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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.

Orchid Excitement

Is there anything more exciting than discovering your orchid has a new flower shoot emerging? I think not. So far this year though I haven't experienced this excitement for the Phalaenopsis orchid in my office, likely due to a few reasons.

First off, let's explain the various orchid types.

Phalaenopsis species- The moth orchid is really the most adapted for growing in your home. This orchid has long arching sprays of colorful flowers begin flowering in winter or early spring and remain showy for several months. These require less light that some of the other orchids and flower in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from pink to white. Don't be confused by the new "blue" Phalaenopsis orchid. It is not really blue, but simply has blue dye in the rooting media that is taken up by the plant.

Cattleya species: These orchids are known for their use in corsages and for having a flower that can last from two to six weeks. They generally flower only once per year during the spring or fall. They require twice the amount of light of moth orchids to perform well in the home.

Dendrobium species: These beautiful orchids produce long, graceful sprays of flowers that are typically white, lavender or a combination of the two during the fall and winter. Flowers may remain open three to four weeks.

Most orchids require the same temperature range as houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70's and nighttime lows of 55-65 degrees F will keep orchids growing perfectly happily and a bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal.

In terms of watering, once a week is usually about right for orchids. Overwatering is by far the easiest way to kill an orchid, so only water once the potting media has dried out slightly. Orchids are typically planted in a well-drained media like a bark mixture that allows water to easily drain away. A few ice cubes placed on top of the bark media once a week does the job well for my orchids.

So how about reflowering your orchid then? Therein is the more difficult aspect of growing orchids. My Phalaenopsis should be starting to initiate flowers around this time of year, but like I said, no flowers shoots yet unfortunately. The likely reason lies in the temperatures in my office. Providing orchids with warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night (about a 10-15 degree difference is ideal) helps to simulate seasonal cues that the plant needs to start blooming again. The temperature in my office stays fairly consistent unfortunately.

Fertilizing is also probably an issue. An application of a high-phosphorous, "bloom booster" fertilizer in mid-November can help to jump start the reblooming process. And let's face it, I just didn't get that done this year.

Some also suggest that during the month or so that you're trying to get the plant to rebloom, you should restrict irrigation to just once every two weeks and allow the top 2 inches of growing medium to dry thoroughly before watering again.

So though a little extra manipulation is needed to get your orchids to rebloom, that moment of pure excitement when you realize a new flower is on its way is totally worth it!

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