My mother has recently taken up 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 always been able to look after plants, both indoors and out, so 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 am full of admiration of anybody that can keep houseplants alive for more than one season.
After talking with mum and doing a bit of my own research here are some tips for orchid care:
Orchids How To 1: Consider it's natural conditions
When 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 hardier than others so look at the label to check.
Orchids How To 2: Careful Watering
Watering them about every 4 - 7 days seems to 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, there is enough there. Orchids can require different amounts of water at different times of the year, so keep checking!
Orchids How To 3: Feeding
Most orchids 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: Repotting.
Sooner or later, unfortunately, the orchid is going to need repotting. Remove the old mix from the pot, being careful not to damage the roots. Rinse the roots and trim off any hollow or mushy ones, as they are considered dead. Place the plant into a new pot, orchids apparently 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, tapping the sides to make sure it settles properly. Press gently to settle the plant but don't use too much force or the 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: After it flowers.
Check whether your orchid flowers only once from the flower spike or will flower repeatedly from the same spike. Once 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 certain, don't cut it off!
Orchids How To 6: Caring for it.
An 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.