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Orchid Care Instructions.


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What is an orchid?

.... A tall, slender stalk leads to an exquisite flower composed of three inner petals, three outer petals, and a cupped petal distinct from the rest. Labellum, inflorescence, sepal—the names of the anatomical parts sound as fabulous as they look. The whole exotic composition is almost alien in appearance, extravagant in the extreme, yet possessed of a delicate intricacy. Orchidaceae is arguably the most stunning and elegant family of flowering plant known to man. For millions of years, the orchid family has thrived and expanded, defying evolution, Mother Nature, and the exploitation of its greatest opponent—Man.

One hundred and twenty million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a magnificent flowering plant came into being—the orchid. Evolution led to the demise of many plants and animals, but the orchid flourished, thriving on every continent save Antarctica. Orchids have adapted to live in all kinds of environments—mountains, bogs, grasslands and rainforests. At least 35,000 orchid species now populate the planet—and there is always the possibility that unknown species still await discovery.

Orchids attract pollinators for reproduction by several ingenious methods: scent, mimicry and stealth. Orchids with sweet scents usually attract bees; those with a rancid smell lure flies. The orchid can also draw pollinators through visual mimicry, imitating insects including bees and butterflies with the patterns on its petals. A third technique is stealth. The slipper orchid lures a prospective pollinator to the edge of its slippery pouch, and the insect falls in. When it finds the single exit, it brushes against the pollinia. Some orchids are pollinated by crawling insects, and thus have long petals that brush the ground. And insects alone do not pollinate orchids—small mammals, hummingbirds, bats and the wind also contribute to the survival of the species.

For centuries, the orchid has been a symbol of love, luxury and beauty. To the early Greeks, the orchid represented virility, and the Chinese called it "the plant of the king's fragrance." During the Middle Ages, the orchid was considered an aphrodisiac and was used in love potions. Serious orchid collecting began in the 18th century, but because of their rarity at the time, only a few botanists and wealthy amateurs could enjoy them. In 1818, William Cattley became the first person to bloom an orchid (the Cattleya, top photo), an event that changed the flower world forever. Forests were stripped of millions of orchids, putting many on endangered species lists. A single orchid sold for thousands of dollars. This practice has since been banned, and species are now bred and cultivated specifically for sales.

What will the future bring for Orchidaceae? Its greatest challenges are now those imposed by Man. Will our environmental blockades prove overwhelming? Or will the orchid's resilience, tested over millennia, outlast even our own? In spite of the obstacles to its survival, the orchid will retain its elegance and prehistoric mystery in the minds of all admirers.

Watering your Orchid.

Always water early in the day so that your orchids dry out by nighttime. The proper frequency of watering will depend on the climatic conditions where you live. In general, water once a week during the winter and twice a week when the weather turns warm and dry. The size of your orchid container also helps determine how often you need to water, regardless of climate conditions. Typically, a 6-inch pot needs water every 7 days and a 4-inch pot needs water every 5 to 6 days.

The type of potting medium being used can also affect your plant's water requirements. Bark has a tendency to dry out more rapidly than sphagnum moss, for instance. It is important to remember, however, that even when the surface of your pot is dry, the root area may remain moist. Poke your finger or a regular wooden pencil an inch into the pot; if it feels moist to the touch or if the pencil looks moist, do not add additional water. The potting medium should always be damp, but not soggy—neither should it be allowed to get extremely dry.

The quality of water used, whether for spraying or watering, is of great importance. Since tap water has often been chemically treated, generally with chlorine, it should be used with caution. The best water for orchids is undoubtedly rainwater. Rainwater, as it passes through the air, dissolves and absorbs many substances such as dust, pollen and other organic matter. This enriched rainwater contributes to the nourishment of the plant.
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Good Light vs. Bad Light

Light is a key factor in growing healthy orchids. Direct sunlight may cause plants to burn, and too little light will prevent plants from flowering. An ideal location is behind curtains or window blinds. If you receive your plant by mail, expose it to light gradually in stages over a period of several weeks.

Leaf color is a good indicator of the amount of light a plant is receiving. Orchids should have bright green, healthy leaves. Dark green leaves indicate that a plant is getting insufficient light, and yellowish-green or red leaves indicate that a plant is getting too much light. If you suspect a plant is exposed to too much light, feel the leaves. If they feel noticeably warmer than the surrounding air, move the plant to a location with less intense brightness.

Low light, Warm growing orchids enjoy a north or an east, protected west or shaded south windows of the home. Standard household temperatures are adequate. Orchids that are classified as low light, warm growing are: Paphiopedilum or Lady Slipper, Phalaenopsis and Oncidium.

Moderate to high light, Warm growing orchids. These orchids like a lot of light and warm household temperatures. They thrive in a west or south window. From early May to late September, you should watch light levels in south windows to avoid burning; you may have to move your orchid away from the window or place them behind a sheer curtain to decrease light intensity. These orchids like to dry between watering. Orchids that are classified as moderate to high ligh are: Cattleya, Dendrobium, and Vanda.

Reblooming your Orchid

Each genus of orchid has different requirements for reblooming. Most commercial varieties are very simple to rebloom. Phalaenopsis, Zygopetalum and Odontoglossum require only slight changes in temperature to initiate blooming. Others, such as Oncidium and Dendrobium, bloom on mature new growth and require a change of fertilizer to a phosphorus-rich, blossom-booster formula, such as 20-20-20.



 
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