Most orchids are easy to grow indoors because they thrive on air
Orchids are a challenge to look after. You need a lot of patience.
And just when you are about to give up, they surprise you with their real beauty -in various shapes, sizes, colours and fragrances. And like most pretty things, they are high-maintenance. However, not all orchids are difficult to grow. Some are practically indestructible. It is estimated that there are more than 1,300 species of orchids found in India, primarily in the Northeast -Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh -and also in Sikkim and south India. Most orchids are perennial herbs with simple leaves and if raised in the right conditions (temperature not less than 1617oC), they should last eight weeks with flowers, after which the blooms slowly start dropping off. They eventually re-flower. A word of caution: Never cut off the aerial roots, and never, ever remove the orchids from the pots they root in.
Growing orchids can be addictive. Most orchids you get in nurseries are hybrids, created specifically for flowers. They are easy to care for at homes and offices. However, a few things should be kept in mind, like light and humidity. If you can imitate a plant’s natural habitat, it will thrive.
FOR A GOOD START
The most commonly available orchids, such as the Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis and Cattleya are so popular because they grow well at home. Phalaenopsis hybrids are usually considered the `beginners’ orchids’, largely because they rebloom under the conditions most windowsill growers can offer them. They require lower light. African violets can adapt to different humidity levels. They, however, easily die off due to over-watering. Under watering can be a problem too. In Vedic scriptures, there is mention of a plant named Vanda, which has been adapted as a generic name for one of the most beautiful group of orchids. Vandas could be mostly found on trees. And unlike most plants, they do not grow in soil, but air. Their roots attach to trees or rocks, and they draw moisture and nutrients that wash over them in the forest. Beginners often make the mistake of assuming that orchids need to be potted in soil like other blooming flowers. That would be a grave mistake. Most orchid roots need far more air than potting soil would give them. So, look for a porous mix.
Direct sunlight should be avoided. Some common types of orchids that thrive on bright light are Cattleya and Vanda, while low light is preferred by Phalaenopsis and Pahiopedilum, among others. Orchids should be given as much light as they can tolerate. Varieties with thicker and erect leaves can tolerate more light than those with thinner or more horizontal leaves. Too little light is one of the common mistakes beginners make.
Warm-growing orchids like day temperatures between 21oC and 29oC. This includes Phalaenopsis orchids. The commonly available orchids that are sold in nurseries do well in temperatures that are comfortable for human beings.
Most orchids like about 70 per cent humidity in the atmosphere, which is more humid than most homes. So, you have to make an effort to provide your plants with extra humidity. Orchids usually appreciate misting with a spray bottle. If the plant has aerial roots growing up and out of the pot, those roots will like getting some moisture. At home, you can keep the planter on a tray. Fill it with water and gravel. As the water evaporates, it will provide some extra humidity to the plant. For anyone keeping tropical plants on a windowsill, this technique really helps.
Orchids need nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium for growth.
Overwatering kills far more orchids than under watering. When in doubt, just don’t water. The potting mix also has a lot to do with how often an orchid needs watering. Most orchids are sold in mixes that allow for weekly watering. Don’t water until the soil is approaching dryness. To water an orchid, just submerge the pot in a bucket for a few seconds, then lift it out and let the excess water drain off.
Beginners often wonder how to prune orchids.
Trimming old flower stems that have turned brown is a good idea. If it’s still green, it may re-bloom, either from the tip or by branching further back on the stem. Trimming orchids should only be done to remove leaves, roots, or flower stems that have already died or have turned brown. You must sterilize your cutting tools or usedisposable ones so that you don’t spread diseases between plants. The best time to re-pot is when new roots start to grow. So, what are you waiting for? Get started.