It is estimated that there are more than 30.000 varieties of orchids in the world. An orchid is a member of the Orchidaceae family, which contains the majority of flowering plant genera.
A wide variety of orchids can grow in nearly every habitat and can be found on all continents except Antarctica. Many orchid species thrive in humid environments, so they are usually found in the wild, especially in tropical rainforests.
Due to their clinging ability, orchids that grow in rainforests are known as epiphytes.
Orchids that grow on the ground are terrestrials, while those that grow on rocks are lithophytes.
Almost all orchids’ varieties are available for cultivation and they are the most sought after houseplants.
You can find orchids in different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. In this article, we discuss orchid care in general.
Requirements for Successful Orchid Growth
It may seem simple to take care of orchids, but proper care is crucial to ensure their success.
Although orchid growing can be difficult for new growers due to orchids’ reputation as difficult plants to grow, a basic understanding of orchid care is required. As with all plants, it is critical to provide your orchids with adequate and appropriate temperature, light, humidity, fertilizers, and ideal growing material.
Temperature Requirements for Orchid Growth
Is temperature important for successful orchid growth? Yes. Orchids need the right, regulated temperature for optimal growth. A drop in nighttime temperatures encourages orchids to bloom. This drop in temperature also allows the plant to remove accumulated heat from the leaves.
Cold temperatures cause wrinkled and curly leaves in orchids, whereas high temperatures cause wilting flowers, leaves to dry and fall, and roots and flower spikes to take a long time to emerge.
Fertilizer Requirements for Orchid Growth
Orchids do not require a lot of fertilizer to thrive. The majority of commercial fertilizers contain urea and orchids do not absorb this compound well. When selecting a fertilizer for your orchids, look for those that have been specially formulated for orchid care.
Your orchid fertilizer requirements may differ depending on whether you are growing a variety of orchids or not. Depending on the type of orchid grown, for example, vandaceous orchids require an abundance of fertilizer during growth. Other orchid species, such as pleurothallis, may not require as much fertilizer dilution.
Fertilizers should be used with caution because too much fertilizer can burn the leaves and roots. Before applying a fertilizer solution to orchids, spray them with plain water. This method ensures that the potting material is wet before fertilizing to help avoid salt buildup.
Orchids, in general, require more nutrients during growth and little to none during dormancy.
Remember that too much fertilizer can kill your plant. How can you tell if your orchids have received too much fertilizer?
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Root Growth Failure
A salt concentration in the growing material causes a lack of root growth. The best way to deal with stunted root growth is to temporarily relocate the plant so that the entire root system can be examined.
Examine your orchid for dead root tips, salt crust, or brown roots. Burned roots eventually lead to brown leaf tips.
Simply applying weak solutions until you determine how much fertilizer the plant requires will prevent over-fertilization.
Another possibility is to decant the plant. Remove all growing material and flush the root system of any salts that have accumulated. Following that, repot the plant with new growing material.
When it comes to orchids, remember to fertilize “weakly, weekly.”
Soil Requirements for Orchid Growth
Orchids, unlike other plants or flowers, do not thrive in ordinary potting soil. The standard potting mix is too concentrated and thus does not drain thoroughly enough to ensure adequate air circulation. Orchids thrive in a chunky, loose, and light growing material that mimics their natural environment.
Keep in mind that some orchid species prefer certain growing materials over others. Quality orchid mixtures can be found in stores. Alternatively, you can make your orchid growing material from any of the following or a combination of them.
This growing medium is ideal for orchids that prefer dry periods. Choose Aerolite, a Styrofoam pellet designed specifically for epiphytic plants.
Perlite is also a good choice for growing orchids because it retains water well and is widely available in nurseries. It should be noted that perlites, also known as sponge rock, have no nutritional value for orchids.
Pumice is another excellent material for orchid cultivation. It is a lightweight, highly porous volcanic rock.
Shredded bark can be found in nurseries and is a popular material for orchid pots. Shredded bark is made from trees like fir and cedar.
Sphagnum moss, rock wool, cork, expanded clay aggregate, and other materials can also be used to make potting material.
Water Requirements for Orchid Growth
Water is also essential for orchid growth. The frequency with which you water your orchids is determined by several factors, including the size of the orchid pot, the climatic conditions, and the potting mix. For example, a 4-inch pot should be watered every five to six days, while a 6-inch pot should be watered every seven days.
The potting mix also determines how often you water your plants. Bark, for example, dries out faster than sphagnum moss.
Remember that watering orchids in humid areas may be less frequent than in dry areas.
Extra caution should be taken to avoid a soggy potting medium. The potting mix should be moist but not wet. It should not be allowed to completely dry out before the next watering. Water early in the morning so that your potting mix is dry by the evening.
Create a weekly watering schedule to take the guesswork out of watering.
Light Requirements for Orchid Care
Proper balanced lighting is essential because too much light exposure can cause yellowish-green or red leaves, while too little light causes darkening and wilting. What amount of light does your orchid require?
Orchids thrive in bright light, so find a location in your home that receives a consistent amount of light each day.
Orchids, as previously stated, thrive in direct sunlight. This does not imply that you must subject your plant to extreme heat. Avoid areas that receive direct afternoon sunlight.
If you notice your plant has bright green leaves, it simply means it is getting enough light. Green leaves are an indication that your orchid is getting enough light.
It is recommended that your orchid receive six hours of direct sunlight exposure per day while avoiding direct exposure to extreme heat.
If you’re still unsure about how much light your orchids need, observe how the sun moves through your home during the day. Keep an eye on which areas remain brightest for a longer period of time.
Orchid Humidity Requirements
In addition to water, light, and temperature, humidity plays an important role in orchid growth. Almost all orchid species originate in humid environments, which is why they require humidity levels of 40 to 70%. It is important to keep in mind that some varieties prefer higher humidity levels, while others prefer lower humidity levels.
Leaf drop or desiccation may be a clue that your orchids are exposed to too much humidity. It can also indicate stress from low humidity. How do you know whether leaf drop is due to low or high humidity?
Excessive humidity can cause root rot, whereas low humidity can result in wrinkly or shrunken pseudo bulbs.
Why is Humidity so Important for Orchid Growth?
According to the American Orchid Society, humidity is important because it compensates for water loss through the stomata. Although orchids prefer high humidity levels, on the contrary, the humidity level in your home is 30-50 percent. So, how do you make up for it?
Before you buy, learn about the different types of orchids. Look for varieties that are suited to your home’s humid conditions. Orchids that thrive in low humidity include cattleyas, oncidium, phalaenopsis, and others.
Learn about various methods for providing humidity, especially in arid areas.
How to Raise the Humidity of Orchids
Winter months and arid climates have dry air. This necessitates a change in the humidity levels in the home. Keep in mind that adding more water to the roots will not increase humidity.
Increase Humidity for Orchids with a Humidity Tray
The most cost-effective way to increase humidity around your orchids is to use a humidity tray. Simply fill a tray halfway with gravel and half full with water. Place the orchid pot atop the gravel. Make sure the roots are not submerged in water, as this will cause them to rot. Water evaporation around the orchid provides humidified air, which provides humidity.
Use a Humidifier to Increase Humidity for Orchids
A humidifier is another excellent option. This is especially important if you live in arid regions. Humidifiers can be purchased at home improvement stores or online.
A humidifier with a larger tank is preferable because it reduces refilling times.
When using humidifiers, always inspect windows and mirrors for signs of condensation, which indicates excessive humidity.
Track Humidity Levels with a Humidistat
A humidistat is essentially a humidity gauge that allows you to monitor the humidity levels in your home. It eliminates the guesswork from your humidity levels. A humidistat also monitors the temperature in your home.
Common Orchid Pests and Diseases
The diseases and pests that affect orchids are similar to those that affect other plants or flowers. Aphids, caterpillars, and mealy bugs are common orchid pests. The key to treating orchid pests and diseases is understanding how to diagnose and treat them. Here are some of the most common orchid pests and diseases.
Aphids are one of the most common pests that harm orchids. Aphids cause damage because they have sucking mouthparts that suck plant juices, causing wilting, stunted, or deformed growth, as well as color changes.
The infestation of aphids leads to sooty mold, a fungus that turns leaves black.
Aphids are manageable and not difficult to eradicate. Always buy healthy plants. This is the first thing to reduce the chances of infestation.
Black rot is common in orchids exposed to prolonged periods of rain or damp conditions. Although different orchid varieties are affected by black rot, cattleyas are more vulnerable.
A dark black spot on the affected plant is indicative of black rot.
Black rot can be avoided. Do not leave your orchid leaves wet for an extended period of time. Because black rot is a fungus, it spreads easily through water sources, affected plant water, and unsterile pots.
Remove the infected parts and protect the remaining plant tissue with fungicides
Botrytis is a fungus that thrives in damp, cool environments with poor air circulation. Botrytis is caused by Botrytis cinerea and is characterized by brown spots on blooms. Although Botrytis affects all orchid species, cattleyas and phalaenopsis are particularly vulnerable.
As an orchid grower, you should always take extra precautions to avoid fostering disease growth. To reduce the spread of the fungus, inspect your plant on a regular basis for dead and dying plant tissue and remove fallen leaves.
Because botrytis thrives in damp environments with poor air circulation, increasing air circulation in your growing area may help keep botrytis at bay.
Another option is to refrain from leaving water on petals after rain or watering. Watering early in the morning ensures that the plant is dry by the evening. Leaves should not be left wet overnight.
Orchids are lovely blooms that come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Orchids are the most popular houseplants and belong to the largest family of flowering plants. Although caring for orchids usually requires basic orchid knowledge, orchid growers must take extra care to become acquainted with the requirements of the orchid varieties they are growing.
Orchids, like other flowers and plants, have temperature preferences as well as light, water, and soil needs. Orchids are also susceptible to some pests and diseases that can be controlled by taking preventative measures to avoid infestation.
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