Like all plants, the key to success with orchids is to try and replicate conditions that would be found in the country/place they are found naturally. With orchids, they are mainly epiphytic (found growing on trees) or lithophytic (found growing on rocks) and therefore they are used to light and air reaching some of their roots.
When you buy an orchid for your home the chance is they will either be a phalaenopsis variety or a cymbidium.
Phalaenopsis orchids are non-clump forming and come from warm climates. They need a room of a minimum 18C (65F) all year round. Do not try and bury aerial roots in the compost as they may rot.
Cymbidiums form clumps and produce bulb-like stems attached to a short rhizome, which is a horizontal underground stem. The are cool growing orchids requiring a minimum winter night temp of about 10C (50F) such as a porch or indoor unheated room.
All orchids prefer bright but filtered light (away from direct sunshine).
Watering, humidity and feeding
Orchids prefer high air humidity, but their roots will rot easily in wet compost. Water them about once a week, ideally using tepid rainwater. Water from above and tip out any water that collects in the saucer under the pot. Alternatively, plunge the container into a bucket of water and allow to drain thoroughly.
Mist the foliage and aerial roots daily, or stand the pot on a wide saucer filled with gravel, filling the saucer with water to just below the surface of the gravel. Use a hand held mister like one of our St Bridget Nurseries ones (only £1.99).
Reduce humidity in winter if temperatures are lower (this applies to orchids grown in porches or conservatories rather than those grown indoors, where temperatures are constant or may even rise in winter with central heating).
Many orchids need a rest period, usually during the winter months, when watering and feeding should be reduced.
Repot every two years regardless of whether the orchid has outgrown its pot, as older orchid compost breaks down, preventing air reaching the roots which leads to disease. We recommend you use a specific bark-based orchid compost.
Pruning and training
Pruning of most orchids consists only of removing the dead flowering stems. Stems carrying flowers are often weak and require staking to keep them upright.
Staff top tips
Many of our staff grow orchids at home and top tips we have for you are:
1. Treat them mean! Cate our finance manager keeps an orchid in her office and it keeps on flowering. Her secret, she says, is to knock it on the floor every once in a while! She keeps it on a filing cabinet in front of the window, which has a blind on it so the orchid is not in direct sunlight. She forgets to water it so like in the wild it goes from being very dry to having a storm full of water! Certainly it seems to enjoy its rough treatment.
2. Take them in the shower with you. Again don’t water it often but when you do one of our staff takes it in the shower with them (for the rinse stage not the soap stage)!
3. Plant in a clear see through pot – available from our garden centre
4. Use an orchid drip feeder – it slowly drips in feed so you don’t need to remember to do it.
5. Come to our orchid day on Saturday 10th October 2015. It’s at our Old Rydon Lane garden centre and an orchid expert will be running a clinic all day as well as giving two informative orchid care talks. Bring in your orchid and you can have it re-potted for just £2 or free when you buy a pot and compost on the day. For more information visit https://www.stbridgetnurseries.co.uk/events/orchid-day/