A jewel of the family
Care and culture in
Wandering into the world of Orchid collecting and care can have its dangers - it's a journey that may never end. The diversity and complexity of this very large family of plants is unmatched in the plant kingdom. If you considered all of the plant species on the earth today, one of every fourteen species would be an orchid. Orchids, once considered the flower of kings, have mastered every environmental niche on earth. From the hot, coastal areas of the tropics to the towering chilly Himalayan mountains. And from the steamy equatorial jungles to the near- Arctic.
Actually it is this diversity of habitat that makes orchid care so intriguing and challenging. A particular species of orchid expects the plant grower to duplicate the conditions of its native home, without much variance. For best success, then, it's helpful know where your orchid grows naturally.
Probably the orchid receiving the greatest surge in popularity today is the Phalaenopsis, or Moth orchid. This orchid comes to us from some very warm and humid areas, the Philippines, New Guinea and Burma. They grow off the ground attached to the trunk of trees. We call such a plant an epiphyte. Their roots do not grow into the soil and do not want to be constantly wet. This is the reason for potting our orchid in a very loose mediums such as coarse bark chips or
lava rock. Misting the roots every few days or simply pouring a few ounces of water through the pot weekly is the proper way to water. The best temperature range is from 65 degres F at night to a high ofaround 85 degrees F during the day. Good ventilation, even from a fan is also helpful for good growth. Direct
morning sun is ideal but protect your plant from the hot afternoon sun-rays.
After the last flower has faded and fallen off cut back the flower spike about one third from the tip and you will likely be rewarded with another one or two new spikes from the original one - with several more flower buds. A Phalaenopsis orchid, then, may be in bloom for 3 to 5 months out of the year.
While the plant is blooming or actively growing it's best to add some fertilizer to your water monthly. The solution, though, should be diluted to on teaspoon of a good houseplant fertilizer in a gallon of water.