Thursday, April 16, 2009

Considering Your Environment

When you go to shop for orchids, you can very easily get carried away! The excitement of the moment can completely win over rational plant selection. Few beginning orchid growers take the time to consider their environment before they buy. Unfortunately, if you do this, you may end up bringing home a gorgeous orchid that’s completely wrong for you.

If possible, always choose an orchid that comes close to fitting your growing area. Even I give you pointers on how to modify your growing area to make it more suitable for orchid growth, you can only modify your environment so much. For instance, an orchid that is commonly found growing in full sun in Hawaii probably won’t take well to a windowsill during the winter in low-light areas like New England. And an orchid from the cloud forest that is drenched with almost constant rainfall and very high humidity probably won’t be happy and bloom in the hot dry air of Arizona.

In the following sections, I help you assess your environment so you can be confident that you’ll pick out a stunning orchid that is right for you and that will thrive where you live.

Taking temperature readings
Before you bring home an orchid, you need to consider the average daytime and night time temperatures in summer and winter where you live.

To determine high and low temperatures indoors get a maximum/minimum thermometer that records this information and place it in your growing area.

For an idea of what your minimum temperatures are outdoors where you live, check out the USDA hardiness map at www.usna.usda. gov If you’re a weather nut like I am, you can use a recording weather station that reads the maximum and minimum temperature, humidity, wind speed, rainfall, and barometric pressure every hour and stores this information so it can be charted. Mine has remote sensors and a wireless connection to my computer

A broad selection of temperature and weather recording instruments are available from the orchid-supplies dealers listed in the appendix.

When you’ve determined the average summer and winter temperatures in your area, turn to Table 2-1, which lists some of the most common types of orchids by temperature requirements. Notice that some orchids are adaptable enough to fit into more than one temperature range.

When orchid publications refer to temperature preferences, they always mean the evening temperature. The daytime temperature is usually about 15°F (9.5°C) higher than the evening temperature.

Measuring your light intensity
Just as important as temperature is the amount of light your orchid will get. Orchids that thrive in high light need several hours of direct sunlight (preferably in the morning to early afternoon), while those that thrive in lower light will perform with less direct and more diffused light in a windowsill or under lights.

Will you be growing the plants under artificial lights? Most light setups consist of multiple florescent lamps and can provide adequate illumination for medium- to lower-light orchids. High-intensitydischarge lamps are capable of much more light output but can be expensive to operate and generate quite a bit of heat.

How bright is your light? Figure 2-1 illustrates a simple yet effective and reasonably accurate method for determining the intensity of your light.

After you determine your light levels, turn to the following sections, which list orchids by the amount of light they need. Remember to keep in mind temperature (see the preceding section).

Bright light
The following orchids require a bright greenhouse, a very bright south-facing window, or very-high-output (VHO) fluorescent lamps (which require specialized ballasts to operate) or metal halide lamps:
  1. Angraecum
  2. Some varieties of Cymbidium
  3. Some varieties of Dendrobium
  4. Vanda

Medium light
The following orchids need a shaded greenhouse, an east-facing window, or a our-tube 40-watt florescent light fixture:
  1. Amesiella
  2. Ascocenda
  3. Ascocentrum
  4. Ascofinetia
  5. Brassavola
  6. Brassia
  7. Cattleya and hybrids
  8. Some varieties of Cymbidium
  9. Some varieties of Dendrobium
  10. Epidendrum
  11. Laelia
  12. Leptotes
  13. Masdevallia
  14. Miltonia
  15. Miltoniopsis
  16. Neofinetia
  17. Neostylis
  18. Odontoglossum
  19. Oncidium
  20. Paphiopedilum (strap-leaf multiflorals)
  21. Phragmipedium
  22. Rhynchostylis
  23. Zygopetalum

Low light
The following orchids do well with a low level of light, easily attainable with two 40-watt florescent lamps or on an east-facing windowsill:
  1. Paphiopedilum (not including strap-leaf multiflorals)
  2. Phalaenopsis
  3. All orchid seedlings

Other questions to ask yourself
In addition to considering temperature and light, you want to ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Does the growing area have moist (humid) air, or is the air very dry? If it is already humid (50 percent or greater), it’s perfect. If not, your orchids will be happier with moister air.
  2. How much space do you have to grow orchids? If you have plenty of head room, you can grow some of the taller orchids, like cane dendrobiums and full-size cattleyas. If space is at a premium, search out very compact or miniature growers.
  3. When do you want your orchids to bloom? Spring, summer, fall, or winter? In the evening or during the day? Armed with this information, you can pick those orchids that will be in bloom in the season and time of day of your choice.
  4. Do you have air circulation in the growing area? Most homes have adequate air circulation, but if your orchids are going to be located in the basement or some other spot where the air is stagnant, you’ll want to consider a fan of some type to provide them with fresh air.
When you’re armed with this information, you’ll be better prepared to choose an orchid that will thrive.

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