All orchids belong to the orchid family, Orchidaceae. It is the most varied group of plants identified today. There are more than 880 genera, 28,000 species and 300,000 registered varieties currently on file today. Orchids are the most quickly genetically changing plant. Orchids are a true evolutionary success story with more new species discovered during the past 1,000 years than any other plant.
All orchids are divided into two basic types based on growth. Monopodial means they have a central stem that grows to the tip. Flowers grow from the stem between the leaves, usually from side to side. Sympodial orchids have a rhizome that sends out shoots. These shoots develop into the stem and leaves. The flower is eventually produced, and in time a new shoot will sprout at the base. And so the cycle continues.
To grow an orchid, many elements are required. The overall goal is to provide support for the roots. Orchids can be grown in a number of different potting materials. The main mixtures consist of osmunda fern or fresh pine bark. Both mixtures can have peat, perlite or vermiculite added.
Water is the most important aspect for orchids. It is best to water whenever the potting mixture is dry. Orchids are sorted into three groups according to species and their moisture requirements-- low water use, medium water use and high water use. Orchids do not need much fertilizer; once or twice a month is enough. They need less fertilizer in the winter.
Growing orchids in the home requires a bright, draft-free area with indirect sun in the morning and afternoon. In winter it is especially important to give them all the light possible. If real light isn't enough, fluorescent lighting can have good results if it is kept on 12 hours a day. There are fluorescent tubes specifically designed for plants.
Temperature depends again on the class of orchid. There is a medium temperature class whose ideal temperature is 60 degrees at night and 70 degrees during the day. The warm class needs the temperature to be five degrees warmer than the medium class and also needs a higher humidity. These cannot go below 45 degrees. The cool class should be kept at five to 10 degrees cooler than the medium group. Orchids also need humidity. They can be set on decorative pebbles in a water-filled tray. Water from the pebbles provides humidity.
Orchids should be re-potted when they outgrow their existing pot or when the potting mixture breaks down. This can happen every two or three years. The plant should be removed from the original pot and the old mixture brushed away. Any bad-looking roots should also be removed. Put new potting mixture in the bigger pot, and put the plant back in, filling and firming down the mixture.
Pests and Diseases
The orchid has its share of common pests: scale, mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, slugs and snails. Orchids can also suffer from diseases such as bacterial leaf rot, bacterial root rot and crown rot.