Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Orchid -- The Air Plant

Winter is a good time to try growing new plants inside. I've always been intrigued by orchids. After some research, I found them to be a fascinating plant that I'd like to try growing this winter. Orchids basically need three key factors to grow; light, temperature and humidity.

Orchids, naturally, are epiphytes that grow mainly on trees above rain forest floors. Three key factors of light, temperature and humidity, combined with air flow around the tree limbs and foliage allows the production of the beautiful flowers we have long grown to love in corsages, wedding sprays and potted plants.

All photos in this blog were taken at the Botanical Gardens Orchid House in Atlanta, Georgia.

Growing orchids indoors need pots filled with ground bark and moss. Perlite, vermaitite and charcoal (not the barbecue kind) can also be combined to help the air flow (no soil). Make sure the pot has plenty of drainage, like ceramic or clay (clay my preference). Orchid's roots would rather be cramped, so make sure the pot is not too big for the roots. 
Light should be bright but not direct (similar to African Violets). Fluorescent lights are good but give the plant a rest by turning off the bulb at night. 
Water and fertilize less in cooler temperatures (water once every week or two depending on the variety of orchid, fertilize with 10-30-30 once every two weeks or less in winter). Better to under fertilize. Never use cold water.
Keep air movement going with a ceiling or small fan (like you buy for a vehicle).
Use a humidifier or mist with a spray bottle to keep moisture on the plant.
Keep the temperature constant between 68-75 degrees. In the rain forest it's warm during the day and temps drop at night.

The Phalaenopis orchid (also known as "Phal" or "Moth") is great for beginner's due to it's durable nature. They come in whites, pinks, purples, yellows and reds. Unlike some orchids they don't have dormant periods during the fall and winter.
Above along the wood rafters, you can see true air plants growing in the moss. Just like orchids, they live on trees above the rain forest floor. The three key factors apply; light, temperature and humidity. 

The Cattleya or Laelia orchid has the showy and even fragrant flower most of us are familiar with at our high school prom as a corsage pinned on the shoulder or worn on the wrist. Amazingly, it's another orchid plant good for beginner's to grow. However, it does need a dormant period during the winter months. Make sure the roots dry between watering. The three key factors apply like all other orchid plants.

Did you know the vanilla bean is actually an orchid? Unlike most of it's family, it grows as a vine. Although, I think it would be interesting to grow, I think I'll start with an orchid for beginners.

The bean extracted from this orchid is a long and complicated process and makes the extract expensive, however, the cuttings can be bought online for $8.99 at Florida Hill Nursery.

For right now, I'll try growing this beautiful flower out of thin air. Hope you do too!
Until Next Time........
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith 


  1. Well my goodness, I never knew that about vanilla! Thanks for enlightening me, and I'm jealous that you are brave enough to try orchid-growing!

    1. Got to admit, I didn't know either. Thanks for your comment. When I was a mail carrier, I delivered to a lady that had orchid plants lining the covered walk to her front door. Ever since thought I'd love to try growing them!