Tips for Beginners
You can cultivate your
orchids with other houseplants in any part of the house where plants generally
Choose a southerly or
easterly window, preferably with a gauze or lace curtain so that you can allow
more or less light as the seasons change.
Grow your orchids on a
tray filled with pebbles. Keep water in the tray to provide your plants with the
constant humidity that they need, but don't keep the water level higher than the
level of the pebbles.
Water plants a minimum
of once a week by allowing water to run for a minute through the porous soil
medium. Be careful not to leave the roots submerged in water, as this can lead
to a fungal condition known as "root rot".
Mist your orchids daily
with room-temperature water.
Fertilize orchids with
a quarter-strength solution of 10-5-5 after flowering. To promote flowering, use
3-12-6 solution. (We recommend Dyna-Gro, available in both formulas.)
Never let the
temperature around your orchids to drop below 45 degrees F. Promote good air
movement and prevent cold drafts.
You may move your
orchids outside during the summer months if you introduce them gradually over a
period of a few weeks. Some orchids enjoy a certain amount of direct sunlight,
while others tolerate very little. Extended periods of direct sun should be
avoided when the temperature is high.
Cattleyas are some of the most commonly grown
orchid plants, and their culture is often used as the basis for comparison
with other types of orchids. The flowers in cattleyas and their related
hybrids come in most all colors of the spectrum. Culture varies only slightly
among most of these groups; this cultural information is a general guide to
"standard" Cattleya culture. Like most other cultivated orchids, cattleyas are
epiphytic, or air plants. Because they are epiphytic, they have developed
water-storage organs, called pseudobulbs, and have large, fleshy roots covered
with a spongy, water-retentive velamen. They are accustomed to being dry at
the roots between waterings, and therefore should be potted in very porous,
Light: is one of the most important factors in growing and blooming
cattleyas, whether in a greenhouse setting or in the home. Bright light to
some sun must be given to the plants, but no direct sun in the middle of the
day. This means an east, shaded-south (as with a sheer curtain), or west
window in the home, and 30% to 50% of full sun in a greenhouse (3000 to 5000
foot-candles). Leaves should be a medium green color.
Recommended temperatures are 55°-60°F at night and
70°-85°F during the day. Seedlings should have night temperatures 5° to 10°
higher. A 10-20 degree differential between day and night is recom- mended,
especially for mature plants. Higher day temperatures can be tolerated (up to
95°), if humidity, air circulation, and shading are increased.
Water: should be provided in two ways: in the pot by watering and in
the air as humidity. Watering in the pot is dictated by many criteria--size
and type of pot, temperature, light, etc. Mature cattleyas need to dry out
thoroughly before being watered again. Seedlings need slightly more constant
moisture. Compare the weight of a dry pot of the same size and type of medium;
it can indicate if a plant needs water. A freshly sharpened pencil inserted in
the potting medium can be an indicator of moisture. If in doubt, it's best to
wait a day or two until watering. Plants in active growth need more water than
plants that are resting. Water below 50° may injure plants, as will softened
Humidity: Cattleyas need 50 % to 80 %
relative humidity. This can be provided in the home by placing the plants on
trays of gravel, partially filled with water so that the plants stand above
the water. Misting the plants in the morning only is helpful in dry climates.
Air should always be moving around the plants to prevent fungal or bacterial
diseases, especially if high humidity and/or cool temperatures exist. In the
greenhouse the humidity can be increased by wetting the floor. Evaporative
cooling increases humidity while cooling the air.
Fertilizer: must be given to cattleyas
on a regular schedule. In fir bark, a high-nitrogen (30-10-10) formula- tion,
or a similar proportion, is used. High-phosphorus or bloom-booster (10-30-20)
formulation may be used occasionally (every 4 to 6 applications) to make
sturdy growths and promote healthy blooming. When in active growth, plants
need fertilizer every two weeks, and when not growing, once a month.
Fertilizer can also be applied with every watering at 1/4 recommended
dilution. Thorough flushing with clear water every month is recommended to
prevent buildup of fertilizer salts.
Potting: Potting is necessary when 1)
the rhizome of the plants protrudes over the edge of the pot, or 2) the
potting medium starts to break down and drain poorly (usually after 2 to 3
years). It is best to repot 1) just before new roots sprout from the rhizome,
2) after flowering, or 3) in the springtime.
Cattleyas are usually potted in medium-grade potting material, with seedlings
in fine-grade. Until a plant has six mature pseudobulbs, it generally should
be put into a larger pot and not divided. If dividing a plant 3 to 5 bulbs per
division are required. Select a pot that will allow for 2 to 3 years of growth
before crowding the pot. Place a small cone of potting material in the bottom
of the pot, cut off any rotten roots, and spread the firm, live roots over the
cone. Fill the pot with medium, working it in the roots. Pack firmly; stake if
necessary. Keep the plant humid, shaded, and dry at the roots for a while to
promote new root growth. A vitamin B-l solution may help re-establish plants
Unlike many cultivated orchids, cymbidiums are semi-terrestrial plants. They
have a growth period in the summer, needing 60 to 85 degrees F, medium to
high light, ample fertilizer, and a moist potting medium. Cool fall nights
(to 40 degrees), "bloom-booster" fertilizer, or no fertilizer. All induce
flowering. They should be planted in fir bark/peat moss. Miniature
cymbidiums can stand temperatures of 5 to 10 degrees higher.
Light: Strong summer sun is important. Bright indirect light in winter. Give half
filtered to full sun (in cool climates) in the summer; a bright window in
the home or greenhouse in the winer.
Temperature: Cymbidiums must have cool nights, especially in the
fall, to encourage flowering. Cymbidiums can stand hot summer days up to 95
degrees if shading, humidity and air circulation are increased. Give night
temperatures of 45 to 60 degrees; day temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees.
Water: Spray with water when plants are outside to keep them cool.
Mist in home in a.m. to raise humidity. Avoid misting flowers. Give water
copiously enough to keep moist in summer. Water just enough to keep leaves
from drying in winter.
Fertilizer: Must be provided on a regular basis since potting
media have little. In summer, give 30-10-10 once a week at recommended
rates. In early fall, use 10-30-20 bloom booster until flower spikes appear.
Use a balanced fertilizer once a month in the winter.
Temperature & Humidity: Vandas are basically warm growers. Daytime
temperature should range from 65 to 95 degrees; nighttime from 60 to 65
degrees. It is important to provide good humidity, especially on warm sunny
Light & Shade: It is important to give Vandas a high degree
of light. Terete leaf Vandas can adapt to full sun while strap leaf types do
better with some protection during the mid-day hours. We do not recommend
Vandas for artificial light culture as there is not enough light intensity
for successful blooming. If Vandas are grown in the home, a bright south
exposre is best.
Watering: During the spring and summer months when Vandas are kept
outdoors in bright warm areas, frequent watering is needed. Vandas shoud not
be kept dry or moist over an extended period. Misting on warm sunny days is
Feeding: Vandas require a rather constant feeding during the
spring and summer months. We recommend a balanced fertilizer (18-18-18) for
best results. When feeding with every watering, a half-strength or less
solution is best.
Potting: A coarse grade of potting material is best suited for
Vandas. Chunks of coarse bark or tree fern mixed with a general orcid mix
will do well. Redwood baskets or slotted clay pots are ideal containers for
Vandas. As Vandas become larger, they tend to get somewhat leggy. As the
roots develop on the upper portion of the plant, you may remove the upper
half and repot it as a separate plant. After this is done, the lower portion
generaly develops offshoots. When these offshoots develop roots, they too,
may be removed and repotted on their own.
Outdoor Growing: If Vandas are grown in the home, it is highly
recommended to summer them outdoors. Vandas should be hung up outside where
they receive nearly full sunlight.
Masdevallia, a genus of some 350 species usually from cool, misty
mountains of the New World tropics, is known for its showy flowers with
sepals striking in their size, shape, and/or color. Their need for a cool,
damp environment makes them an excellent choice for cool coastal climates.
Temperatures should be cool to intermediate; plants will grow slowly
and eventually expire if temperatures remain high for long periods of time.
Cool evenings help reduce heat stress during the day. Nights of 50 to 55
degrees F are ideal; day temperatures should be 60 to 75 degrees.
Evaporative cooling pads or humidifiers are useful in maintaining these
Light levels for this group usually are thought of as fairly low;
however, some successful growers believe that the best flowerings are
produced under higher light levels. Plants can be grown, but not necessarily
flowered, in the same light levels as those for ferns--400 to 1000
foot-candles. Most growers maintain levels adequate for Phalaenopsis
and Paphiopedilum--1000 to 1500 foot-candles. Masdevallias can be
kept in light intensities up to 2500 foot-candles if the growing area can be
kept cool. Plants grow well under four-tube fluorescent fixtures and can be
summered outside in the shade.
Water is critical for these plants because they have minimal water
storage tissue. Roots should be allowed to become just dry before watering
again; if drainage is adequate, constantly moist roots are fine.
Humidty is important for these plants. The ideal range is 60 to
80%. In the home, mist the plants (in the morning only) and set the plants
on trays of gravel, partially filled with water. In the greenhouse or
enclosed growing area humidity can be increased by misting or wetting down
the floors, while evaporative coolers help raise humidity and lower
temperature. If plants are summered outdoors, automatic misters under the
benches are recommended
Fertilizer should be applied regularly while plants are actively
growing. Applications of 30-10-10 type formulations twice a month are ideal
for plants in a bark-based medium. A 20-20-20 type formulation should be
used for plants in other media. If weather is dull, applications once a
month are sufficient. Some growers use a high phosphorus, 10-30-20 type
formulation ("bloom booster") as plants approach flowering.
Potting is best done in the winter or early spring, before the
heat of summer and/or as new roots are produced. Plants must be repotted
frequently, every one or two years, to keep the potting mix from
decomposing. A fine-grade potting medium, such as fine fir bark or tree fern
fiber, is often used with plastic pots. Sphagnum is also used, especially
for establishing plants. The bottom third or quarter of the pot should be
filled with drainage material, either broken crock, rocks, or Styrofoam
"peanuts." The plant should be positioned in the pot so that the newest
growth is farthest from the edge of the pot, allowing the maximum number of
new growths without crowding the pot. Plants growing in many directions may
be positioned in the center of the pot. Spread the roots over a cone of
potting medium and fill in around the roots with potting medium to the
junction of the roots and the plant. Firm the medium around the roots by
applying pressure. Keep humidity high and the potting medium slightly dry
until new roots form. A vitamin B-1 compound may help establish newly potted
Masdevallias are best grown under cool to intermediate conditions in the
greenhouse or home. Most species and hybrids are compact enough that they
can be easily accommodated on window sills or under lights. The
well-draining potting medium should not be allowed to dry out completely.
Light: Flowering is best under bright light; window sills or
fluorescent light conditions are sufficient. Give bright light, but not
direct sun. In the home: an east or shaded, south window; or under
Temperature: Avoid daytime temperatures higher than 80 degrees F.
Give nights of 50 to 55 degrees F; days of 60 to 75 degrees F. Increase air
circulation and humidity on hot summer days
Water: Give adequate moisture year round to maintain a relatively
moist potting medium. Let the roots become just dry before watering. Mist in
home in the morning. A humidity of 60 to 80% is desirable. Do not let water
stand on leaves overnight
Fertilizer: Must be provided on a regular basis, about every other
week. Give 30-10-10 for bark mix formulations and 20-20-20 for other potting
media. Concentration should be half of what the label recommends.
(Cold tolerant genera)
These high altitude orchids are popular where cool temperatures prevail. The
'pansy orchid', or Colombian Miltonia, (truly Miltoniopsis)
and showy Odontoglossums, have striking sprays of flowers. Culture is
similar for hybrids in this group, some being Odontonia, Odontioda,
Temperature is critical for these plants;
day temperatures below 75 to 80 degrees F are preferred year round. Night
temperatures of 55 to 58 degrees are best. Short periods of warmer day
tempertures may be tolerated, especially if humidiy and air movement are
ideal, and nights are cool. Miltonias prefer night temperatures at the upper
end of the range, while many Odontoglossums thrive at 50 to 55
degrees at night.
Light levels should be bright, with some sun allowable. An east
window in the home is ideal, or shaded south. West is usually too warm in
most climates. In a greenhouse, levels up to Cattleya strength (2000-5000)
footcandles) are acceptable; some Miltonia growers demand the pink flushing
in the plants' leaves which results from the high light levels. If summer
day temperatures are hot, light levels can be reduced to cool the growing
Water should be plentiful, coupled with perfect drainage. The
potting medium should just start to dry before watering again. "Accordian"
pleating on Miltonia leaves is a symptom of insufficient water or humidity,
and may appear on other genera if severe. This may mean watering every two
to seven days, depending on weather, pot size and type, and type of potting
Humidity is important for all these orchids, coupled with moving
air; 40% to 80% being ideal. In the home, set the plants on moist pebbles,
without the pot setting in water. Misting is beneficial, but in the morning
only. Evaporative cooling in a greenhouse increases humidity while cooling
the air, and is highly recommended for these orchids in most climates.
Fogging the air, or damping the floor with water also helps cool and
Fertilizer should be applied regularly while plants are actively
growing. Twice a month applications of 30-10-10 type formulations are ideal
for plants in a bark-based potting medium. A 20-20-20 type formulation
should be used on other media, or on slabs. If weather is dull, once a month
applications are sufficient. Some growers use a high phosphorus 10-30-20
type formulation "bloom booster" as plants approach flowering.
Potting is best done as new growth begins from the base of the
plant, which is usually in the spring or fall. These orchids like to be very
pot bound, so when repotting, leave only enough room for one to two years
new pseudobulbs. A fine potting medium with excellent drainage is required;
since the medium is kept moist, annual or biannual repotting is normal.
Usually one-quarter to one-third of the bottom of the pot is drainage
material, either broken crock shards, rocks, or styrofoam "peanuts". Spread
the roots over a cone of potting medium and fill in around the potting
medium well around the roots by applying pressure. Keep humidity high, and
the pot drier, until new roots form. A vitamin B-1 compound may help
establish newly potted plants.
Miltonias will sometimes send up two sets of growth a year, and bloom
from each growth, sometimes with two flower spikes per pseuodobulb.
Paphiopedilums, or slipper orchids to some, originate from the jungles of
the Far East and Indonesia. They are semi-terrestrial, growing in humus and
other material on the forest floor, on cliffs in pockets, and occasionally
in trees. They're easy to grow in the home, under lights, or in the
Light is easier to provide for "paphs", as we will call them, than
many other types of orchids. They like shady conditions, as in the home in
an east or west window, or near a shaded south window. In the greenhouse,
heavy shade must be provided--giving them about 1000 to 1500 foot-candles.
They are often grown under the bench, provided precautions are taken to
prevent rot. Fluorescent light is excellent; use 2 or 4 tubes just over the
Water must be available at the plant's roots constantly, since
they have no pseudobulbs, and therefore store most of their water in their
leaves. They need a moist medium--never soggy, but never dry. Water once or
twice a week. Humidity for paphs should be moderate, between 40% and 50%,
which can be maintained in the home by setting the plants on trays of
gravel, partially filled with water, so that the plants never sit in water.
In dry climates, misting (in the morning only) can help increase humidity.
In a greenhouse, average humidity is sufficient; spraying the floor or using
an evaporative cooling system in warm climates can increase the humidity.
Air movement is essential, especially when humidity is high.
Temperatures for paphs range considerably. Many growers separate
paphs into two goups, the warm-growing mottled-leaf types and the
cool-growing, green-leaf types.Warm-growing types should be 60 to 65 degrees
at night, and 75 to 85 degrees or more during the day. Cool-growing types
should be 50 to 60 degrees at night; 75 to 80 degrees during the day. Many
growers grow all plants in the same temperature range with excellent
success. The plants can stand night temperatures in the 40s if necessary (as
when grown outside in mild climates), as well as temperatures to 95 degrees.
Care must be taken to protect the plants from rot when cold (keep humidity
low, and do not let water stand on leaves or in the crowns of the plants),
and also to protect from burning when hot, (shade more heavily and increase
humidity and air movement ).
Fertilizer must be applied on a regular schedule, but care must be
taken to avoid burning of the fleshy, hairy roots. High-nitrgoen fertilizers
(like 30-10-10) are recommended when potted in any fir bark mix. In warm
weather, some growers use half-strength applications every two weeks; others
use l/4 strength every watering. It's important to flush with clear water
monthly to leach excess fertilizer, which can burn roots. In cool weather,
fertilizer applications once a month are sufficient.
Potting should be done about every two years, or as the medium
decomposes. Seedlings are often repotted annually. Mixes vary tremendously;
most are fine and/or medium-grade fir bark, with varying additives--perlite
(sponge-rock), coarse sand, sphagnum peat moss, etc. Moisture retention with
excellent drainage is needed. Divide large plants by pulling or cutting the
fans of the leaves apart, into clumps of 3-5 growths. Smaller divisions will
grow, but may not bloom as well. Spread the roots over a small amount of
medium in the bottom of the pot and fill with medium, so that the junction
of the roots and stem is buried 1/2" deep in the center of the pot. Do not
overpot; an average plant should have a 4 - 6" pot.
Unlike many cultivated orchids, paphiopedilums are semi-terrestrial plants.
They are excellent house plants, needing only bright light or very little
sun. They grow and flower well under artificial lights. Since they have no
pseudobulbs, they need more constant moisture than other orchids, and resent
too much fertilizer. Flowers are long-lasting.
is important; most windows are sufficient. Give bright light, but very
little direct sun. In the home: an east, west, or shaded south window. In
the greenhouse: 70% to 85% shade.
Temperature: Two groups exist--grean-leaf and mottled-leaf.
Mottled-leaved types should be about 10 degrees warmer at night than
green-leaved plants. Give nights of 50 to 60 degrees.....days of 75 to 80
Water: Keep moist year round, letting only top layer of potting
medium become dry. Keep pots on a tray of moist pebbles in home to increase
humidity. A humidity of 40% to 50% is ideal. Water standing in leaves causes
Fertilizer: Must be provided only occasionally since roots are
sensitive to excess. Give 30-10-10 if plants are in fir bark mixes; best at
half strength every other week. Flush pots with clear water often to reduce
fertilizer build-up. Less fertilizer is needed in winter. Once a month is
Dendrobium is a diverse genus of orchids with different cultural needs. Many
go through a growth phase and a rest phase during the course of one year,
and must be given water and temperature to match these growth and rest
periods. Flowers can last one day to many weeks, depending on the type.
Light: Strong light is important, especially when growth is maturing.
Give bright light; some sun. In the home; an east, shaded south, or west
window. In the greenhouse, 25% to 50% full sun. Less light is needed when
plants are resting.
Temperature: Temperature needs vary widely. It is best to follow
the plants' natural requirements. Provide night temperatures of 45 to 60
degrees; and days of 65 to 95 degrees.
Water: When plants are
growing, water just when becoming dry. Some types need severe drying while
resting. Mist in home in the morning if air is dry. A humidity of 40% to 60%
Fertilizer: Must be provided on a regular basis since potting
media have little. In active plant growth, apply 30-10-10 at recommended
rates. Reduce fertilizer when growth is completed. A bloom booster may
encourage flowering. More frequent fertilizing is good under high
temperature and light conditions.
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Most recent revision
Monday, March 28, 2016 01:05:31 PM