Orchids: how to keep your beautiful pot plant alive and blooming.
It’s spring. Beautify your household with greenery, we’re thinking a specific family of flowering plants – Orchids. The past weekend, we had an Orchid Show where many visitors were given the opportunity to take home their own orchid plants.
The orchid is a fascinating family. Their first blooming occurred during the time of the “thunder lizards”. But what is remarkable is how a plant family that evolved 100 million years ago, has survived what the great dinosaurs could not. There was a mass extinction event about 65 million years ago, where most life at the time perished. Yet the orchid flourished.
Today, there are tens of thousands of species of the plant. And it has enraptured the hearts of many. Societies dedicated to its blooming flowers can be found throughout the world.
Now that you presumably have one, what is the best way to take care of it? Well, usually there are simple instructions when you purchase one. We’ll explain what this means.
High light, warm area.
Oft times, when you purchase an orchid as an already made pot plant, it will come with a tag that says ‘medium’ ‘high’ or ‘low’ light.
If your orchid requires high light, this simply means access to large amounts of light per day. It does not necessarily mean you should expose your orchid to direct sunlight. It’s advised to look on the Internet for specific times for specific species, but as a general rule of thumb you can keep your orchid behind window curtains or blinds on the West or South windows of your house. This should ensure they get enough light. You just need to be careful during late Spring (November) to early Autumn (March) of too much direct sunlight on your orchids. This will result in burning of the leaves.
In which case, you want to limit their time in that position; play it by ear but try shade them from the direct light as much as you can – and most certainly in high summer. High light doesn’t mean direct light. High light is a reference to the intensity of light.
Low light, warm area.
Here, the orchids require less sunlight for photosynthesis. You can place them by windows that get less light (and light that in itself is less intense) such as the North and East windows. If you place them West or South, make sure they’re protected from the amount of light they receive. Even in winter, try to ensure they’re shaded.
This one’s a bit tricky for people. It’s easy to over or under water a plant. Again, the amount of water an orchid needs may be dependent on the specific species you have. But the important thing to consider is: is my plant drowning?
How would you feel if you were force fed water in high amounts? Probably flooded. In people, too much water means an inability to process the volume of water – leading to swelling of the brain.
In plants, it is similar. Ensure when you buy your orchid, that its pot has a drainage system. Most pots have holes at the bottom. This allows excess water to drain through. When you’re watering your plants, water them only until water seeps through the bottom. Stop immediately.
Another tip: tempting as it may be, do not water the plant itself. Not the leaves, not the flowers. Simply the soil. That’s because a plant only requires that its roots receive water.
You want to water about once a week in winter, and twice in summer – though this will also depend on how hot your house gets. And water only in the morning. It’s advised that your orchid has damp soil by night time.
Another trick is to take a pencil and stick it into the soil of your orchid’s pot about an inch. Examine it. If it looks moist, there’s enough water in the soil.
Another important aspect of water care is temperature. You want the water you use to be about ambient temperature. Don’t use water that is too cold compared to the room temp and certainly don’t use hot water under any circumstances – an orchid is not a tea to be brewed.
This one’s the easiest of all. Simply visit Woolworth’s at Greenstone, and pick up a bottle of universal plant food fertiliser. It has clear instructions on how to feed your orchid.
There you go! Remember, do research on your specific orchid species, but these general principles should help keep your orchid in good health and good bloom for a very long time. Anecdotally, stories abound that singing, talking, or playing music to your plant help its health too.
We recommend orchestral music, especially anything with the cello.