Growing Outstanding Orchids

Growing Outstanding Orchids

Orchids have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to care for and grow. While orchids do require patience and time to grow from seed, they are quite easy to take care of once mature.  Al’s has an excellent selection of mature orchids to choose from.  We have everything from easy to grow phalaenopsis varieties to stunning Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium and Oncidium species.  Along with our favorite standby varieties, we will be carrying a selection of unique orchids for the collector or beginner orchid grower.

One of the easiest and most popular orchids to grow in the home is the Phalaenopsis or “Moth Orchid”.  They require average house temperature and moderate light, much like an African Violet.  They come in striking shades of lavender, pink, white, and yellow.  Phalaenopsis flowers may be large on long sprays or small on short, branched sprays.  Flowers may be strongly striped, spotted, or fragrant. Phalaenopsis are an excellent choice for the beginner orchid enthusiast.

When the average person thinks of an orchid, they think of a Cattleya.  The “Queen of Orchids” has always been popular and can have very large or small flowers. Cattleyas come in nearly every color of the rainbow.

Puple cymbidium flower

Cymbidium orchids are native to tropical Asia and Australia.  They are best known for their incredibly thick petals that are hard and waxy.  The blossom size and number of flowers vary by variety, ranging from 1-5 inches in diameter, and from a few flowers to more than 20 per flowering stem.  They come in all colors except blue and true red.  Cymbidium orchids perform best in very high light and must receive strong light to produce healthy growth and flower well.  They also enjoy spending time outdoors during the summer and fall.  Just be sure to move them back indoors before the threat of frost.

Dendrobium orchids are one of the largest families of orchids with somewhere around 1,000 know species.  Being such a large family creates much diversity.  There are some Dendrobiums that are very large, as well as some miniatures.  Although the color range is varied, most hybrids are lavender, white, golden-yellow, or combinations of these colors.  Dendrobiums require intermediate temperatures and bright filtered light during the growing season.  Dendrobiums are sturdy orchids that can add a focal point to any room without being too difficult to grow.

Commonly known as “dancing ladies”, the broad flat lip of Oncidiums does indeed give the illusion of a ruffled lady’s skirt.  There are so many different hybrids in the Oncidium family that there is something for everyone, regardless of your taste or growing conditions.  Plants can be large or small and produce large or small flowers in mostly yellow or pink.  What makes these orchids unique is the exotic markings and patterns that decorate many of the flowers. Oncidiums are easy growing orchids that belong in any collection.  Their long-lasting flowers add a cheery note to any room of the house. 

moth orchids on windowsill

Below are some tips to ensure your growing success.

  • Growing Medium - Most orchids are epiphytic – that is, they take their nutrients from the air. They may grow on bark, sphagnum moss, cork plaques or in gravel or charcoal.  With very rare exceptions, do not pot orchids in potting soil.
  • Watering - The best rule of thumb is to mist plants every few days with distilled water, and only water when the potting medium is nearly dry. Because there are so many varieties of orchids, it’s important to consult an orchid book or follow the plant’s watering directions.
  • Light - A sunny windowsill is a good place for your orchids. In winter or in northern states, the natural sunlight may need to be supplemented with grow-lights or other fluorescent lights to ensure that your orchids get enough light.  In the summertime, orchids may need to be protected from the bright sunlight.  Watch leaves for signs of sunburn or lack of light and adjust accordingly.
  • Airflow - Circulating air is an often-overlooked necessity for orchids. Because most orchids take their nutrients directly from the air, they do best when there is a constant, steady stream of air around them.  A small fan or an open window will provide enough airflow to keep them happy.

Along with our favorite standby varieties, we carry selections of unique orchids for the collector or beginner orchid grower. “Orchid” you not, these gorgeous plants will brighten any spot in your home or office!


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