Thursday, April 16, 2009

Growing Orchids Easy As One, Two, Three

To be successful in growing orchids, just follow these suggestions:
  1. Know the environment you have to offer your orchids and match this with the orchids that fit.
  2. If necessary, modify your growing area to help your orchids perform to their best.

Beyond choosing the right orchid for your environment, you have to pay attention to the time of the year to know what your orchid needs. In the following sections, I give you a rundown of the year, month by month. Note: You can’t be too exact with the timing of this care schedule, because the United States is a vast country with climates from the cold north country to semitropics.

This is a period of cold, short days and low light, so orchids don’t grow much in such times. Fortunately, many moth orchids, slipper orchids, and some other cattleyas and their relatives will be budding up getting ready to show off their splendiferous blooms very soon.
  1. For orchids such as some of the dendrobiums, cattleya species, and deciduous orchids, like the catasetums, this is a time of rest, so you’ll want to reduce your watering.
  2. Keep the humidity high with good air movement.
  3. If you are using well water, warm it up to room temperature before using it on your orchid plants. Ice-cold water can cause forming buds to drop and may stunt new growth.
  4. Don’t put your orchids too close to the windowpanes or the leaves could be damaged by the cold.
  5. Apply very little fertilizer. The orchids won’t need it.

This is another dark month, but the days will be getting longer and brighter, which should cause an increase in growth.
  1. Toward the end of this month, increased light may mean you have to be careful with your orchids that require less light, like the slippers and moth orchids, so they don’t get burned.
  2. More of your orchids will be showing buds and some, especially some of the moth orchids and some of the oncidiums, should be blooming.
  3. Don’t overcrowd your plants — make sure they receive as much light as possible.
  4. Provide good air circulation to prevent disease problems.
  5. Stake your cymbidiums, which should be spiking now.
  6. Don’t forget to keep your miltonias and miltoniopsis damp.
  7. If you’re growing under lights, take note of when you last changed your bulbs. Fluorescent lamps can lose up to 40 percent of their light output after several months of use. Because new growth is starting on orchids, this is a good time to change the lamps so the plants will receive the most light possible.
  8. Apply very little fertilizer during this month.

Finally, signs of spring with longer and brighter days.
  1. Be careful that the increased light doesn’t heat up too much in your greenhouse or windowsill. Apply shading if necessary.
  2. The increased light and warmth of this month will mean an acceleration of growth. Sprouting new roots should be more evident.
  3. This is the beginning of the show for many orchids. Many cattleyas, moth orchids, slipper orchids, and oncidiums will be starting to bloom.
  4. As the days get brighter and warmer, you can resume your regular fertilizing schedule.
  5. This month and next are prime times to check out orchid shows in your area.

In April, many orchids will be in glorious flower.
  1. You’ll probably have to increase the frequency of your watering because of the new plant growth.
  2. As soon as you see new roots emerging in cattleyas, this is the time to repot. Do it before the roots grow a few inches (5 cm) long.
  3. Many other orchids showing new growth can also be repotted at this time.
  4. Be on the lookout for bugs. The warmer temperatures cause them to hatch out.
  5. Dormant orchids should be showing new growth now so you can resume your regular watering schedule.
  6. If you didn’t apply shading on your greenhouse last month, it may be needed now.
  7. A gauze curtain may be needed to soften the light for orchids growing in a south window.
  8. Check out orchid shows in your area.

Growth will continue at full speed this month. This is another prime month for orchid flowering.
  1. More frequent watering and fertilizing will be called for.
  2. If you’re in a northern climate, move some plants to a shaded, protected spot outdoors by the end of this month, but be careful not to do this too quickly. Orchids that prefer it warm, like moth orchids, don’t appreciate being too chilled at night, not below around 65°F (18°C).
  3. Increase your ventilation to remove excess hot air and prevent fungal disease spotting on the flowers.
  4. This is usually an opportune time to repot most of your slipper orchids because they should be in active growth now. Also, repot moth orchids and their vandaceous relatives. Attend to this right after they’ve flowered.
  5. Continue your fertilizing program to strengthen new growth.

June, July, and August
Temperatures are starting to heat up now. Some orchids, like a few of the summer blooming hybrid cattleyas, oncidiums, and slipper orchids, will be in flower.
  1. Be sure your windowsill or greenhouse doesn’t get too hot. Consider moving the orchids you have in the south window to the east window, where they’ll have reduced light and heat.
  2. For orchids growing under lights, make sure your growing area gets plenty of ventilation, because it could be getting very warm now under the lights. If you have trouble keeping the temperatures low enough, consider summering your orchids outside
  3. in a shaded and protected spot. They’ll enjoy the vacation.
  4. This is also a prime time for insect problems. If it gets hot and dry, be on the lookout for mites. If it’s wet, slugs and snails will be a plague. Aphids and scale can show up anytime. If you need to spray, do it in the morning when it is cool and be sure the orchids are well watered before you spray.
  5. The orchids should now be responding to your earlier repotting efforts with new root growth.
  6. Repot miltonias. Remember: They like to be pot-bound, so don’t put them in too large of a pot.

Cool evenings and shorter days are signs of the change of season. Many of the hybrid vandas will be at their blooming peak this month. Buds will be showing up for the fall-blooming cattleyas, oncidiums, dendrobiums, angraecums, and moth orchids and slipper orchids.
  1. If you’re in a cold climate, this is the month to bring indoors any plants that have been summering outside. Before doing this, check them closely for pests. If spraying is called for, doing so is much easier while the plants are outdoors.
  2. These cooler nights are very beneficial for setting flower buds and spikes.
  3. Start cutting back on the frequency of watering deciduous orchids like catasetums (which will have yellowing foliage at this time of year).
  4. This is the time to remove shade on the greenhouse in most parts of the country.
  5. Move orchids that require a lot of light from the east window back to the southern exposure.

Some cattleya species and their relatives and hybrids will be in bloom now. So will some moth orchid species and hybrids and oncidiums.
  1. As days continue to shorten and the angle of light gets lower in the sky, position the orchids in your windowsill and greenhouse so that they capture the most light.
  2. For greenhouses and windowsills, be sure your glass or glazing surface is clean. This can make a real difference in light transmission.
  3. Growth will start to slow on many orchids from lower temperatures and light, so reduce watering and fertilizing accordingly.
  4. Get ready for winter. Insulate your greenhouse. Get a standby emergency propane heater.

November and December
Flowering spikes will be showing up on some moth orchids, slippers, and oncidiums. Some of the nobile-type dendrobiums will be starting to show buds. Low light, short days, and cold temperatures bring most orchid growth to a stop or at least a crawl. You’ll see more growth on plants grown under lights than in a greenhouse or on a windowsill because of the additional light that can be provided.
  1. For cold parts of the country, November is the last month to safely purchase mail-order plants before it gets so cold that there will be a higher risk chance for freeze damage in transit. This a great time to visit orchid nurseries to pick out holiday presents for your orchid growing friends (or yourself!).
  2. Put orchids that require more light, like vandas, in a bright window, close to the lights, or high in the greenhouse to expose them to as much light as possible.
  3. Water in the early part of the day to ensure that there is no standing moisture on the leaves. In cold, damp weather, especially, such moisture can cause disease outbreaks.

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