I'll bet you have some orchids in your house and you did not even realise it. Well almost, Vanilla Essence or real Vanilla Essence comes from a particular variety of Orchid and lots of TV cooks are now suggesting the use of Vanilla Pods which are grown on this Orchid and very often they suggest you scrape out the seeds and put them into your cooking.
Orchids do have a lot of mystery about them. They are an unusual plant which generally in the wild lives on rocks or trees and quite often has to survive extreme conditions. Their roots which are often quite thick looking are not normal roots. In fact the real root is a slender and very thin and runs in the centre of the silver or green aerial root that you can see. The outer casing of this aerial root is able to absorb moisture and retain it in a honeycomb sort of structure.
They are now available from lots of nurseries and supermarkets. A lot of them do require special conditions, mimicing the habitat where they grow in the wild as near as possible, for them to grow well.
Modern homes with central heating are however fine for the Phaleanopsis (or Moth) Orchid. If you buy one that is already in flower look for one that has some buds still waiting to open. This will then usually last longer in flower than one that has all the blooms open. They can stay in bloom for weeks, but unfortunately when you buy them you do not know how long they have been already in bloom.
They do like a lot of light, but keep them out of direct sunlight, perhaps using a net curtain or a blind, if you don't do this the thick leaves which easily scorch and they are very important for the plant as they are also reservoirs for water and nutrients.
When all the flowers have dropped off it has been recommended to myself that the flower spikes should be cut back to leave just two joints and then if you are keeping them happy they will reflower, sometimes even within two to three months. We quite often take pity on plants that have been drastically reduced in price in local supermarkets because the flowers have all finished and it is a nice surprise when a few months later they are back in flower.
|ORCHID HEALTH WARNING - PLEASE NOTE
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that orchids can be adversely affected by ethylene gas which is given off by ripening fruit, especially bananas!! They are allergic to even the slightest amount of this gas and will rapidly drop flowers prematurely so make sure they are kept in different rooms.
Orchids do like clean rainwater at room temperature, if you cannot get any then use tapwater, but leave it to stand for 24 hours to get rid of some of the chemicals, by evaporation, that it has been treated with. Or you can use boiled water which has been left to stand and has come back to room temperature. The general rule with most orchids is to water at least once a week and let them almost dry out before rewatering. In hot weather the frequency could need to be increased. After watering make sure that they are not ever left standing in water, this is most important. There are always some exceptions, I have just bought one that likes to stand in water as it grows near streams in its native habital on Table Mountain in South Africa, it is a Disa Orchid.
The bigger Garden Centres in the UK are starting to cater for people who grow Orchids. Normal Fertilisers are much to strong for most Orchids so you need to use a specially formulated one. There are various Orchid Feeds available, one of the easist to obtain is made by Chempack, however I do prefer a liquid fertiliser, I use FITO Concentrated Feed for Orchids which is easy to use as it comes in a bottle with a plastic measuring cap which is rather useful. Some garden centres sell little capsules of liquid feed I think they are a waste of money as they do not last very long and work out very expensive in the long run.
If you want more information on the really technical side of caring for orchids and feeding them then use this link:
This page is being developed and further information will be added shortly.
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last update 5/4/08