Thursday, May 30, 2013

Growing Orchids - The Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Orchid Growing

Even for people who are familiar with gardening, growing orchids can pose a unique challenge. These flowers tend to have a reputation for being finicky or difficult to grow. But anyone with actual orchid growing experience can tell you, this isn't necessarily the case.
Just by learning a few simple basics, you can confidently grow virtually ANY orchid with good results. That's why I've compiled this list of "FAQs" to answer the biggest questions (and dispel a few myths)....
FAQ #1: Aren't They Hard to Grow?
Orchids aren't necessarily as difficult to grow as you might think. You just have to learn what particular needs your type of orchid has and then do your best to meet them. Each orchid needs different amounts of sunlight and water, and none of them take well to soil whatsoever. So it's easy to understand why growing them can seem intimidating. Just be sure to find an orchid whose needs you can match, and you should have no troubles!

FAQ #2: What's the Best Orchid for Beginners?
It's generally agreed that the best orchid for beginners is the phalaenopsis orchid, or "moth orchid". These plants are resilient against beginner's mistakes and have a short time to blossom. But nevertheless, they produce brilliant blossoms that you'll love.
They're also quite abundant and inexpensive, so you could even buy several in case you accidentally kill one of them (which does sometimes happen, sad to say). In general, they're just a great plant to learn on when growing orchids!
FAQ #3: How Do I Pick a Good Plant?
Picking a good orchid is similar to picking any other healthy plant. You want to make sure that the shoots and leaves look sturdy and healthy. Make sure that the plant is capable of standing up under its own weight and doesn't look wilted.
If you can, check the root system to make sure it's healthy and flourishing. Look for the presence of flower spikes to get an idea of how many blossoms you can expect your plant to have. (It can help to make a checklist before you go orchid shopping, so that you remember what to look out for.)
FAQ #4: How Can I Keep My Orchid Healthy?
Keeping an orchid healthy is a complex topic, but in a nutshell, it all comes down to maintaining the proper environment for your plant at all times.
If it needs a lot of aeration, don't keep it bogged down in a heavy mix. If it needs indirect sunlight, don't put it right in the sun. If it needs high humidity, don't put it somewhere dry.
Take steps to make sure that you know what the particular needs of your orchid are (there are several thousand unique types of orchid out there!) Also take care to watch your plant to observe how it responds to different techniques you try on your orchid growing adventures.
FAQ #5: Why Isn't it Blooming?
This is probably the most commonly asked question of all. Orchid growers can be a bit anxious about when their plants are going to bloom. Unlike annuals or perennials, orchids can sometimes take up to three years to bloom, and re-blooming after that can be unpredictable. This is why you need to take steps to find out the age of your orchid when you buy it.
Plants labeled as "BS" are ready to bloom within the next year. And those labeled "NBS" may take longer than that. Each orchid has a different time in which it's expected to bloom, so for many people, the answer to this question is simply, "it's just not ready to bloom yet."
If your plant should be blooming, however, and it isn't, then you need to make some changes to the care you're giving it. Ensure that all of its environmental and nutritional requirements are being met. When growing orchids, remember blooming requires a lot of energy and optimal health.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Top Ten Orchid Varieties

My top ten include some surprises that aren't found on anyone else's orchid list. These are the easiest, most beautiful, and most affordable orchids. Each variety comes in many different colors except true black. True blue is rare. This list is also a quick guide to orchid care. But don't stop here! A bit of research to fine-tune the care of your particular orchid will greatly increase the health and longevity - not to mention your joy and appreciation - of their stunning beauty.
Phalaenopsis are also known as moth, phal, and ice orchids. They're first on my list for beginners because they're the most available and inexpensive, they're adaptable to home and office, and phals are among the easiest to grow. They come in every size, shape, and color except blue, with blooms that last 3 to 6 months. They come loosely potted in chunks of bark. Don't repot thinking that the soil is a cheap mixture. Phal roots love this chunky medium that allows light and air circulation, as well as excellent drainage. Note that the soil is not the only odd thing about orchids. They have needs unlike any other houseplant for water, light, humidity, and fertilizer. So follow the instructions attached to your orchid.

Phaius or nun orchids are also easy to care for. You won't find them on any other list, and I'm at a loss for why! These orchids are even easier than phals because they grow in regular but well draining potting soil. They are terrestrial orchids meaning that they grow in the ground rather than the epiphytic phals whose roots in nature cling to tree bark and rocks. You can put nuns outside in the summer and bring them indoors in the winter. They bear dozens of fragrant, 2-3 inch blooms that last a month, and come in a variety of colors including orange and gold.
Cattleya or corsage orchids also come in a variety of colors and sizes. Some blooms are as big as your hand. Like phals they are epiphytic and therefore love bark medium with air circulation and immediate drainage.
Dendrobiums are the most numerous orchid species and found in the most disparate places ranging from the tropics, to 10,000 ft mountain elevations, to swampy lowlands. Like phals and cattleyas, in the wild they cling to trees and thus love a bark medium. Dendrobium is Greek for "life in a tree". Dendrobiums are the second most readily available orchids after phals. The hybrid "nobile" is the easiest. The hardest thing about this orchid is not doing anything for the dormant period of 2-3 months in the winter, when the leaves completely drop. You must not water or feed during this time. Just mist once a month.
Miltonias or pansy orchids have no set blooming time. A large plant can be blooming intermittently throughout the year. Note - do not rub the flowers. They are very soft and bruise easily as their structure is essentially similar to a butterfly's wing. Microscopic villi (hairs) cover the entire surface and bear most of the pigmentation.
Paphiopedilum, or venus slipper orchids, are terrestrials or soil-dwellers. Most have a single flower per stalk, but there are varieties with multiple flowers. They are relatively easy to care for if you provide the plant with the right temperature range: mottled leaves need warmer conditions than do solid green leaves. Blooms typically last 2 to 3 months.
Phragmipediums or phrags are similar to paphs, but phrags are the lady slipper orchids. Most bear multiple flowers per stem, opening only one at a time, and have plain green leaves. Unlike most every other orchid, phrags like to be kept soaking wet. This is one kind that actually can sit in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water most of the time.

Oncidiums, commonly referred to as dancing lady or dancing girl orchids, are also easy to grow. Since this is a large genus with different species originating in a wide variety of climates, it is helpful to know the growing requirements of the particular species you select. Oncidiums have smallish flowers in clusters of 50 or more in colors of yellow, purple, red, pink, and white, often with unique markings.
Zygopetalum orchids are very fragrant and easy to care for. They fall in the general category of "soft leaf" orchids because of their leathery leaves. These orchids have colors of green, purple, burgundy, and raspberry, with a variety of patterns. The scent is strong like a Hyacinth or Narcissus. Most are terrestrial, but a few are epiphytic. They must have fall nights in the 40s in order to bloom. Leaves will spot when temperatures are high, but this does not harm the plant. Also, leaves may drop each year or be held on the plant for 2 years. When they become unsightly they may be clipped off. Do not allow water to enter the funnel-shaped growths or they will rot!
Epidendrum orchids are epiphytes. Also called the poor man's orchid, star orchid, and crucifix orchid, they too are among the easiest to grow. This was the first epiphytic orchid to bloom in captivity in 1787, in England. Many of the flowers are fragrant. Some plants are almost everblooming. Colors range from white, yellow, pink, orange and purple.
General Care
Water and Humidity - imagine a tropical rain forest where moisture is abundant with frequent rainfall and high humidity, but also where heat dries everything between rainfalls. These are the conditions your orchid loves. To achieve this, water once a week by placing the pot under the faucet, and running tepid water for 15 seconds, allowing the water to run over the roots and immediately out the bottom of the pot. Most orchids hate any kind of soggy soil conditions. Morning is the best time to water. You can also water with an ice cube on the top of the soil once a day, or 3-6 ice cubes once a week - follow the instructions that came with your orchid. If you do this "ice cube method" be sure to water under a tap once a month to flush away harmful deposits. You have to get to know your orchid - cattleyas for instance take a rest after blooming and want far less water during this period. It's possible to give your orchid higher humidity by keeping the pot on a bed of wet stones in a tray or deep dish. Be sure the roots do not touch the water.
Temperature - most orchids do well in home and office environments of nights in the 60's and days in the 70's. Many orchids need a cool spell after they bloom in order to bloom again.
Light - east facing light is best, filtered by a white shade or curtain. Imagine the bright but mottled light of the tropical rainforest floor. Direct sun will cause sunburn. Orchid leaves will generally tell you if they are getting enough or too much light: cattleya leaves for instance turn jade green if they don't get enough light, yellowish green with purplish blushing around the edges when they have good light. Yellow leaves generally mean too much light or an orchid disease.
Fertilizer - all orchids like a very mild diluted fertilizer on a regular basis such as every other week. Whatever the mixing instructions are, cut them in half or a quarter. Be careful of orchids with a dormant phase where no watering or feeding should occur. Flowering orchids like more frequent fertilizing.
Conclusion. So there you have it - my absolute favorite orchid varieties. Have fun and enjoy.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Wonders of the Rare Blue Orchids

Regarded as rare flowers, blue orchids nonetheless are popular, beautiful, and entail deep meanings. They appear astonishing even to people who are not flower enthusiasts as they are a species that brings happiness and satisfaction to the senses, especially to the human eye. Originated from ancient Greece, the blue ones were assumed to be symbols of virility just like other orchids as the term orchid comes from Greek word "orchis" which literally means testicle. For the early civilizations like the Aztecs, the blue colored orchid flowers were regarded as flowers of strength, whereas for the Chinese they contained medicinal properties as they were believed to cure coughs and lung diseases.

The endangered status that is attributed to the blue orchid species is due to human disturbances and even destruction of their natural habitat. Only a few of their kind are left, among which we can find the Blue Coerulea, Blue Coerulescens and Blue Dendrobium. As they belong to the Orchidaceae family, they can be cultivated just like orchid species through areal cutting, division, keiki, meristem, seeds and tissue culture. The practice of dyeing white orchids with blue dye remains popular among florists when demands are hard to fulfil with natural supplies. Hybridization techniques also play a significant role in the continuing presence of the blue orchids to answer public demands for such type of orchid species.
Orchids in blue are royal flowers. As symbols of tranquility, being associated with the color of the ocean, orchid flowers represent power, stability and depth. They are sweet flowers imbued with delicate beauty, especially when combined or mixed with other flowers, colors. Consider some of the following:
A graceful wedding reception with blue and white
The combination of blue orchids and white lilies makes a wonderful flower arrangement for a wedding reception. Mixing the two types of flowers, blue and white tones respectively, gives a graceful and delicate touch to the wedding event. The purity of white lilies and the deep tone of blue orchids convey an immediate impact of softness to the whole setup.
Elegant bridal bouquet
The mixture of blue orchid flowers and white lilies in round bouquets makes an elegant bridal piece. Having this kind of bridal bouquet surely turns the bride into the center of attraction and subject of envy for the other women.
Wonderful and exquisite centerpieces
With orchids in blue anyone can have centerpieces for offices, homes or for whatever occasion, set up in round bowls. Letting the blue orchid flowers float in water makes a perfect underwater theme even in the most casual or ordinary days. After all, it does not take a big event to make the day special!
Bouquets for all season
Bouquets, either in round or cascading style, are exquisite in themselves. The combination of blue orchid species and white colored flowers such as white lilies, roses or orchids is a perfect match. White flowers should surround the blue orchid to make a soft bordering and immaculate appearance. The bouquets serve for all occasions.

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