ORCHIDS IN THE HOME
Anyone can grow orchids in the home without living in the tropics or having the luxury of a greenhouse. Today, houseplants are a regular part of home decoration. If you have ever successfully grown a houseplant, or enjoyed a flowering potted plant, you can grow orchids. The good news is there are plenty of options to give you a beautiful display of flowering orchids year round. Hint: Orchids grown in the home during the colder months will respond wonderfully well to being summered outdoors in a protected area. This will also extend the range of plant selections available to you.
Sufficient light is important for healthy growth and flower production. No flowering plant will do well without sufficient light. In the home, where most available light is incidental (that is, at an angle, and therefore less intense), plants will need to be fairly close to an east or west, or lightly shaded south window. A north window will rarely provide adequate light. If light is too intense in a southern exposure, a sheer curtain could be hung to diffuse the light. Extra hours of light will not entirely compensate for poor light quality. Indeed, extending day length artificially to more than 16 hours can be detrimental to the plant’s health and often will prevent flowering.
The plants will be comfortable where you are comfortable. Typical home temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees F at night and 75 degrees F during the day are fine. Guard against excessively low or high temperatures immediately adjacent to glass windows. Some leeway for seasonal fluctuations is allowed.
Mature plants should seldom dry out between waterings. Seedlings need more constant attention to moisture. Care must be taken to balance the rapid surface drying that can take place in the home with the plant’s lower metabolic processes resulting from lower light. Each particular type of orchid will retain its basic water needs, whether for moisture or periodic dryness. The home grower also needs to give thought to the logistics of watering. You can carry plants to the sink or even outdoors (when weather allows), or water them in place and remove excessive water so the containers do not sit in water.
Rugs, drapes and some furniture act as giant wicks that absorb the home’s humidity, as do heating and air conditioning systems. Also, it is not advisable to have the home’s interior be too wet to accommodate the plants. Solutions: Group plants to take advantage of their collective transpiration (exhaled moisture) or place them on gravel-filled humidity trays to raise the humidity to 50 percent.
Fertilize regularly at a low dosage of approximately one-quarter strength with a fertilizer appropriate to the potting mix in which your plants are grown. Fertilize less often during the winter.