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Orchids - Guide
This large plant family (of more than 20 000 species) are, contrary to popular believe, quite easy to grow because of their adaptability and you simply need a glasshouse in frosty areas, a shadehouse or grow them indoors. The flowers range widely in colour, shape and size but each bloom has three, usually narrow, petal-like sepals. These petals/sepals have a middle lip of different shape, (and usually colour) and is often recurving and trilobed. Orchids vary from a couple of centimeters high to over 2m long and categorized as (a) tree-growing epiphytes or (b) soil-growing terrestrials. There are, though, a few species that have to depend on a symbiotic relationship for feeding. These quite-difficult-to-grow (c) saprophytic orchids need the fungi that cover their roots to feed them through a process of breaking down debris of other plants. Whatever they are, they reward us with blooms showy without exception.
Copying the orchids natural needs are essential and this goes for its potting mediums, light-, moisture- and heat requirements. If passionate about orchids, join a club!
Potting mixtures: terrestrials mostly require a fairly rich and fibrous soil that can be bought commercially, or mix your own medium with 2 parts each of leaf mould and washed river sand, 3 parts of chopped fibrous loam and 1 part imported sphagnum moss. Epiphytic plants can be grown from trunks, over pine bark or other suitable mediums.
Air flow: provide fresh air to orchids without changing the humidity or temperature and avoid causing draughts. Installing extractor fans, fitting ventilators at the bottoms and tops of the glasshouse or opening the windows when possible can achieve this.
Regulate temperatures by 'shading' the glasshouse in summer, through whitewashing or blinds for instance.
Provide heat (in cooler areas) by installing a thermostatically controlled electric fan heater. Ensure (in most cases) summer temperatures of 22ºC and winter temperatures of above 16ºC.
Provide moisture through humidity (which should mostly be 60%) by spraying the floors and shelves regularly with water. Avoid spraying directly on the plants or their containers. Do this according to seasonal needs and weather. In winter spraying thrice weekly will be enough, but in summer you could find it necessary to do it twice a day.
Note: When you have to go away on holiday, make sure to soak the plants thoroughly but avoid watering on the leaves. Pots can also be placed in a tray, half their depth, filled with gravel. Trickle water, through a hose, slowly into this tray.
Propagation is mostly done through the pseudobulbs (fleshy stems that bear one or more water-reserving leaves). These pseudobulbs multiply through ongoing tip-growth that can be divided and planted. Alternatively, some divide clumps. Propagation of species without pseudobulbs are done through stem cuttings.
Note: many orchids rest during winter and produce little, if any, flowers.