My mother has a new hobby. She recently became interested in orchid care and, being the curious sort of person that I am, I was interested to learn what makes them 'special'. What makes them a plant apart from the normal houseplants grown at home and why do they appear to be a challenge to the green-fingered?
My mum has green fingers and she has always been able to look after plants, both indoors and out. It was no surprise when, having been given her first orchid as a present, she got 'hooked' on how to look after them. I have 'brown fingers' not green ones, so I'm full of admiration of anybody that can keep houseplants alive for more than one season.
I did a bit of research after talking with mum and here are some tips for orchid care:
Orchids How To 1: Natural Habitat
Before you buy an orchid, make sure you can recreate the conditions the plant requires in its natural environment. There are all sorts of varieties, some are hardier than others to care for so look at the label to check.
Orchids How To 2: Water Them Carefully
If you watering them about every 4 - 7 days that should be enough, but it does depend on the season. To check if the plant needs water, push a wooden stick or pencil into the medium, if it comes out darker then the plant probably does not need watering. Orchids can require different amounts of water at different times of the year, so keep checking!
Orchids How To 3: How to Feed
Orchids tend to benefit from a specialist orchid fertilizer that is fed as a weak solution and applied once a week. To do this, use only half the amount mentioned on the packet. The type of fertilizer will depend on what your orchid is growing in, so it is wise to check that first.
Orchids How To 4: Time to Repot
Whether you like it or not, sooner or later, the orchid is going to need repotting. Take the old mix out of the pot, being careful not to damage the roots. Wash the roots and trim off any hollow or mushy ones, as they are considered dead. carefully place the plant into a new pot, orchids appear to like being root-bound, so there should only be about 1" between the roots and the edge of the pot. Add the new mix/medium to the pot and tap the sides to make sure it settles properly. Press gently to settle the plant but not too hard because roots may break. Use a stick to support the plant in the pot so it is secure. If your plant is growing in sphagnum moss, make sure it is damp before wrapping it round the roots and repotting, that way you don't have to worry about pockets of air. After repotting the plant should not be watered for 3 - 5 days to allow it to recover.
Orchids How To 5: When it Has Flowered
Find out whether your orchid flowers only once from the flower spike or whether it will flower repeatedly from the same spike. When the plant has finished flowering the spike needs to be removed at the base with a sharp instrument to lessen damage to the plant itself. If you aren't sure, don't cut it off!
Orchids How To 6: Orchid Care
A very important part of orchid care is looking out for various fungi or parasites. Isolate any plant that has a problem, check it out, find the remedy and start treating as soon as possible.