AP NEWS

Keep orchids beautiful and blooming

October 26, 2017

MUKWONAGO, WI — Lift personal inner feelings and enliven the homes indoor décor or give someone the gift of beautiful blooming orchids. It’s easy to enjoy these exotic blossoms for months with just minimal care – once a person knows what to do.

Start with a healthy flowering plant. The phalaenopsis or moth orchid is the most widely available and easiest to grow. It’s similar to caring for an African violet. When it is provided with the proper growing conditions, maintenance is a breeze.

The challenge comes with less-than-ideal indoor growing conditions of low light and dry air. Fortunately, there are a few things that can be done to create a better environment for an orchid.

Keep in mind that most orchids are epiphytes. In nature they grow on other plants and obtain water and nutrients from the air, water and plant debris that accumulates in their environment.

This is why they are grown in an orchid mix made of organic material such as peat, fir bark and perlite. This or a similar combination retains water while providing needed drainage.

Give the orchid a good soaking once a week. Pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer. Don’t allow orchids to sit in water and don’t water them too often. This can lead to root rot and death of the plant.

Further improve the environment by increasing the humidity around the plant. Group them with other orchids and indoor plants. As one plant loses moisture, or “transpires”, the others will benefit from the increase in humidity. Plus, it will create a beautiful display while improving the growing conditions.

Alternatively, humidity trays can be created. To do this place pebbles in a saucer and the potted orchid on top of the pebbles. Allow excess water to collect in the pebbles below the pot.

As the water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plant. This also eliminates the need to pour off the excess water that collects in the saucer.

For larger plant collections use rubber humidity plant tray grids. These save space by allowing the placement of several plants on one tray. These are perfect for growing on tables or light stands.

Place the plant in a bright location. Orchids do best with 12 to 14 hours of sunlight. Unobstructed south- or east-facing windows are usually the best. Or give plants a boost with artificial lights. Newer full spectrum LED lights provide needed light while using less energy.

And there’s no reason to hide the orchid and light setup in the basement. Check out the attractive, new indoor grow light systems like the Coltura LED Grow Frame found at www.gardeners.com. It can be mounted on the wall or set on a table. Either way, the orchids will be in full view for all to enjoy.

Fertilize actively growing plants with an orchid fertilizer. Michigan State University developed a fertilizer that efficiently provides the nutrients orchids need. They have “Orchid Tap Water” and “Orchid Pure Water Fertilizer” formulations. Just follow label directions for best results.

Once the plants are done flowering, they can be kept growing indoors. If up for a challenge, try reblooming. On phalaenopsis orchids, just cut back the flowering stem between the second or third node from the bottom.

Or give the plant a rest and cut the flower stem back to the leaves. Continue to provide proper care and wait to see if the effort is successful.

Growers can also simply treat an orchid plant like a long-lasting bouquet. That way there’s no guilt if the decision is made to toss it. And if the guilt is too much, just look for an avid gardener. There’s always someone who would be happy to adopt and try to rebloom a non-flowering plant.

About Myers

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening for Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments.

Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise to write this article. Myers’s web site is www.melindamyers.com.