I graduated about a year ago, my major field is Agriculture and ironically, I never had any flower during my career, except by Cempasúchil (that died after a month) 😦
In October, for celebrating our second anniversary, my boyfriend gave me the most beautiful orchid in the world; it was a precious gift but it was also a challenge for me: I had to keep my orchid alive.
Last week my orchid re-bloom for the first time since my boyfriend gave it to me and I am beyond excited. Its is something beautiful to see you orchid grow every day… is amazing how fast they grow! So, I’m not singing victory, but I’ve learn a few things.
First of all we have to start from some common ground: Orchids, they are flowers. Botanically, is a very wide family of flowering plants, named Orchidaceae. At the same time, this family is subdivided in various genus of orchids; the most famouse and commercial orchids now a days are the genus Phalaenopsis, even though they are not the largest genus. Within each specific genus, orchids are also divided by species, and then species are also divided by varieties. This is absolutely so confusing at first, but then there are little details that would help you identify at least the genus.
For example, my beautiful orchid is a Phalaenopsis amabilis var. grandiflora, that is to say:
- Genre: Phalaenopsis
- Specie: amabilis
- Variety: grandiflora
- Specie: amabilis
Phal are mostly ephifythic plants. This is something really useful to know in order to understand what your orchid needs. Epiphyte plants are those who grow upon another plant, like trees; their roots do not need soil, they can perfectly grow in the bark of a tree. They are usually called air plants because they do not root on the soil, they roots are just… free… Ephifytic plants have minimum water and soil requirements, this is why they are so easy maintain them! (in proper climates obviously). Its funny how most of the people (including me) think is really hard to maintain an orchid. Now, after taking care of my orchid for almost a year, I think is a lot more hard to keep alive a Cempasúchil!, but I will talk about this later.
Watering an orchid
Usually, epiphytic orchids may have different type of substrata. I thought the only commercial substrata for this orchids was fir bark (corteza o “tecata” de árbol); but I was wrong, there is also a very common commercial substrata for epiphytic orchid named Sphagnum, which is a a moss.
So the first thing that you should be aware of when buying an orchid is what type of substrate am I dealing with? The thing is that, if your orchid has bark, you will have to water it more often. This is because this substrate does not retain that much humidity which is great because orchids roots do not like excess of moisture and water, but is not exactly right to let the substrate get too dry. The average time to water an orchid with bark as substrate is 3 to 4 days.
With sphagnum, you won’t have to water your orchid that much. This is because, since is a moss, it will retain a lot more humidity than bark. So, orchids with this substrate are even easier to maintain!. Average time to water an orchid with sphagnum as substrate is 3 to 4 days.
I once had an ornamental plant professor which told us that the leading cause of death for orchids in the house or office is because we water them waaaay tooo much! And I think this is true, we have this bad conception that plants should be water ever day; and this is not true at all, specifically for orchids!
Another key element here. Make sure your pot have holes to drain the excess of water. Sometimes we buy beautiful flower pots that are not designed for flowers because they do not have holes to drain, therefore, roots will be in touch with water all the time and they will begin to rot. I think that orchids are more affected by the excess of water than by the lack of it.
In resume, you do not have to fill a special calendar to remember when to water your orchid, you just need to be aware when the substrate starts to get dry. To do this, you can simply touch the substrate. This is what I do, and when the substrata is almost dry, I place my orchid in the sink, and star watering it. After that, I let it dry for about 20 minutes and then put it back into my nice fancy pot (with no holes).
Light requirements for Phaleanopsis are simple: they like light, but not direct light. Placing your orchid near to a window is the perfect spot! The American Orchid Society recommend specifically an east or south facing window; this is because west facing windows can be too hot in the afternoon and north facing windows too dark. If your orchid do not receive the necessary amount of light, she will never bloom 😦 , you can tell if your Phal is lacking of light if the leaves are too green. On the other side, if your orchid is receiving too much light, she will suffer from sun burn.
I believe watering and light are the key elements to maintain your Phal alive. Nevertheless, there are a few more advices that could be useful:
- Don’t touch your orchid with your dirty hands! If you want to manipulate your orchid, make sure your hands are clean and disinfected. We usually have our hand full with dirt that can harm our orchid with a plague, mold or some other diseases.
- Don’t place your orchid near the air conditioner or the minisplit. Nevertheless, is perfectly fine if you turn on the AC , it won’t harm your orchid as long as she is not receiving directly the air.
- While watering, make sure you don’t accidentally drop water in the leaves.
- Remember, don’t overwater your orchids!
- Treat it as if it was your daughter 🙂
A little bit of general culture regarding naming plants.
- Genus, is always written first, in italics and the first letter should be capitalized e.g. Phalaenopsis.
- Species are written following genera, in italics, without capitalizing first letter, e.g. Phalaenopsis amabilis
- Variety is written following specie. First we write var. without italics, and then we write the variety in italics; e.g. Phalaenopsis amabilis. A variety is a name given to a mutation that occurs naturally.
- Cultivar is written following the specie. First we write cv. without italics, and then we write the cultivar in italics; e.g., we can also suppress abbreviation cv. and just write the cultivar in ‘ ‘.This is widely use while talking about fruit cultivars. A cultivar is a name given to a mutation that occurs fue to human influence.
Plant Rescue (2016).Phalaenopsis amabilis. http://www.plantsrescue.com/tag/phalaenopsis-grandiflora/
American Orchid Society (2016). Orchid Potting Media. http://www.aos.org/orchids/additional-resources/potting-media-reviewed.aspx
American Orchid Society (2016). Novice Phalaenopsis Culture Sheet. http://www.aos.org/orchids/culture-sheets/novice-phalaenopsis.aspx
Reed D. (N.D.) Horticulture 202 Lab 3. http://generalhorticulture.tamu.edu/h202/labs/lab3/sciname.html