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How to plant and care for orchids?
Learn how to cultivate orchids in simple, easy steps and what you need to know to care for orchids properly.
How to grow orchids?
Orchids grow naturally in tropical and subtropical climates, however, you need to grow them in the right climate to obtain the highest quality, and that means you need to carefully consider how to best grow orchids.
They will grow best if the soil is well-drained and always kept moist, so it's good to use a shallow pot of loam with good drainage (gravel, medium stone, peat). The orchid is shallow-rooted, so you'll need to consider how much room you need for the roots to grow, as they don't spread very much.
Orchids need to be kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and if you can manage a greenhouse or conservatory you'll have the perfect growing area for orchids (though these may be difficult to manage). But in a well-insulated glasshouse, with a base temperature of around 21°C (70°F), you'll get very good results.
Once you've established your greenhouse, you need to consider the light that it receives and how to best place the plants within the greenhouse. Orchids like bright, indirect light, so it's best to stick to recessed grow-lights. If you have a hot-water system, there are pots you can use for direct or diffuse light, but otherwise you'll need to consider direct sun or lighting with an appropriate light spectrum.
Orchids like to be shaded out of the wind at the end of the day, so most breeders grow them in front of a fan in a shaded, airy and windless area.
Once you have your greenhouse setup, you need to know what orchids require from you in terms of soil, watering and feeding. While there are several different types, you'll generally need to stick to general purpose compost, high in potassium (around 15%) and calcium (3%) or peat (around 30%). Orchids like a little extra of anything added to the soil, so make sure that it contains a small amount of these nutrients. You can also add a good teaspoon of gypsum to the soil as a natural fertilizer.
As orchids don't get much nutrients from the soil, you'll need to keep an eye on any leaf loss and help the plants get the right amount of nutrients they need. Orchids usually need a 15% potassium (K) and 7% calcium (Ca) mix, but can also use a 10% mix. Orchid foliage generally need a little higher potash (potassium), around 20%, and it's good to get a good quality complete plant food into your plants.
If you start with well-rotted compost, it will stay moist and work well with the soil. If you use soil, add some of the orchid food to it, then mix in the compost. When you change the soil, you need to start off with a fresh amount, to allow the nutrients in.
How do you know if your orchid is growing well?
You can get a good idea of how your orchid is doing from the leaves. You will see a difference in leaf colour between any normal part of growth and green parts, which will begin to turn yellow. This is because the leaves are no longer taking up any photosynthates from the plant. In severe cases of poor growth, the leaves can turn completely brown.
Foliage will generally start to wither and break off if the orchid is no longer getting enough of its nutrients from the soil. This can also happen if the orchid is under stress, as it will not be able to hold moisture as well.
You can easily grow orchids in the house, even in a cold, dark shed. You can use a winter greenhouse or conservatory for that, or a smaller room inside your home. You can create a small growing area by getting some room, opening up the shelves or putting up a bed board in your room, and then growing your orchids on the surface.
However, you'll need to consider the light and temperature they will