Orchids Brighten a Room little Effort
Thursday January 6 2011
While visiting a friend this evening was lucky to find a Blooming Orchid. Even better the shots are natural light from a sunset. This flower took my eye all night
All shots are Camera Raw and cs5 was not used.
Enjoy the pictures.
Orchids are beautiful and fascinating plants. But the thought of growing orchids, especially indoors, is intimidating for lots of gardeners. It conjures up pictures of giant greenhouses, complicated humidity, light and heat controls, and horticulturalists in white lab coats. Despite their reputation for being finicky flower divas, orchids aren’t difficult to grow.
Like any plant, they’ll thrive in the right conditions. The trick is sizing up your indoor environment and choosing the orchids that will be happy there. Three of the best orchids for windowsill gardening are: Paphiopedilum, also called paphs; Cattleyas, catts for short; and Phalaenopsis or phals. Among them, you’ll find colors, fragrances and sizes to fit any space.
Paphs are also known as lady slippers for a jutting, chin-like pouch that forms their lower flower petals. The white, green, yellow, red or pink blooms are shaded, striped and covered with spots. These orchids bloom off and on all year with filtered light, though their flowering season is mid-fall through spring.
Catts are stunning and versatile. They’re available in every size, shape, color, fragrance and bloom time you could want. They’re also the most confusing, because they’ve been crossbred to create many hybrids. Look for names such as Brassavola, Rhynchoaelia and Epidendrum or an entirely new genus, Brassoepidendrum. They’re all catts.
Phals, or moth orchids, have an arching flower spike covered with clouds of blooms for weeks or months at a time. They’re divided into standard, novelty and mini flora varieties. The standards have large white, pink and candy-striped blooms. Novelties are the most fragrant, in colors of yellow, orange, red and green.
When buying any orchid, choose one that’s already flowering since it’s the only way to really see what you are getting. Look for uniform color and shape. Splotches on leaves or petals may indicate a virus. Leaves should be an even, medium green with no streaks. Roots should be fat and white with pale green tips. These orchids are epiphytes; they gather nutrients from air and water, not soil. They should be sold in an orchid potting mix made of bark, peat moss and Perlite. And that medium should be firm and damp to dry, not soggy. Bypass orchids sold in soil; their roots have likely been smothered or damaged.
Orchids aren’t picky about light once they’ve flowered, but light is critical before they bloom. Give them at least six hours a day. Phals and paphs are low-light orchids that prefer an east, west or shaded south window. Catts do best in brighter, south-facing spots. Use sheer curtains to filter harsh sunlight, it can burn the leaves, turning them pale green. If you don’t have any suitable windows, try a 40-watt fluorescent light. Hang it about a foot over the orchids 12 to 14 hours a day.
These plants like it 70 to 80 degrees in the daytime, 10 degrees cooler at night. If you have a winter-blooming phal, put it in the basement or outside in 55 to 60 degree fall air for a few nights to encourage budding. Give them all 40 percent to 80 percent humidity by setting pots in a tray filled with water and gravel. To prevent the risk of wicking excess moisture into the potting medium, be sure the pot is on the gravel, not in the water.
Overwatering is the quickest way to kill an orchid. Wait until the medium is completely dry before watering. I use 20-10-10 liquid fertilizer diluted 4-to-1 once a week to feed catts and phals, every other week with paphs. I flood clear, room-temperature water over the medium until the water runs out the bottom, and then pour the fertilizer solution. Don’t wet the foliage or crown of the plant.
Pests and fungi
A light mist of rubbing alcohol once a week will take care of any scale insects. Ordinary cinnamon will stop fungi. Just sprinkle a bit on the wet infected spots and the crown.
Orchids can be a little tricky, but giving them the ideal environment — along with a bit of time and attention — will reward you with a great show through winter.
Home and garden
DOUG WORRALL PHOTOGRAPHER