Taking care of Orchids

 
Looking after Orchids on the window-sill
It should be challenge for everybody to look after these beautiful plants and to see them flower. Orchids do not need any extra care compared to other houseplants. Their optimum growing temperature depends very much on the variety you want to grow. In most cases a regular living room temperature is good enough for many varieties. New varieties or hybrids of Orchids, especially for the windowsill are raised all the time.
If you are a beginner grower you are advised to start with Phalaenopsis. Within Phalaenopsis there are many hybrids (crossings), large flowers and an abundance of colours. These are also the plants that can flower all year round. Whenever a stem has finished flowering, that same stem can produce flowers again. That is why we advise you to cut off the stem above the 2nd or 3rd eye after flowering. This will give you the biggest chance that the stem will flower again, or even grow a fully new stem. You will have to be patient as most Orchids only flower once a year.
In general all plants will have a rest period after flowering, depending on the variety and type of Orchid. During the rest period the plant requires less warmth and water. Important is the potting compost in which the Orchids are grown, as one mixture is drier than the other.
The four most important growing impulses are:
light, warmth, water, and fertiliser.
 

Light

Light is the most important source of life. Sun-energy is absorbed and stored by the plant as sugars and other compounds. The plant produces energy from carbonic acid, water and light by means of its leaves (assimilation). In the summer the plant needs to be protected by curtains or sunscreens. Never place the plant in full sunlight. Too much light will cause burned leaves and the shine of the leaves will disappear. In winter, on the other hand, it is important to use all the sunlight that enters the house.

Temperature

Warmth and moisture stimulate the plant's growth. By insufficient temperature plant-growth will be slowed down. This can mean a stunted growth. Daytime temperature should be 19 to 25 C° and night-time temperature 16 to 19 C°.

 

Water

Life without water is unthinkable. A healthy root system can absorb sufficient water and distribute it to the leaves. Sugars are transformed into energy with help of water and oxygen. This energy is used by the plant to produce flowers and to stay alive. How much water should be given? Not too much, but definitely not too little. This is something you should develop a feeling for when taking care of Orchids. Whenever the plant is in full growth it will need more water. In winter it usually needs less water. It is better to give the plant insufficient water than too much. Too much water will cause rotting of the roots. It is best to let the soil dry out between watering. In winter the orchids need watering once a week, in summer this could be 2 to 3 times a week. Make sure you add the water from below (in a saucer) so the plant does not absorb all the water in one day.
 
  Watering can be done on the pot from above. By placing the pot in a bigger decorative pot (e.g. stone) and a little raised, the water can seep away from the plant and you will thus avoid root-damage through rotting. If you prefer watering from below on the saucer, then only give as much as the plant requires for one day, to avoid the plant being stood in water.


Fertilising

Orchids do need fertilisers. How much, again, depends on the season of flowering and rest period of the plant. Advice is to follow the following scheme: from half February until half October add extra potassium+ once a month. From half October till half February the plant doesn't need any extra fertiliser. All other elements such as nitrogen, phosphor and normal potassium should be available in the fertiliser too. General fertiliser for houseplants will do, but even better is special fertiliser for Orchids, as this contains the right balance between the elements.
 


Transplanting

In general orchids are transplanted once in the two or three years. In spring you need to transplant the Orchids that flower in autumn. In September/October you will have to transplant the spring flowering Orchids. Orchids that grow with a fake tuber need to be planted with the tuber against the inside of the pot, so the young sprout will grow in the centre of the pot. Orchids, like Phalaenopsis, should be planted in the middle of the pot. Only use airy potting compost, with preference for special Orchid mix.
 


New blooms

When the first flowers on the stem have died you are advised to cut off the stem as low as possible. After this you give the plant a rest period. This is a general rule for all Orchids, except the most popular pot Orchid Phalaenopsis. This particular Orchid needs to be cut above the second or third eye. The benefit is that a new stem will appear within some weeks (to some months), while other orchids need 4 to 8 months to produce a new stem. This particular trick with Phalaenopsis can only be done once or twice, after that you need to cut of the stem of this variety as low as possible too.


Some handy tips:

  • Special fertilisers for Orchids are available from your local garden centre. If you use general houseplant fertiliser, you are advised to use half of the dose mentioned on the packaging.
  • If you use fertiliser regularly it is best to rinse the soil now and then with clean water, to prevent the soil from absorbing too much salt and to avoid the plant from suffocating.
  • When you transplant the Orchid, make sure to take off the old. Leave the plant to dry out for a day, only then plant the Orchid in new potting compost. Of course the best soil is special Orchid potting compost.
  • Many Orchids originate from countries where it is warm and humid. The best way to create a similar condition at home is to use a bigger decorative pot. This pot should be filled with a layer of gravel of approx. 1 cm. The gravel should be moisture. Put the plastic pot with the Orchid on top of the gravel. The water between the gravel will evaporate, providing optimum conditions for the Orchid.