If you have a taste for the unusual in gardening, and an appreciation of the exquisite, you may want to try your hand at growing the one flower that speaks of beauty, elegance and the exotic. Orchids, having more than 30,000 species, are the largest of all plant families in the world, and offer three different habitats for you to consider when choosing which to grow.
Lithophytic orchids grow in the cracks of rocks. Epiphytic orchids grow on other plants/vegetation, but they are not a parasite. This is the most common type of orchid grown indoors, and usually potted in a bark mix, to mimic its natural environment, which is normally a tropical region. Terrestrial orchids grow in the ground, in temperate regions. This means, if you want to have a crack at growing orchids outdoors, they will do best in southern states, although some hardier varieties will grow as far north as the central U.S.
The species of orchid you are growing, will pretty much dictate the pH of the growing medium, since there is such a wide range of materials. The type of medium will also dictate which kind of fertilizer you use. But whichever it is, remember that weakly/weekly is the rule, feeding your orchids at about ¼ the recommended strength, every 7-10 days. When preparing the bed for your orchids, be sure that it has good drainage by putting down either a layer of crushed rock, 15” under the surface, or by loosening it up with some compost and peat moss.
While most people think of orchids as tropical plants, they actually grow in almost all regions of the world, except deserts and polar regions. That means they can exist in many different environments. For the most part, they do grow in areas that are moderately to heavily forested/foliated, so create your orchid bed in an area where they will get adequate sunshine, but not the very hot afternoon rays. In their native countries, dappled shade is often the rule, and even though they are started in greenhouses, thousands of miles away, the conditions they will tolerate, don’t change a lot. With the range of species available, you should be able to find dozens of types that will grow well in areas whose temperatures range from 40-90F.
Orchids are a plant that likes humidity, 40% at least. If you’re having a particularly dry summer, consider misting your orchids once or twice a week. Water according to your bedding medium, and the weather. Some varieties will require more moisture than others, but no orchid likes wet roots.
Some of the varieties that you can grow are:
- Cattleya Hybrids- These are the highly popular corsage flower
- Oncidiums- They grow well at higher altitudes
- Epidendrums- A good temperate climate orchid that will stand nearly full sun
- Plalaenopsis- Grows a long, arching spray of flowers in areas like Florida
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Written by: Johann Erickson