There are such a vast number of orchids scattered throughout the earth that they may be one of the most evolved and numerous of the plant families. The high numbers of orchids only begin to tell the true story behind the evolutionary success of modern day orchids. Orchids have become one of the most rapidly (genetically) changing group of plants on earth, and more new species have been discovered over the last few thousand years than any other plant group known. Orchids are one of the most adaptable plant groups on the earth and are found in numerous and different climates. Orchids can be found in Australia that grow entirely underground, while many tropical jungle orchids grow in the uppermost branches of the trees. Orchid species can also be found on the tundra, rainforest, mountains, grassy plain, desert and swamp environments. All of this diversity leads the home grower to ask: how can I grow orchids? Here is some of the beginning information that you should know on how to grow different species of orchids.
Orchids in the wild produce seed pods with literally hundreds of thousands of seeds that are released and scattered by the wind. In order to survive its first year of life, orchid seeds must establish a symbiotic relationship with a special fungus. Most of the time this is a co-supportive relationship while the fungus gathers water and minerals for itself and the seedling, and then the seedling shares its sugars from photosynthesis with the fungus.
Because of this, the home grower must be able to adapt an environment conducive for the orchid to grow. This is done in a variety of ways:
The Growing Medium:
There are many different types of orchid potting medium that can be used to grow orchids. The main consideration is to provide structural support for the orchid roots, but also to provide lots of air spaces between medium particles. Many orchid plants flourish when grown in Osmunda fiber. The tough, wiry fibers of the Osmunda break down very slowly, and it is an ideal potting medium. Fresh pine bark is also a popular medium but is usually mixed with other additives before use. Both Osmunda and pine bark are sometimes mixed with peat and perlite or vermiculite. Some orchids can even be grown in pebbles mixed with bark. It is interesting to note that most orchid roots are adapted to being exposed to air and harsh conditions, but cannot tolerate being wet for more than a day or two.
A bright window, free from drafts, where your plants receive indirect sunlight both morning and afternoon (A south window is best) is the ideal place to grow your orchid. In the winter, all orchids need the most possible light. If you have extra large windows or especially intense sunlight, the light may be adjusted downward by moving plants eighteen to thirty-six inches from the window. Keep in mind that plants in the home require a greater light intensity because they receive light from only one direction, while in a greenhouse they receive light from many sides.
Potted orchid plants do well when set on decorative pebbles in a water-filled tray, saucer, or other container. The evaporation of the water from pebbles provides humidity. Pebbles also assure good drainage. When you mist your plants, use distilled water because tap water can lead to salt deposits on the leaves, being careful not to over soak your plant.
Many people think that orchids are delicate and temperature sensitive plants. This is simply not true. Most orchid species will adapt readily to conditions offered by any home or greenhouse. The best thing is to research what temperature your specific orchid will need. Keep in mind though that during cold, freezing night temperatures, all orchid plants should be moved away from the window to provide a protective airspace against freezing.
Watering is the most important factor in growing orchids. A good rule of thumb is to water whenever the growing medium is dry. Orchids that are potted in bark require more frequent watering than those in most other potting media. While there are some variations in water need, the prudent home grower will research for their specific type of orchid and water accordingly.