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Wisconsin's Tropical Gardens


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Orchids are becoming easier to grow in the home. If you have ever successfully grown a houseplant, you can grow orchids. There are several varieties available. Follow the directions for each different variety. The following is for general Orchid care.

LIGHT: No houseplant or Orchid will do well without adequate light. Most orchids will do well on a bright east or west windowsill or a lightly shaded south windowsill. A north window will rarely provide sufficient light. Do not compensate for poor light by extending hours of light. In fact, this may be detrimental to the plants health and may prevent flowering. Most orchids grown in northern climates will appreciate a summer vacation outside. Be especially aware of direct sun and protect shade-loving plants.

TEMPERATURE: Most orchid plants will be happy where you are comfortable, temperature wise. Typical home temperatures of 55-65°at night and 75-80° during the day are fine for most varieties. Watch for excessively low or high temperatures near the window glass.

WATER/HUMIDITY: Provide as much humidity as possible by grouping your plants and/or placing on a pebble-filled tray partially filled with water, being careful to keep the pots above the water level. Care must be taken to water only when needed. Usually plants in less light require water less often. A warmer, brighter environment will necessitate watering more often. Be sure to follow the watering requirements for each variety. Unless directed otherwise, do not allow the pot to sit in water. Feed with every watering with a liquid fertilizer mixed to 1/4 the recommended strength. Flush with clear water monthly to remove any excess salts.

Most orchids are grown in a loose, well-drained mix. This may be a bark mix, coir-based mix or sphagnum moss. Each has its own water-retentive properties so care must be taken to match water requirements of the plant and environmental factors with the right potting mix.

For example, bark mixes are usually loose and water drains quickly, especially when first repotted as the bark retains little water when it is new. After bark begins to break down, it retains water far more. So newly repotted orchids in bark need to be watered more often and less after the first month or so.

Sphagnum moss, on the other hand, is great at retaining water so you must use a different watering regimen for those plants potted in moss. Before watering, the media should be nearly dry, but not crisp yet. Once a plant in sphagnum moss is watered properly, you may not need to water it again for a week or two, depending on the ambient conditions and size of pot.

Several varieties of orchids are available at various times of the year in limited quantities. These varieties include Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, and Oncidium-types. They may be available in 4" pots, and sometimes in 5" clay and 6" pots. Watch for unusual varieties that become available on a very limited basis.