Your Phalaenopsis orchids have begun spiking, and there is a lot of excitement and anticipation of a good bloom display. Why not? After all, your hard work and dedicated care is bearing fruits (in this case, flowers). But before you consider your job well done, there is more care to be taken at this stage to ensure you have a beautiful bloom-laden display.
Read on to follow these time-tested tips that will help you bloom your orchids successfully. Subscribe to the blog for regular updates on orchid care.
Developing spikes are a testament of the good care you have given your orchids all along. If you are not sure whether the new growth on your phaaenopsis orchid is a spike, then my previous post on identifying spikes in phalaenopsis orchids will help you with this.
Special care needs to be taken of these bloom spikes till they develop into blooms. When the spikes grow up to a few inches long and becomes thick and strong, you can train it to provide a display of your liking. If you prefer a more natural look, then you can allow the spikes to grow arched forward in the direction of light.
While these displays look beautiful, these are more suitable for spacious grow spaces and display areas. If your orchids are too closely spaced, then there is a risk of damage to the flower spike when you shift them or water them.
Also, if the blooms are large and the spike gets weighed down, there is a chance of the orchid tipping over. This can however be countered by placing the orchid inside a heavy ceramic pot. This will make it more stable and reduce the risk of tipping over and damaging the spike.
Alternatively, you can try staking the orchid spike. Once the spike grows to about 4 to 5 inches tall, it thickens out and becomes strong. At this point, you can consider training the spike to stand upright. The advantage of this arrangement is that it occupies less space and the risk of breaking a spike accidentally is reduced considerably.
Training the spike
To begin training the spike, you need to insert a stake vertically upright and with the help of a string, chord or flexible metal wire, you can bring the spike closer to the stake. Wrap one end of the chord or wire to the stake and make an adjustable loop that can be tightened as desired. This will exert minimal pressure on the spike and prevent it from snapping. Every one or two days, tighten the loop so that the spike gets closer to the spike.
When the spike touches the stake, you can remove the loop and attach the spike to the stake with the help of a tiny clip. Ensure that you do not press the stake with the clip and that the spike is loosely held to the stake. Also take utmost care that you do not place the clip on a node as it might prevent buds from developing from that node.
At this stage, the plant’s nutritional requirements increase tremendously as a lot of energy is required to develop buds and good sized flowers. To ensure you get healthy blooms, you need to fertilize the plants regularly. Provide bloom boosters having a high phosphorous ratio. You can alternate it with NPK 20:20:20.
Also these new growths require a good supply of calcium and Epsom salt to provide a good bloom cycle. So ensure that you feed the plants with low concentrations of the same once a week during this period. This type of fertilizing will encourage branching of spikes and increased number of blooms.
Meeting light requirements
Light is an important requirement for producing blooms. Phalaenopsis orchids respond well to bright indirect light and produce a good number of blooms when they get adequate light. The spikes develop in the direction of the light so place the plant in a direction that will produce a great display.
Shifting plants and changing their position frequently will give you a twisted unattractive looking spike. The result will be that instead of getting a uniform display of flowers in the same direction, you will find staggered displays that look lop-sided, and are not pleasing to the eye.
Protecting spikes from sudden temperature shifts
Orchids in bud spikes or bloom are extremely sensitive to sudden temperature shifts. They immediately respond with bud blast, i.e. yellowing and drying up of buds. So ensure that you keep your orchids in place that maintains a temperature conducive for their development and avoid exposing them to air conditioning out door units, close to air vents and close to sunny windows. Even a short drive from the nursery to your home in your car in the afternoon heat can lead to bud blast. This can be very disappointing. It almost feels like not making it to the finish line. So do be cautious of exposure to such fluctuations.
Protecting from pests and fungal attack
Your year-long labour will be rewarded when you get beautiful healthy blooms. To successfully bloom your orchids, utmost care needs to be taken of the spike while it is developing. It is tender, soft and delicate, so many insects chew on the spike and buds. Snails, slugs and worms also chew on tender spikes and buds. Sometimes, the entire stem of the spike is chewed off, leaving behind a stump, which can be a terrible downer.
To prevent this from happening, you need to check for insect bites on spikes and treat the orchids with a home-made dilute insecticidal solution made from neem oil, baking soda and dish wash soap (proportion – 2:2:1 tsp for a litre of water) . This diluted solution needs to be sprayed every two weeks. This will keep most pests such as mealy bugs, spidermites, scale and other insects at bay.
Spray the entire plant in the evening before last light. Allow it to work overnight and risne with water to remove excess solution. This will also ensure the orchids do not get damaged in stronger light or temperature.
Armed with these simple tips, you can be assured of a wonderful bloom season.
Come spring and flower spikes begin to develop in Phalaenopsis orchids. There is always some guesswork involved in differentiating between an orchid root and spike in the early stage of their development. Read on to learn how to identify a spike from a root or new shoot.
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The cooler days of winter have begun receding and warm sunny days show signs of renewed vigour in your orchids, heralding the beginning of spring. After a slowdown in winter, towards the end of winter, you will find your orchids putting out new growths. The growths may be vegetative such as new pseudobulbs, or leaves and roots. You will also notice bud spikes and sheaths filling out, making you excited with the prospect of a good bloom season for your orchids.
Phalenopsis orchids or the moth orchids that we generally have in our collection are complex hybrids. They have been genetically manipulated to produce beautiful blooms in abundance. These flower spikes are induced by a drop of 7-10 degrees from the ambient daytime temperature. This means that warm days and relatively cooler nights will induce blooming in these orchids.
However, blooming also depends on a host of other factors such as maturity of the plant, its genetic makeup, health, adequate fertilization and exposure to stress. Bright indirect light also plays an important role in inducing spikes in orchids.
Sympodial orchids such as Cattleya and Oncidiums bloom on mature pseudobulbs, thereby making it easy for us to recognise when they produce buds. On the other hand, monopodial orchids such as Phalaenopsis and Vanda orchids produce bud spikes on the axis of the plant. These type of orchids also produce new shoots as well as roots on the axis of the plant. Therefore, when the first nubbings appear, it’s a guessing game whether the new growth is a potential bud spike or a new root, or even a new shoot.
While a bud spike elicits joy and excited anticipation, a root may not be welcomed with the same gusto. But I beg to differ. Roots are good news too. It actually indicates that the plant is making itself sturdy and strong at the base to withstand the weight of a long, bloom-laden flower spike. Only when your plant is fully secure will it push out a spike. So if you see the orchid pushing out roots, its’ only a matter of time before the right conditions will induce blooming in your orchid.
Spike versus root
Monopodial orchids put out new growths such as roots, shoots and spikes simultaneously. So how do you differentiate between a spike and a new growth (keiki) or a root? Well, there are a few simple ways you can predict whether the new growth is a spike or a root
Position of new growth
Roots, apart from absorbing nutrients, provide the plant with proper support. To ensure this, roots develop radially from all sides of the stem, which then provide adequate support and strengthen the plant for a top heavy inflorescence.
Spikes, on the other hand, grow only from an axial bud. This is exactly the spot where the axis of the leaf begins on a monopodial orchid. Also to be noted is the fact that spikes generally appear at the axil of the third leaf from the top or crown. But they may also emerge further down if the node has not bloomed earlier.
However, the confusion begins when roots begin emerging from the axial area of the leaf. Then you need to wait until a defined form of the new growth begins.
Occasionally, when the plant is not growing upright, and is slanted and growing in the direction of light, the bud spikes may not emerge from the axil of the leaf, but will shift slightly away from the axil of the leaf. This is seen due to phototrophic movement of the spike. It takes the shortest vertically upward route and emerges away from the axil of the leaf in the direction of light. This can sometimes be confusing to a new grower. However, in such a case, the shape of the new growth will help confirm whether it is a bud spike, new growth or a root.
Direction of new growth
One way to identify a root that has developed in the axis of a leaf is to check its direction of growth. If it’s growing away from the direction of light, or is pointing towards the medium, which provides moisture, then it’s confirmed that the new growth is a root.
In contrast, a spike will emerge from the axial bud, and will begin growing upwards in the direction of light.
Shape and colour of the new growth
As the new growth emerges, you can easily compare them. with other root tips to gauge whether the growth is a root. Spikes are usually a darker shade of green than the bright green or brown coloured root tips. Root tips are also shiny, pointed, rounded and slightly translucent when compared with spikes, which point upwards, are leaf green and opaque, with a prominent flat and mitten shaped projection. This differentiation in the tissue is markedly different from that of a root, which is rounded, glossy and has a silvery sheen.
Very often, spikes may have a burnished purple/brown tinge or may be burgundy coloured based on the colour of the flowers. So this can also help in identification of flower spikes. Roots also have brown or burnished tips. But this can be verified by comparing the new growth with pre-existing root tips.
Identifying a keiki or new basal growth
Keikis or new basal shoots or new growths also develop on the axis of the plant. These growths look similar to a spike since they are sheathed, but they do differentiate into leaf shaped structures at the tip early on.
These tips will help you identify flower spikes early on. You can accordingly take special care of the orchid for a good bloom season.
Alternatively, watch my YouTube video on identifying bud spikes in phalaenopsis orchids.
The most attractive aspects of the orchid hobby are its versatility and potential for experimentation. Mounting your orchids on various types of substrates to recreate the aura of their natural habitat can be one of the most exciting parts of this hobby. Cork bark commands a premium place among the various types of mounts, not only due to its interesting rugged texture, but also due to its lightness, strength and long life when compared to other types of wood mounts.
While it’s no mean feat to mount your orchid on cork bark, knowing about this medium, using the right material for mounting, and its correct maintenance thereafter, will help you get the most out of this coveted material. So get set to provide your prized collection a boost in terms of aesthetics and fuss-free growing. And last, but not the least, give vent to your creativity and display your orchids in the best possible way, even when not in bloom. The effect is sheer magic. The satisfaction – guaranteed.
About cork bark
While cork is known for its rugged attractiveness, it is the cost that is a major deterrent for orchid hobbyists. But there is a valid reason why this pricing is justified.
50% of the global cork production comes from Portugal, accounting for nearly 70% of world trade. The bark is obtained from the Quercus suber or cork oak trees. The trees are slow-growing, with a lifespan of 200 years, and are ready for harvesting once they mature. Interestingly, the bark is carefully removed without harming the tree. The tree grows back the bark over a period of ten years before it is ready for harvesting again. The slow growth and a gap of 10 years make cork a costly material. A heavy import duty of 29.8% further makes cork expensive, which is why it commands a premium price.
Price notwithstanding, as you become an experienced grower, you will inevitably begin experimenting with different types of media and substrates, and ultimately consider cork or even driftwood for mounting orchids. The satisfaction of growing and blooming orchids as they would in nature, is unmatched, which is why seasoned orchid hobbyists take great pride in their collection of cork mounted orchids. You have to only look at the Instagram posts of ‘Romain Orchids’ or the You tube channel of ‘Roger’s Orchids’, to understand why mounting orchids on cork or drift wood can take your display to the next level.
If you are looking for cork bark to mount your orchids, you can find it here.
The Upside of cork mounts
While cork is attractive in a wild, natural way, what makes it a preferred material for mounting orchids is its rough texture with crevices, bumps and holes, which provide orchid roots the perfect grip to attach themselves firmly. The medium is water resistant and does not absorb water or become soggy, due to which it does not rot easily. Of course, if it is maintained soaking wet for prolonged periods without drying up in between, then rot and fungal infections do set in and weaken the bark.
Cork is seen as good value for money since it is long-lasting and can be reused if your orchid outgrows its mount after several years. All you have to do is to remove the orchid carefully without damaging its roots, and mount it on a bigger one. The old mount can then be sterilized and reused for mounting other orchids.
Since mounts are hung vertically, you also end up saving a lot of space. This way, you can grow your collection comfortably without space constraints. Moreover, you can save up on expensive media, pots, and planters, which require frequent repotting, especially if you use organic medium that breaks down periodically.
Most important of all, since your orchid is hanging vertically with minimal medium, and has a good wet-dry cycle, the quick drying ensures that the risk of development of rot disease is minimalized to a great extent.
And the downside
The downside is that orchid mounts tend to dry out rather quickly, unlike their potted counterparts. So you need to mount the orchids that tend to thrive in a quick wet-dry cycle. This means that you will be watering your mounts every day, sometimes even twice a day, depending on how quickly they dry out. As a beginner, a quick way to gauge this would be to be on the lookout for signs of dehydration. Accordingly, you can adjust your watering routine.
Daily watering could be a daunting proposition, especially if you are preoccupied with work, among other things. Fitting this into your busy schedule could turn it into a cumbersome task. Yet, orchid hobbyists are drawn to mounted orchids because of the sheer beauty of this natural display. To be able to recreate this near natural environment within your grow space and enjoy the resultant effect, makes all the effort worthwhile.
But it’s not as bad as you think. There are a number of ways you can make your watering routine less tedious. Investing in a good water spray will get your watering done in very little time. Some orchid hobbyists add a little bit of extra moss (loosely packed) and this keeps the humidity levels reasonably suitable for the orchid’s healthy growth. If you are using minimal amount of moss, then light spritzing of the mount with a mister later during the day also helps in maintaining good humidity levels.
What kind of orchids should you mount on cork bark
Orchid hobbyists are drawn to mounting their orchids due to the beautiful effect they create. The challenge of achieving the best possible effect is something that they deliberate on and choose their orchids with great care.
First and foremost on the checklist would be to pick an orchid that is hardy and can tolerate dry conditions reasonably well. Orchids such as Dendrobiums, Brassavola, Cattleya and species Phalaenopsis will do well on mounts. While Oncidiums need high humidity around their roots, you can grow them well on mounts too if you can provide them with good humidity by padding up with extra sphagnum moss. This can be done later once you gauge your orchid’s moisture requirements.
Second, would be to consider the aesthetics depending on the cork piece that you would be using. Larger orchids such as Brassavola, Cattleya and Phalaenopsis require larger bark pieces as compared to compact or miniature orchids. This is desired so that the bark forms a natural backdrop for your orchids, thereby enhancing their visual appeal significantly.
Third, miniature orchids have a charm of their own and their water requirement is minimal (a quick wet-dry cycle). So these orchids grow well on mounts. Tolumnia, Dendrobium aggregatum, Sophronitis cernua, Neofinetia falcata and Aerangis orchids, to name a few, look amazing on mounts. An added bonus is that they look great even when not in bloom. When in bloom, they appear very exotic and wild, like getting a slice of the woods into your grow space.
Cork mounted orchids require very little care, unlike potted orchids that require repotting and putting together a suitable potting mix.
The most important care requirement would be to water the mounts daily. If your mounted orchid has thick roots such as in the case of Phalaenopsis, give it a good soak for a few minutes or alternatively, hold it under running water for two minutes. The velamen turns green when the water gets absorbed. After a few minutes, again soak the orchid for a few minutes. This will ensure the roots get saturated with moisture. This, together with the damp moss will meet the orchid’s moisture requirement. You can fertilize your orchids in a similar way once a week for good results.
For your miniature and thin rooted orchids such as oncidium or Tolumnia, you can give it a good spritz with a sprayer. That will take care of its water requirements. Excessive watering or soaking in this case will lead to rot issues. Also take extra care to avoid water pooling up in the crown of your orchids as well as inside new growths or sheaths
A general rule to be followed while watering mounted orchids would be to avoid keeping the moss soaking wet for prolonged periods. Allowing it to dry out fully before watering it again will ensure that the cork does not disintegrate due to prolonged exposure to soaking wet conditions. Use minimal quantity of moss for mounting, depending on the orchid’s moisture requirement. If need be, you can always add more moss later, if the mounts dry up too fast.
Hang your mounted orchids in bright indirect light as it is important for blooming your mounted orchids. Direct morning or evening light can also be tolerated fairly well by these orchids. During summer, you will need to check on your orchids frequently and even move your mounts away from harsh summer daylight.
Fertilizing your orchids can be done either by soaking the mount for a few minutes or by spraying it. Do ensure that you do not share water between your mounts as bacterial and fungal diseases could spread to your healthy orchids. I prefer spraying the orchids and saturating their roots for a few minutes and repeating after a gap of few minutes.
I have always wanted to mount my orchids on cork bark, but since it is imported from Portugal, it is not easily available in India. Experimenting with different types of wood mounts brought in mixed results. Recently, I treated myself to some cork bark pieces paying a hefty price. I was excited when my package arrived.
I spent time on choosing the right type of orchids to match the cork mounts. For this project, I chose three orchids – Aerangis biloba, Neofinetia falcata and Sideria japonica. All the three are small type of orchids and create a beautiful effect when mounted.
I was excited and full of anticipation even as I mounted the orchids. When I was done, I was thrilled and very satisfied with the results. While the mounts were expensive, the joy it gives me every day more than makes up for it. I eagerly look forward to the day these orchids will bloom. It would indeed be a dream come true for me.
Cork bark mounts
Orchids for mounting
Fishing line or neutral toned thread
Mini power drill
Thick metal wire hanger
Metal wire cutter/plier
Clean the cork bark by scrubbing it with liquid dish wash. Ensure that you rinse it off completely so that no residue remains. Allow it to dry off completely.
Get your orchid ready for mounting by cleaning it up. Remove any dead roots and old potting medium completely by giving the root system a good rinse. Moistening the roots of the orchid will minimise damage to the roots. Dry roots are more susceptible to snapping, while moistening them will make them more pliable.
Sterilize your work area by rubbing it with a surgical spirit swab.
Place the bark on the work surface and check the positioning of the plant. Hold the plant and mount upright to get an idea of how it would look. Try a couple of ways and assess which one will give the desired result. Mounting your plants inverted will help prevent crown rot. Once you finalise the positioning, remove the plant and mark the place that you want to pass the wire hanger through.
Use the metal drill to carefully drill a hole of the desired size. The bark is soft and needs to be handled carefully to avoid damage.
Pass the wire hanger and press into a loop so that the mount is firmly held and does not flop from one side to the other.
Now place the plant on the cork and place a small quantity of moss on the roots of the orchid. This will help in keeping the roots moist. Ensure that the moss is not too close to the stem of the orchid. The stem should not be buried in moss as it will read to stem rot.
Holding the moss and plant in place, use fishing line or thin thread to fasten the orchid to the mount. Ensure that the moss is fluffy and not very compacted. This will ensure that the orchid roots get sufficient air to breathe. You can even add cleaned up natural moss patches from your neighbourhood to give it an interesting look. The moss will grow and spread on the mount, adding to its beauty.
Wind the thread several times to ensure the orchid is held snugly in place.
Tie double knots several times to prevent the unravelling of the mount. Cut off any excess thread to give it a neat appearance.
Attach the label on the back side of the mount, mentioning name and date of mounting. This will help in keeping it concealed.
Spritz water on the moss and hang it up in place. Avoid wetting the crown area while watering your orchid.
Mounting your orchids on cork bark raises the bar for orchid hobbyists. To be able to mimic nature’s unmatched beauty and bring it into your home is one of the most creatively satisfying experiences. The orchid hobby is supposed to be savoured and enjoyed. So if you have time at your disposal and the inclination to water your orchids every day, then go for it and enjoy looking after your cork mounted orchids. Your orchids will love it even more and will thrive in this new environment.
Summer is here. The sweltering heat can affect your orchids to a considerable extent. Keep them stress-free using these summer care tips, which would contribute to their healthy growth and blooming.
Most orchid hobbyists find this constant seasonal adjustment to be a bit of an issue. There is no ‘one solution fits all’ hack to resolve this issue since different types of orchids have different needs and the solutions accordingly vary to a great extent. The care instructions also need to be adjusted according to your grow conditions and climate. Now I can almost hear you say, ‘If this isn’t complicated enough, then what is?’
Rest assured, this doesn’t mean that an orchid hobbyist’s life is fraught with tension all through the year. If you organise your grow space and group your orchids according to their light, temperature and humidity requirements, your care routine gets considerably simplified. You could very well plan on a care routine that will suit your climate and the grow conditions you provide for your orchids.
Without digressing further, let’s get straight to the point of discussion.
The soaring summer temperatures, dry air and dust create stress for your home-grown or window-sill orchids. Unless additional measures are taken to protect them from the heat during these months, your orchids will likely react to these conditions by exhibiting symptoms such as:
Dehydrated leaves indicating prolonged dry spells between watering
Sun burn, drying up, blackening or bleaching of leaves due to exposure to direct strong sunlight
Mushy softness indicating strong direct light and excess moisture, coupled with poor air circulation
Wilting away of new growths or poorly developed new growths
Bud blast or dropping or withering of buds
Wilting and drying up of flowers before time
With so many problems arising due to excessive temperatures and strong light, it is imperative to protect your orchids from strong sunlight, higher-than-normal temperatures and the dust that arises from the hot and dry breeze. You could achieve this in the following ways:
1. Remove your orchids from direct sunlight
Orchids require adequate dappled sunlight to grow well and have a good bloom cycle. Some Vandas, Tolumnia and others can even grow well in direct morning and evening sunlight.
While this may promote growth and blooming, during summers, it is always better to remove them from direct morning and evening light because strong light along with higher temperature can lead to scorching heat conditions. This can lead to severe dehydration and burnt leaves.
A good way to assess this would be to check your orchid’s leaves. If they remain limp, with closed flaps and are not opened out fully as they normally would, then they are drying up way too fast and lack regular hydration. This could also be a result of overwatering your orchids, coupled with direct sunlight and little or no air drafts, eventually leading to rotting of the roots.
To prevent this from happening, move your orchids to an area that receives dappled sunlight or indirect light. You could also use a shade net or if indoors, a translucent curtain that just allows the right amount of light. Make sure your orchids are not overwatered and there is good air movement, either natural or with the help of a fan.
2. Water your orchids more frequently
Depending on your climatic conditions, you may require to water your orchids more frequently during summers as they lose water through transpiration. The medium tends to dry up faster due to the heat and dry air drafts. If you use small-sized pots for your orchids, then this poses a problem. They tend to dry up faster and so require frequent watering in summer.
In order to resolve this issue, you can consider repotting your orchid in a bigger pot with a well-draining organic medium like pine bark chips with a few strands of moisture-retentive sphagnum moss layered in between. This will provide the right balance of air and moisture to the medium. Always consider this option when your orchid produces new growths. This will help it adapt faster to the new medium.
If your orchid is already growing in a suitable medium, then you don’t have to change the medium. You can unpot the orchid gently by not disturbing its root system. Use a pot that is one or two sizes bigger, layer with some moss and bark chips at the bottom, place the orchid gently on this and pack up the sides with more medium of the same kind. This will provide adequate moisture to the plant and prevent it from drying up.
In case you use inorganic medium such as LECA beads in a semi-hydroponic system, you need to repot in a larger container and provide extra air vents in the container to provide adequate ventilation. This is important when the pots are exposed to summer temperatures, the environment within the pot becomes warm and moist, with little air circulation.
This promotes rotting of roots and pseudobulbs, which will then make the plant dehydrated and affect its growth. Very soon, the rot moves up from the roots to the rhizome and stem. In this case, the plant may not survive, unless the rotted portion is removed at the earliest and the plant is treated with a fungicide and repotted in fresh medium.
To prevent this from happening, you need to use pots with holes or slits to provide good air circulation. Alternatively, you can just make these holes by using a soldering iron tool or punching holes with a heated screw driver. Be extra careful while handling these objects so that you don’t harm yourself.
If you want to be spared of this effort, you can simply invest in self watering pots that have a decent reservoir size. This will simplify this problem to a great extent. You can check out these self-watering pots on Amazon that are attractive and affordable, and will put an end to your watering woes.
In the case of mounted and bare-rooted orchids, daily watering is mandatory. In summers, you may even have to water them twice-a-day. To reduce this hassle, you can allow them to soak up in a tub of water until the roots are fully saturated, especially the thick-rooted orchids such as vanda and phalaenopsis orchids. You can then water them every second day or as per their requirement.
Always check how they respond. Lookout for signs of dehydration such as limp, leathery leaves and thin, wrinkled roots. Increase the frequency of watering as temperatures rise so that the plant receives adequate hydration.
This will help you guage their requirements. Once they are adjusted, you can reorganise the orchids based on their watering needs. Believe me, this works very well and your care routine gets considerably simplified.
Repeated training in such a way gets your orchids used to these intermittent drinks, which, if you think about it, is how they grow in nature. I follow Bumblebee Orchids’ windowsill Vanda watering routine and have trained my Vanda orchids in such a way that I water them every third day. They seem to be responding well to it. You can check out her YouTube video on the same.
3. Provide adequate humidity
Warm summer breeze reduces humidity in the air. This poses a problem for orchids as they require humidity for their healthy growth. While some heat tolerant varieties such as the Cattleya nobilior, walkeriana, Dendrobiums and others are unaffected by summer heat and thrive in such temperatures, most other orchids require additional measures such as humidifiers and evaporative coolers to maintain the required temperatures and humidity.
Some hobbyists provide these conditions in their grow spaces with water fountains, humidifiers etc. But the vast majority increase humidity by placing humidity trays made from pebbles and water in a shallow tray. The level of water should be much below the level of the pebbles. This allows for continuous evaporation of water, thereby increasing humidity levels in the area. Orchids respond well to this type of humidity.
However, make sure you empty the water and clean the trays once in three days. Stagnant water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and should therefore be avoided. Even if you place these trays, ensure that only a thin layer of water is used and this is allowed to dry up fully before replenishing the same.
4. Add a moisture-retentive top layer to your orchid pot
The warm temperatures induce active vegetative growth in orchids. So you find them producing new growths and roots prolificly. These are very delicate and can easily wither away due to excessive dryness or heat. Same is the case with seedlings. Their requirement of humidity is more than fully grown plants and therefore get dehydrated by the warm and dry summer breeze.
A very effective way to increase humidity in these cases is to place loosely packed sphagnum moss strands as the topmost layer of the medium. This increases the humidity level around the plant.
Ensure that the moss is not too closely packed around the plant, but is lined along the periphery as this is where the roots are located. So, all you need to do is spray some water to tide them through the daytime temperature. When they dry up by next morning, spritz the moss with a little water to keep it damp.
Avoid spraying water in excess. This will result in soggy conditions, which will compact the moss, leading to rotting of new growths and roots. Always spray minimal amount of water and check how much time it takes to dry up completely. Then increase as required.
A good way is to assess the requirement depending on how the new roots and growths respond. If they are dry and shrivelled, then increase it slightly. If they remain damp continuously and are not allowed to dry, then rot will set in. Always remember if you are unsure – less is better than more, whether you are watering or fertilizing your orchids.
The good thing about superficial layering with sphagnum moss is that you can remove the top layer when the rains begin in June. Keeping this layer on during the rainy season will lead to bacterial and fungal rot, especially if your orchids are growing in your balcony or window-sill, as mine do.
I allow my orchids to soak up rain water. To ensure they do not rot, I remove the superficial layer of moss that was used as a temporary top layer during the summer and place them in the rain, ensuring water does not collect in the crown. Since I stay in a tropical climate, once the rains stop in September, I again layer the plants with loosely packed sphagnum moss to prevent the top layer from drying up during the dry winter months.
I use premium quality New Zealand sphagnum moss for my organic mix as well as for the superficial layering. It is clean and has long strands, which is safe to handle and works great for my orchids. However, since this is not available now, you can check out this alternative, which is equally good.
5. Provide good air circulation
Along with the provision of excess humidity in summer, you need to provide good air circulation. If you have an indoor grow space then a small electric pedestal or ceiling fan can meet your requirements. All your orchids need is gentle air drafts, which will distribute humidity and air, and not maintain prolonged periods of wetness. This ensures that fungal or bacterial rot does not set in.
When rising temperature and humidity pose a problem in your indoor grow space, you can also use an air conditioner to provide air circulation, if you do not mind the additional power bills.
6. Keeping your orchids clean and dust-free
Orchids are slow-growing plants and therefore require additional help from your side to boost their growth. They need to carry out photosynthesis to promote healthy growth and blooming. Therefore their leaves need to be kept clean at all times.
Dusty leaves become a problem in summer due to the dry air. This makes the plant vulnerable to pests such as spider mites, mealy bugs and scale. To protect the orchid from these issues, the leaves need to be regularly cleaned with a cotton ball or wipe dipped in very mild soapy water. Ensure that water does not get trapped in the crevices as this could lead to stem or crown rot. For added safety, blot out the trapped moisture with a tissue and dry it well under a fan.
7. Fertilizing your orchids
My fertilizing routine remains the same for most months of the year, barring a few winter months from mid-October to mid-February, when I reduce fertilizing orchids due to a slowdown in growth. However, after that, in spring and summer, orchids resume vigorous vegetative growth and this is when you begin fertilizing them to meet their growth requirements.
Whatever fertilizer you may be using, you could help your plants boost their growth and make them more resistant to dehydration, pest attack and microbial diseases by supplementing your regular fertilizer with a silicon supplement like this one.
Silicon is a naturally occurring substance in soil and helps the plant achieve robust growth in terms of thickness of the leaves and roots, enhances bloom size and quality and increases photosynthetic activity within the leaves. The silicon increases cell-wall thickness, thereby making the plant stronger from within. Externally, it makes the leaves and pseudobulbs thicker, shinier, greener and the flowers more healthy and long-lasting.
This enables it to also withstand stress in case of changing climatic conditions, which is why it is a good idea to begin adding this supplement when the new growths start popping out. You could begin by using quarter of the recommended dosage once a month and see how your plants respond. Gradually, increase it to half the recommended dosage. In this case, less is always better.
I hope this post provides with some good insights for keeping your orchids healthy in the summer months. Please leave a comment in the comment box if you like these tips. If you can come up with additional tips, do leave a comment and I will see how best I can include them.
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Being sympodial type of orchids, Cattleyas produce several new pseudobulbs that rise vertically from a horizontally extending rhizome. Within a year or two, they begin growing out of the pots, which is why most hobbyists resort to dividing their cattleya into back bulbs and newer growths. Both divisions can be repotted in newer and larger pots.
As a rule, I do not encourage dividing your orchid, unless warranted. A conservative attitude serves best in growing them into large specimen sized plants. So repotting into a larger sized pot would be the obvious choice.
But when you have space constraints and do not want to have an overgrown, unruly plant, then it is best to take a more practical approach and consider dividing your plant into two divisions. The reason being that leaving the plant to put out further new shoots will only put the plant at risk, as all the new growths will grow outside the pot. Not only does this jeopardise the plant by way of getting bruised or tender new growths snapping off, but an unruly lopsided growth also looks aesthetically unappealing.
Recently, I was faced with this situation, wherein my Caulocattleya Chantilly Lace had some old pseudobulbs taking prime space in the pot, while the newer growths were extending awkwardly out of the pot. Going in for a bigger pot was out of question as my balcony grow space does not cater for larger pots.
Secondly, given that most of the pseudobulbs were done blooming, and that the plant is a vigorous grower, putting out four-five new pseudobulbs in a year, I took the call on dividing the cattleya, and repotting it, so that it grows well, and is safe from the risk of getting bruised or broken. The section with the older pseudobulbs that were potted separately, would also subsequently develop new pseudobulbs.
With this in mind, I set about dividing the plant and repotting the divisions as follows:
Preparing the plant for dividing and repotting
At the outset, I prepared the plant for dividing and repotting it, by fertilizing it two days prior to the project. Doing this ensured that my orchid absorbed nutrients and would be able to better withstand the shock of dividing it and repotting it.
Secondly, once I repot the orchid, I usually fertilize it only after two-three weeks. Doing this slows down the metabolism of orchids and leads it to a temporary state of dormancy. This slowdown in activity will allow the orchid to redirect its energy into recovering from the shock and subsequently put out new roots and shoots once fertilization is resumed.
Sterilizing the work surface and equipment
I began the project by sterilizing the work surface by swabbing it with 10% bleach. I sterilized the equipment such as cutters and tweezers by rubbing them with surgical spirit.
The steel tweezers and cutters can be flamed for extra effectiveness, as this eliminates any microbes that may survive. Always ensure extreme caution while doing this. Also, keep the surgical spirit away from the flame as it is inflammable and could lead to accidents.
I then lay down all the sterilized equipment, as well as the stakes and string/wire-ties neatly, so that it becomes convenient to pick and use the right tools for the process.
The tweezers are especially useful to reach into nooks and crevices and remove dried sheaths, tease out roots and separate them from the plant before eliminating the dead roots. This easy accessibility also prevents us from accidentally cutting off good roots or sheaths.
With its great value-for-money offer, I bought this set of four tweezers from Amazon and highly recommend the same for your orchid maintenance kit. You can check out the same here.
Unpotting the orchid and inspecting it
In order to understand where to divide the orchid, you can make a rough assessment by checking out the plant.
However, do not rely on this method alone, as it could be misleading. A better way would be to unpot your orchid, remove all the old media and check out the rhizome of the plant. For all you know, the rhizome will give you a completely different perspective on the growth direction of the orchid.
On inspecting my orchid, I decided on dividing the plant into two sections, one with old canes and the other with the newer growths. However, this was not to be.
Assessing the plant and dividing it
Upon unpotting the orchid, I found that the rhizome was dark and moldy in two places. Apparently, it was suffering from rot issues due to the continued exposure to dampness and inadequate air drafts. This happened because the older pseudobulbs were at a lower level than the newer growths that were successively placed higher than the older pseudobulbs.
I quickly removed all the LECA (Light-weight Expanded Clay Aggregate) pellets, except for the ones stuck to the roots. I rinsed the rhizome and roots with mild liquid hand wash soap.
Doing this superficially removes dirt and also removes mold and other microbes/pests. It also helps in better assessment of the orchid’s condition and planing the best course of action.
When faced with a similar situation, if your grow space allows it, you could pot two of the best divisions together to get a specimen sized plant with multi-directional growth or you could exchange it for another plant or; even better, you could either sell it or gift it to a friend.
In order to treat the same, I improvised my plan and ended up cutting the rhizome in three places and eliminating one old decaying pseudobulb. This gave me four divisions instead of two, each having two to four pseudobulbs. I wasn’t pleased about this development, but nonetheless, decided to repot all four of them separately and give them a chance to grow into four different plants.
Prophylactic treatment of the divisions
First things first, I needed to treat the diseased parts. Since the rot was superficial, I congratulated myself on discovering it in the nick of time, before the rot spread to the other sections of the rhizome. I scraped off the blackened rotting tissue from the rhizome until healthy tissue began to show. I again rinsed the sections and placed them in a shallow dish.
I then poured 3% hydrogen peroxide on the rhizome and roots of all four sections and allowed them to fizz for a good ten minutes. Doing this effectively kills the bacteria and fungi that were causing the rot. Spot application of powdered cinnamon at the cuts would further ensure the wounds dry up fast and reduce chances of reinfection.
Repotting the divisions in suitable media
I chose four medium-sized pots for planting the divisions. Since, the orchid was already growing in semi-hydroponic medium, I used pre-sterilized LECA pellets to repot three of the divisions.
Using semi-hydroponics pots with a reservoir to hold water and nutrients, I positioned the plant appropriately, so that the new divisions that would arise, would have plenty of space to grow. I filled the pot with LECA pellets, all the while patting it to pack the medium in as compact a way as possible.
I decided to experiment with organic medium and so repotted the division with the oldest pseudobulbs in organic bark mix, along with strips of synthic, which is a moisture-retentive medium used in place of sphagnum moss.
I positioned the oldest cattleya division in the centre as I have no idea, where the new growth will emerge. I layered the pot with synthic strands at the bottom and topped it with a layer of bark chips. I repeated this layering till the top and finished off with a layer of bark chips. This will ensure there is a good balance of air and moisture in the medium, which will encourage healthy root growth. I placed a stake to support the division, and ensured it is held in the desired position by tying it up with a string.
I placed the newly potted division in my grow space and have been checking on them to ensure they don’t dry up. I will begin fertilizing them after two-three weeks, since this quiet period of inactivity will help them recover and establish themselves better.
To begin with, I will begin fertilizing with half the recommended strength of NPK 20:20:20 (100 TDS), calcium nitrate and magnesium sulphate. I will also add seaweed kelp once a month to the fertilizer.
Watch out this space for updates on how each of these sections develop.
Spring is here and there’s excitement in the air. A much awaited time for orchid enthusiasts, you will now find many of your orchids beginning to spike and bloom. A greater part of the attraction towards the orchid hobby lies in enjoying their beautiful and fragrant blooms. One of the added bonuses of growing orchids is that most of them remain in bloom for at least a month, some continuing up to three months or more.
This provides plenty of scope to display the plant in various arrangements so that we can enjoy the blooms till they last. A case in point is the beautiful creations at your local orchid show, where orchids are aesthetically displayed in themed setups, bringing out their beauty to the fore.
Why should we try this out? For the simple reason that it would add an extra dimension to the orchid growing hobby. We need to savour their beauty in a fitting setup that would take the aesthetics of the hobby a notch higher. It would keep our creative juices flowing and is therapeutic for the mind and body. Last but not the least, it would help us be active, free of stress and happy, thereby contributing to our wellness. To know more about this feel-good factor that is generated, read my post, 7 Reasons why orchids can help you beat stress.
As an orchid hobbyist, every time your orchid blooms, you look forward to displaying your orchid on your window sill, mantelpiece, corner table, or even a showcase shelf. Sipping that hot cup of coffee and taking in the beauty of your orchids in bloom can give a great start to your day, instantly uplifting your spirits. You can’t help but congratulate yourself, on the fruits of your labour.
As I watched my Tolumnia orchid, which is mounted on wood, unfold its blooms, I could barely contain my excitement as I wished to display it in a beautiful setting that would add to the beauty of the plant. So I thought, why not provide a natural setting, and got so charged with the idea that I couldn’t wait to put it together at the earliest.
But before I speak about my project, let us understand a few basic considerations to ensure that our project is successfully executed and provides the desired results. These generalised considerations hold good for displaying any type of orchid. Doubly check on a few requirements to fulfil which, you need to:
Choose a suitable space for displaying your plant
By suitable, I mean that it should have a vantage point. That is, it should be at eye level, or at a level that will display the blooms at the best angle. It should preferably have a plain, uncluttered backdrop that would help display your creation to its best.
The third most important thing to consider is that it should be a safe place, where the chances of your orchid getting knocked down inadvertently are absolutely nil. You just cannot risk damaging your orchid or its blooms and need to make the location as safe as possible.
You could choose a safe corner table or shelf, or backed up against a wall or within a niche. This will keep your display safe and provide a fitting background for the display.
Another important factor is lighting. The right type of lighting will make your display magical. So unless you want additional lighting, choose a setup that is well-lit and creates an out-of-this-world effect.
Plan your theme and have all the props ready
Always jot down your ideas and chalk out your theme for its systematic execution and an impressive end result. Diagrammatic doodles can give a rough idea of how you would want the finished result to appear. You could give it a natural look just by itself or provide a contrasting background by using various decorative props and embellishments.
Put together your props, vase, sticking tape, wood mount and other requirements, pictures together. Ensure that water-resistant props such as twigs, pebbles and other are dipped in mild warm soap solution and taken out so that they are free of dust and kill insects that hide under the surface of the bark.
Select a sturdy holder/tray or vase for your display
Since your display will remain in position for a while, you need to ensure that it is placed on a sturdy platform or table and will not be shifted frequently. It will also need a heavy holder, tray or a vase, the centre of gravity of which, is closer to the base. This will ensure that the arrangement does not topple from being top heavy.
Alternatively, if you cannot find a heavy vase or container, you can fill up the vase or tray with pebbles, and this can provide adequate stability.
Choose and prepare your props for a good display
Collect the props that will add an extra dimension to your display. They could be in the form of moss-covered twigs or river reed. You can also use dry grass and other dried flower arrangements to add that element of interest. You need to check on whether the props are colour-coordinated or provide a contrast, as per your theme’s requirement.
Sometimes, you can even use coloured rock, gravel and artificial pebbles, glass beads and textured sand to provide a fitting layout for your display. At other times, you can combine a few of your succulents and ferns to provide a beautiful lush green backdrop. These can bring out the beauty of your orchids.
However, a word of caution here – ensure the plants you use are free of disease and do not harbour pests such as snails, spider mites, scale and other pests and infections. Take care so that the soil from these plants does not fall into the orchid medium and get contaminated. You can prevent this from happening by covering the open surface with duct tape.
All these props, except for your garden plants, need to be cleaned and sterilised if possible, before being used. This will ensure that your orchid remains free of disease and pest infestations.
Prepare your plant for display
Once you choose your plant for display, you need to tidy it up for a beautiful display. Remove any dried sheaths and leaves, wipe the leaves clean with a very mild solution of liquid soap. Ensure that it is watered well and will remain fresh for a few days without being watered. If it is a wood mount, you need to wet it and place it after the water has drained off.
Support the flowers with stakes so that they are displayed at the right angle and position, and not drooping over haphazardly. Following this tip will protect the flower spike from any potential damage. This can also be done much earlier when the buds begin opening up. Take extreme care so that you don’t accidentally snap a bud spike or damage it.
Fasten or support the props properly
The props need to be positioned in the desired angle or arrangement. You need to arrange it and step back to view whether it has the desired effect. Once you are satisfied with the placement, you can go ahead and fasten some transparent cellotape to secure it firmly in place.
Doing this is important as it will prevent the props from falling on your plant, crushing it or bruising it. You can also take out your plant for maintenance, and put it back, without disturbing the entire display.
Check if you can easily move your plant for watering it
Since your plant will have a long bloom period and can be a part of the display for several days or weeks, it is pertinent to position the plant in such a way that it can be easily removed from the display and watered and placed back.
In the case of wood mounts, you need to wet the mount and allow excess water to drain off before placing it back in the display. Also, ensure the pot or mount is not precariously balanced as this could increase the risk of damage to the orchid.
Keep your plant safe with minimal handling
Restrict handling of your plant as much as possible as this would reduce the risk of damage to your plants considerably. Try to minimise handling by combining its care routine in one go.
For instance, you could water/fertilize you plant as well as tidy it up by wiping away dust and removing dried leaves and sheaths that can harbour pests. You can also check for signs of new growth and carefully work around them, so that they are not harmed. Be vigilant as always and scrutinize your plant for signs of disease. All these tasks can be done when the orchid is taken out for watering. This will minimise handling to a great extent. The plant can then be placed back in the display for another few days.
Project: Mounting your Tolumnia orchid
‘Getting a slice of the woods into your living room’
Tolumnia orchids are a good choice for compact and large composite displays due to their compact size and small sized delicate blooms. They grow well mounted on wood or in small-sized pots with very less medium. This makes them ideally suited for ‘nature’ themed displays.
In this project I have displayed a mounted Tolumnia orchid that is blooming. Since it is a young plant and a first-time bloomer, it has only one spike. As the plants develop more fans, you can expect multiple spikes, which would make for an amazing display. To know more about how to mount your Tolumnia on wood, read my post Project#2: Mounting your Tolumnia orchid on wood.
Step by step guide to creating a natural theme display for your Tolumnia orchid
1. Clean the area surrounding your display and make it clutter-free. Wipe the area clean to make it dust free.
2. Place the tray/bowl or vase in which the Tolumnia mount will be placed, in the earmarked area.
3. Arrange the props – moss covered twigs – in the right position so as to add an element of aesthetics to the display. Fasten them in place by using a transparent cello tape.
4. Place the blooming Tolumnia wood mount at the desired spot and ensure it is secured. This is important so that your plant does not topple down at a mere touch.
5. Step back and assess your display critically. Rearrange, if required, to get a better effect.
6. You can raise the bar and provide a better display by refining the aesthetics a little more. Create the woods effect by mimicking nature. Get the woods into your living room by positioning the display in front of a set of pictures of birds, or any other images that add to the mystic of the creation.
7. Now arrange the vase in such a way that it provides an effect as if the birds are perched on the moss covered branches that you have created.
Following these steps will indeed make for an amazing creation that will hold pride of place in your home, and will mark the beginning of many such creative projects when your orchids bloom.
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Orchids are the most beautiful and exquisite wonders of nature. While the blooms are admired the world over, it has been over a decade since orchids have gained popularity as a hobby. But the snowball is growing bigger and bigger as it rolls and today, there are millions of orchid hobbyists in remote corners of the world, who are going to great lengths to rear orchids in their homes or hot houses.
Over the years, orchid growing has also gained a reputation of being a stress buster, leaving people happy and positive. No wonder then that the orchid hobby is gaining traction with the young and old, alike.
However, as with every other hobby, orchid growing requires commitment and investment of time. If you are working full time or are committed elsewhere, then it will require special consideration, since you will need to divert your time and energy towards developing this hobby.
Listed below are nine things that will prepare you for embarking on your orchid care and cultivation journey:
Developing the orchid hobby may sound exciting, but would be an add-on to your weekend chores. While you may put off your laundry or tidying up for later during the week, you won’t be able to do the same with your orchid watering/fertilizing schedule. So, just as you would take care of a pet, orchids demand time and attention, or could wither up due to negligence. So, given the busy work schedule, it would be best to start with a modest collection of a few hardy orchids, and add more as you get used to their culture and care requirements.
While we are attracted to the exquisite beauty of orchid blooms, getting your orchids to bloom requires you to invest considerable effort. Nonetheless, this should not deter you from developing this relaxing hobby. Understanding this will prepare you to start small with a minimal number of orchids, and depending on the effort you can put in towards their regular care, you can grow your collection of orchids.
Orchids require commitment to their care and culture. While some varieties like dendrobiums and cattleyas are hardy, and can withstand draught conditions to some extent, there are other types such as phalaenopsis, vandas and oncidiums that require regular watering and care. So one needs to set aside time to cater to their culture needs. A good way is to test the waters with a few hardy ones and then move on to the more demanding types, depending on the time that you can spare.
4. Getting to know orchids better
Fore-warned is fore-armed. So is the case with orchid culture. Before you decide to take it up as a hobby, look up for information on orchids, their varieties and culture requirements. This will make the journey more enjoyable and you will achieve better results. It will also give you an idea about the commitment required to develop this hobby and whether it will fit into your lifestyle.
5. One rule does not fit all
While a lot of information on orchid care and culture is available online, you need to consider your local environment and accordingly modify the care requirements to get the desired results. A good way to gauge whether the care you are providing is suiting your orchid, is to watch how your orchid is responding to your care, and modify to achieve better results.
6. Managing your expenses
Growing orchids can be a reasonably expensive hobby as the plants and growth media like pine bark and sphagnum moss are costly. As an orchid growing hobbyist, I have tried various alternative media that are less expensive and can be sourced locally. Inorganic media like LECA pebbles, river rock, charcoal and lava rock can be reused. Using bark mounts and DIY ideas have helped me bring down the expenses considerably, thereby allowing me to channelize my savings towards buying more orchids. Moreover, sourcing orchids through local growers and hobbyists, being part of online orchid buy and sell groups on social media, buying smaller size plants and making the most of orchid discount sales as well as clearance sales in nurseries, garden centres, including orchid exhibitions cum sales, can help you bring down costs considerably.
7. Your collection will predictably grow
Once you start looking after orchids comfortably and they begin thriving and blooming under your care, you will invariably want to diversify your collection, especially if you want blooms during every season. Before you know it, your orchid collection will start growing. So it’s worth your while to earmark a dedicated grow space in your home and keep it well-organized.
8. Experimentation and innovation
As your collection grows and you become confident about looking after your orchids, the fun part begins. You can begin experimenting with growth media, fertilizers and different ways of growing orchids such as water culture, semi-water culture or on bark mounts, mounting on rocks and other media. There is never a dull moment and you will be amazed by the way your orchids respond to the right conditions.
9. Taking your passion to the next level
As you get comfortable growing orchids and blooming them year after year, you could go a notch higher and focus on specialising your collection with your favourite types of orchids such as a collection of paphiopedlums, species collections, miniature orchids and the like. You can share your experiences through blogs and tutorial/care videos. You can also start selling your orchids as they grow and begin multiplying. Taking your hobby further, you can get creative with orchid flower arrangements, growing them in a terrarium and recreating the forest habitat using various substrates like bark, pebbles, rocks and other media.
Growing orchids can be a very satisfying hobby and can contribute to your wellness. (Check out my post, Orchids and Wellness for more information.) Taking an informed call on whether you are prepared for this hobby will definitely answer a lot of questions that you may have as a beginner. Knowing about the commitment, expenditure, preparation involved and the personal growth you will eventually experience, will ensure that your passion grows with each passing year.
For more information on orchid culture and care, read my blog posts on www.orchidanu.com