Orchid Care - A Place to Grow

Those dazzling displays of flowers aren't magic. They're the result of months and months of growing in right conditions. Orchids need time to build up the energy they need to make those magnificent blooms.

Successful growers create special "growing areas", where their plants get exactly what they need for healthy growth - which results in big blooms.  

You'll get rewarded with big blooms if you give your orchids exactly what they want during their growing season.


A Place for Growing

Unlike houseplants, who are perfectly happy with the same care year round, orchids expect varying growing conditions throughout the year. 

In their natural habitat, most orchids experience hot, steamy, tropical weather during the summer ( the growing season), followed by cool, dry periods in the winter (the blooming season).

Temperatures can vary from the high 90's in the summer to the 40's and 50's during the winter. Rain showers, which are common almost every day in the summer, can be weeks apart in winter.

Successful hobbyists create "growing areas" that mimic the conditions their plants would experience in nature. (Setting up a growing area doesn't need to be complicated because many orchids grow - and bloom - in nearly the same conditions we live in.) 

Growing areas for orchids generally need 3 things:

  • Intense Light - Orchids need energy to make flowers. The only place they can get energy is from the sun. So your plants are going to need lots of light - including some sun.
  • Varying Temperatures - Most orchids need at least a 15-20 degree difference between day and night temperatures to trigger a bloom cycle. They simply won't bloom without it.
  • Adequate Humidity - Orchids can't tolerate dry air. They don't need a rain forest but they do require at least 20-30% realtive humidity. This can be a challenge during winter months. 



Setting Up Your Growing Area

Where can you find a "Place to Grow" in your home that has all three elements? You might be surprised!

It all has to do with micro-climates.

Meteorologists describe "micro-climates" as small areas that are hotter/colder, wetter/drier, or sunnier/shadier than the surrounding environment. 

Your home has micro-climates too. There are areas around windows in every room that are hotter/colder, or sunny/shadier than the rest of the room. You may not notice this but from an orchid's perspective this can mean life or death!

  1. Light -  Pick a window you think is suitable for growing. Using the compass in your phone, determine what direction the window is facing. East and west windows are sunnier during summer months, shadier during winter months. South windows are more shady in the summer but get hot and sunny in winter. Of course trees, awnings, etc. also effect light levels.
  2. Temperature - A sunny window can reach temperatures of 100 degrees or more. The temperature at that same window can drop to 60 degrees or lower on winter nights. That's a 40 degree difference  ... perfect for orchids! A Hi/Lo Thermometer is the tool you'll need here. They're easy to use and measure the highest and lowest temperatures over a period of time. 
  3. Humidity - Adequate humidity can be a challenge during winter months. Grouping your plants together on Humidity Trays at the window - and closing off the heat vents will raise the humidity levels in your growing area considerably. Hi/Lo Thermometer also measure humidity.

Orchids have 3 seasons: grow, bloom, and rest. During their growing season they;re actively  growing and building up the energy to bloom. New flower spikes signal the beginning of the blooming season when the plant proudly shows off its blooms. After the last flowers fade, the plant enters a resting season where the plant takes a well deserved rest.

The "growing season"  the longest and most important season. This is the season orchids use a combination of light, water, and temperature to generate new growth. If you want big, beautiful blooms, you'll need to give your plants what they need during this period. To do that you'll need a "place for growing" which has:

East or west facing windows. Try finding a window where the heat source can be shut off. This helps with temperature requirements and boosts the humidity levels during winter. (Don't worry, your plants won't be too cold.) Direct, intense sun can burn leaves. A window with shear drapes or adjustable blinds works best.

Orchids growing in an east window with adjustable blinds

Spare bedroom or guest room. These areas are excellent for growing.   Simply close off the heat and air conditioning in the room and close the door. The sun will gently warm the room during the day and your plants will love the cool nights. (Again, don't worry about your plants being too cold.) 

A spare bedrooms (or guest room) make excellent growing areas
Spare bedroom with grow light

Growing Under Plant Lights. With plant lights you can grow almost anywhere. Cool rooms are best. The gentle heat from the grow lamps warms the plants during the day and the ambient room temperature cools them at night. This creates the temperature variance that triggers a bloom cycle. Basements are great for this because of the cool, damp air.

Growing Outside in the Summer. This is the best place of all! Nice warm days with gentle breezes and cool damp nights. Occasional rain showers  ... what could be better? 

  

 

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