Getting Orchids to Bloom
Helping an Orchid to flower is one of the indoor gardener’s most rewarding tasks. The secret lies in knowing how to make the plant feel it is at home in its natural habitat.
Although orchid plants are just as lovely when green and growing well, it is for their exotic blooms that they are most prized.
To get them to bloom year after year you need to learn as much as you can about the natural growing conditions of each variety you have. There are some 25000 orchids species in the world and some 60000 man-made hybrids.
You will buy your orchid in bloom, so plan ahead for the next year’s flowers as soon as possible. Don’t leave your new orchid on display in the living room when it is past its best. Cut the flower spikes off from long-blooming types after 2-3 weeks you can use it as a cut flower. This conserves the plant’s energy for next year’s growth and flowering. Rest is very important for the plant and during this time buds form. Rest periods differ depending on the variety.
At this time the orchid needs much less water than during its growing period. Epiphytic orchids ( those that grows naturally perched on a branch in aerial positions ) such as Calanthe, should be allowed to dry out almost completely.
Terrestrial orchids (those that grow on the ground) such as Cymbidium and Paphiopedilums have no definite rest period. They should be kept evenly moist throughout the year, but need a little more water when in bloom.
Light is extremely important for bud formation. In the tropics, where many orchids originate, a day is 12 hours long. Orchids need plenty of light all year round, but during the flowering season they need more. However, they need protection from direct rays of strong sun, which can scorch leaves. Protect the latter from direct light all year.
You can also boost the number of light hours for the plant by using artificial light. In winter when days are shorter, perhaps only 7-8 hours and the sunlight is not very strong, ,they will need as much natural light as possible, and some artificial light. Special light fixtures are available for this purpose. They can be placed quite close to the plants without harm.
The artificial lighting can either replace or supplement natural light. Where natural light is poor the lights should be left on for 12 hours each day. If the natural lighting conditions are good, leave the lamps on just enough to bring the total light hours up to 12 orchids can take a few more hours of light, but more can have a harmful effect on flowering.
Tropical orchids need higher temperatures than those from more temperate areas. The general rule is to increase temperatures as spring and summer approach. Humidity is just as important as temperature. Ideally you should offer your orchid a humidity level of 60-70%. Create this by keeping the air around the plants moist.
During the flowering season, regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer is essential to produce healthy orchids. These are preparations specially made for nourishing most types of orchids.
Commercial orchid potting mixtures are available. If you make your own growing medium, make sure the ingredients are sterilized. This will prevent problems such as rot.
Epiphytic orchids which grown on logs or branches of trees can be attached to pieces of tree fern stem or cork oak bark. If you prefer to grow them in post use a potting mixture of orchid barkor osmunda fiber. Place pieces of broken clay shards in the base of the pot to ensure good drainage. Regular watering and feeding will be necessary as the mixture is fast-draining. Keep these orchids almost dry during the rest period.
For terrestrial or ground orchids use a coarse potting mixture. It should be rich in hums. To achieve this add peat and per-lite to the mixture given for epiphytic orchids.
Different plants are available at different times all through the year. It is best to buy them when the plant is just about to flower.
Orchids are available at some garden centers but it is better to buy from nurseries and specialist growers. Check that their foliage looks healthy and the root system is well established.