The Orchid House
Orchids: The Ultimate Plant Hobby
In the world of flowers, orchids are the undisputed
champions. Once the expensive interest of the wealthy, orchids
today are within reach of all. One of the oldest and best
organized of plant hobbies, orchid culture now enjoys worldwide
popularity. Their incredible beauty and diversity captivate men
and women of every walk of life.
If you haven't grown orchids, you are missing one of nature's
YOU CAN GROW ORCHIDS
If you can grow houseplants, you can grow orchids. With some
attention to light and temperature, there are many popular and
satisfying species and hybrids that will do well in the home or
out-of-doors. Like any other plant, an orchid must have the
growing conditions it needs to survive. But they are amazingly
sturdy and resilient.
ORCHIDS ARE CHALLENGING
Because there are so many of them, there is always more to learn
about orchids. New discoveries are made every day, giving the
world of orchids an ever-widening horizon. It is an interest that
provides as much of a challenge as you like.
ARE ORCHIDS HARD TO GROW?
No. They are no harder to grow than many flowering popular
plants. Like any plant, an orchid needs water, food, light, and
air. If you can grow other garden and house plants, you can grow
orchids. All it takes is a little understanding and care.
AREN'T ORCHIDS PARASITES?
Absolutely not! Of the 20,000 species of orchids that grow around
the world, not one is parasitic. In nature, many orchids cling to
trees and bushes as a growth habit; but they take nothing from
the host plant and do not injure it in any way. Orchids that grow
on trees are called epiphytes or, more commonly, air plants.
DO YOU NEED A GREENHOUSE?
Not necessarily. Many popular orchids can be grown in your home
in a window or under lights. Some are able to withstand a light
frost. When selecting plants, choose those that will survive in
the environment you have to offer.
AREN'T ALL ORCHIDS THE SAME?
To the contrary. No plant family is more diverse. After
all, the orchid family is the largest plant family in nature.
From the thimble-sized Mystacidium caffrum to the
20-foot-tall Renanthera storiei, orchids take amazingly
different shapes, forms, and growth habits. Some orchids produce
blossoms no larger than a mosquito; some orchid flowers are as
large as a dinner plate. Your familiar corsage orchid is just one
of thousands of attractive types that can be grown in this area,
given the proper environment.
DO ORCHIDS COME FROM THE JUNGLES?
Some do. But every country in the world, and every province in
Canada, has its orchid species, including the Arctic. Ontario,
for example, has more than 60 species of native orchids.
ARE ORCHIDS FRAGRANT?
Some are powerfully scented, others less so. A few orchid
fragrances defy description, while others resemble familiar
fragrances - raspberry, coconut, lilacs and citrus. Others have
no scent, but rely on shape and color to attract insects or birds
HOW LONG DO BLOOMS LAST?
It depends on the type, plus factors of culture and care. Blooms
of hybrids of the Cattleya family may last from one to four weeks
on the plant. Those of the Phalaenopsis family commonly last from
one to four months.
WHAT SORT OF SOIL DO THEY NEED?
Most require none. In nature, orchids can be divided into four
types according to growing conditions. Most are classified as
epiphytes, or air plants, which grow on trees. The rock
growers, or lithophytes, cling to the surfaces of rocks.
Saprophytes are those that grow in mulch, often on the
forest floor. Finally, there are the terrestrials which
anchor themselves in soil or sand. As most orchids are epiphytes,
they can be grown in tree bark, crumbled charcoal, pebbles, or on
wooden or cork plaques.
AREN'T ORCHIDS TERRIBLY EXPENSIVE?
Not any more. Once a rich man's hobby, orchids are now within the
reach of any income. Modern reproductive methods make it possible
for growers to enjoy the finest plants for a few dollars. You can
spend as much or as little as you like on your hobby. But you
should know that trying to own just one orchid is like trying to
eat just one peanut.
SHOULD THEY BE PROTECTED FROM DRAFTS?
By no means. As a matter of fact, orchids require moving air.
They do best where there is a steady breeze. After all, in
nature, orchids are subject to all kinds of weather.
MUST ORCHIDS BE KEPT HOT?
Like most plants, orchids prefer a middle range of temperatures,
neither too hot nor too cold. Some warm-growing species can take
hot weather; some cool-growers are not harmed by subfreezing
temperatures. It depends on the plant. Generally, however, the
climate in the home favors the intermediate species. Orchids from
more severe climates that are accustomed to cool or warm
temperatures year-round do not do as well.
ARE ORCHIDS SHORT LIVED?
Most are very long-lived. In fact, some species are virtually
immortal, given the proper attention. Divisions or propagations
of orchids discovered in the 19th century are still growing and
blooming today... a botanical heritage from an earlier century.
HOW OFTEN DO ORCHIDS BLOOM?
Again, it depends on the plant. Some bloom once a year; others
bloom several times a year; some bloom continuously.
WHEN DO ORCHIDS BLOOM?
The most popular types bloom in winter and spring, but orchids
may be found that bloom in any month of the year.
CAN YOU TRANSPORT ORCHIDS?
Yes. That's one of their greatest assets. Orchids are portable.
Because they grow in pots or baskets, they can be carried
anywhere. Many growers use blooming plants as living centerpieces
in their homes. Orchids are routinely mailed and shipped across
country and around the world.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT ORCHIDS?
There are many excellent books available to help a novice grower
learn more. Most bookstores and public libraries have them. Also,
some commercial orchid growers offer a selection of books for
The Internet has many web sites devoted to the enjoyment of
this hobby. You will find vendors, growing information and other
hobbyists. There are also chat groups and mailing lists available
for making personal contact with orchid experts.
Perhaps the most useful step you can take is to find an
experienced grower and make friends. And your best bet is to join
your local orchid society.
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