris

For orchid success, duplicate plant's natural conditions

Mar 29, 2012

Orchids have long been a symbol of love. Since selling so many of them in the floral department during Valentine’s Day, I thought that people who received them would like more information on how to care for them. I have to admit I didn’t know much about how to care for my own orchid.
The golden rule for orchid success is to duplicate the plant’s natural conditions as closely as possible.In nature most orchids are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other objects, clinging to rough bark or even stone. The showy orchids favored by most people are usually either phalaenopsis hybrids — so called moth orchids or dendrobium hybrids. They like;
1. Strong light, but not direct sunlight
2. High humidity
3. Good air flow around the roots
4. Regular periods of drying and watering (one trick I learned is to use 3 to 4 ice cubes to water the plant slowly)
5. Keep temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees
The first step with any store-bought orchid is to enjoy the bloom.Don’t re-pot a flowering plant. After the bloom is gone, cut off the dead flower spike (I pinched mine off like dead-heading) and re-pot.
Orchids should be potted into specialized orchid pots using an orchid soil mixture. Orchid pots feature drainage slits so water will run through the pot. They are widely available. During the growing season, feed the plant weekly with orchid fertilizer. In the summer, give it more water.
In the winter months, keep your plant warm and cut back on the water. Don’t fertilize it. Mist your orchid every so often to keep it hydrated (but all my research says not to get water on the leaves).
If you see signs of distress, such as yellowing leaves, wrinkled leaves or no blooms, move the plant and keep tweaking your conditions. Once an orchid finds a happy spot, and falls into a routine, the plant should regularly throw new roots and leaves or canes depending on the type of orchid. Do not be concerned if the roots are coming out of the top of your plant. Orchid’s like to have their roots crowded. Your plant should reward you yearly with beautiful blooms.

Aleta Mottet is a Master Gardener.

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