These notes on the cultivation of orchids relate to the area around our Orchid Society where we enjoy a subtropical climate which is very suitable for growing most orchid genera. There are some types which prefer cooler conditions but are grown successfully here with some modification to their environment.
There is unfortunately a misconception in the view of some people where they believe orchids are difficult to grow and flower, this is not true as it is more correct to say growing orchids is different not difficult. The requirement is to emulate as near to as possible the growing conditions of the origin of the particular plants you choose to grow. Much can be learned from reading books and scanning the internet and while this is helpful it is never as good as talking to someone who is an experienced grower. To take advantage of this there is no place better than to join an Orchid Society where there are many experienced growers across a wide range of orchids who are very willing to pass on knowledge particularly to newer growers. The advantage of this over other forms of advice is the information relates to growing conditions where you live.
Here are some of the orchid genera which you can grow with confidence knowing it will be both satisfying and rewarding.
To get you started, here are some general growing instructions. Please refer to individual genera pages for notes and changes for those genera.
Growing medium is quite variable but the more commonly used is pine bark, perlite/peat mix, spaghnum moss or coconut fibre.
Fertilizer is required and as a general rule there is two types to use, for flowering use one with higher potassium,(eg Phostrogen) and for growing one with a higher nitrogen, (eg, Thrive). Until you become more familiar with fertilizers a simple regimen would be to use these two fertilizers alternately each week to ten days in summer and about monthly in winter.
Watering should be watched closely as overwatering can cause root rot and may result in the loss of the plant. It may be better to feel the medium, put your finger in the pot to ascertain whether you need to water or not. As you become more experienced you can tell by lifting up the pot to judge if it is dry or not. As a rule of thumb, water twice a week in summer and in winter about every ten days. Small pots would need more frequency between watering. Using spaghnum moss or coconut fibre retains more moisture than bark and feeling the dampness of these is worthwhile till you become more experienced and understand the differences between the various potting mediums.
Repotting is best done in the spring when the plants become active in growth or the front bulbs begin to put out new roots. Plants that need to be divided should be cut at the fourth bulb from the front, back bulbs can be repotted too as these will generate new growths also. Sprinkle some cinnamon ( from the pantry ) on the cuts)as this will prevent infection till the surface cut dries out. Remove any dead roots before repotting.
Pest control is required just like growing any other plants, there is always bugs around so you should be vigilant. Some orchids are very tough but from time to time you may get some infestation so visual checks of the plants is worthwhile. An application of a systemic insecticide every four to six weeks would be beneficial in keeping the bugs away particularly in summer but lesser frequency of use in winter.
Sanitation of cutting tools is vital, they must be sanitised after use on each plant before using on nother plant. A cheap but effective way to do this is immerse the tool in a strong solution of household bleach and water for a few minutes before drying and reusing.
Bacterial rot prevention is good insurance to ensure the plants don’t develop anything which may affect the health of the plant. A systemic fungicide, commercially available, applied monthly is a good option and will greatly assist in the good culture of the plants.