Orchids have become extremely popular since the advent of tissue culture has made these once-expensive plants affordable. It’s easy to catch orchid fever, and beginners need to proceed carefully if they want to wind up with a satisfactory collection. Here are some ideas for building one:
1) You’ll be tempted to buy every beautiful flower you see, but don’t. Orchids are more specific in their needs than many other houseplants, and if you buy those that aren’t suited to your conditions, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
2) If you long for a large collection, you’ll be tempted to buy immature plants so you’ll get more for your money. Resist this urge. Young plants are harder to care for and may be years away from bloom. Nothing is more discouraging than caring for hundreds of plants when almost nothing blooms.
3) Be careful of bargains. Some bargains are perfectly good older hybrids that just aren’t in much demand any more. Others may be diseased plants or plants whose root systems are damaged. Always buy from a reputable grower, and make sure there are plenty of healthy green or white roots.
4) Select your plants from the types that are easiest to grow. Here are some of the best:
Phalaenopsis: Everyone who has warm and shady conditions should try this most rewarding orchid. These often stay in bloom for as long as a year, and six months is typical for many hybrids. Remember that these orchids have no water storage organs, so they must not dry out completely. Be sure to try some of the scented hybrids. This group tends to bloom in summer, while the unscented types are usually at their peak in winter. Between the two of them, you can have flowers year round.
Paphiopedlilum: These need to stay moister than most orchids, and are therefore ideal for beginners with a tendency to over-water. Although not as long-blooming as Phalaenopsis, the blooms can last for months and many of them are very easy. Mottled-leaf types like to be warmer than plain green leafed types. All like shade and can be grown in the house.
Cattleya: These orchids are extraordinarily tolerant of a variety of conditions. They prefer cooler temperatures than Phalaenopsis and paphliopediliums, and will enjoy a winter in a sunroom or greenhouse with nighttime temperatures around 55 degrees. Many have spectacular flowers and are heavily scented. Flowers last up to two months.
Dendrobium: These vary a great deal by species, so ask for advice before selecting one. Some are evergreen, and others drop their leaves in winter. Many are easy to bloom, but they tend to need more light than the types listed above.
5) Resist the urge to over-pot your plants unless you’re sure they need it. Most orchids require far less repotting than other house plants you may have grown. Repotting an orchid may kill it if the mix stays too wet because there’s too much of it. Select the pot size according to the size of the root system, not the size of the plant.
With time and practice, you will be able to add more exotic varieties to your collection, and your orchids will bring you years of pleasure.