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.
The monsoon downpours have begun, and your orchids will get a fresh lease of life when you make the most of the season and allow them to soak in its goodness. Rich in Nitrates, phosphorus, and Vitamin B12 producing bacteria floating in the air, rainwater alsocomes with a balanced pH optimal for the growth of your orchids, thereby helping them thrive and bloom during their cycle. But the trick here is to expose your orchids in the right way, for the right time, and to check thereafter that they are growing well and not facing issues of rot.
Read on to learn more about my six orchid care tips for the rainy season to take full advantage of the rains. An added benefit would be that we can look forward to some respite from our regular watering and fertilizing schedule, and focus on other orchid related projects.
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After the hot and dusty summers, your orchids will welcome the rains with gusto. The first shower will drench your orchids and invigorate them to produce new growths and roots in abundance. The spurt in growth is significantly noticeable, some shooting up by almost a centimetre in a single day. As the leaves and stems get drenched and water trickles down the stems and into the roots, you notice visible changes such as a bright green colour, turgid leaves and new growths that are almost bursting out of their sheaths. Well that’s not all. Rain water will swell up the buds on the nodes, which develop into spikes in the case of vandas, oncidiums and phaenopsis, just as you will find buds pushing themselves out of their sheaths, as in the case of cattleyas. Such is the amazing impact of the rain on your orchids.
This should come as no surprise to you, knowing that most orchids, in their natural habitat grow in the rain forests, where there are frequent downpours and a predominantly humid environment. Epiphytic orchids (orchids that grow on trees) get drenched in the rains and spread out their roots on the tree trunks. Since the roots are exposed to air, they tend to dry off quickly and therefore roots do not rot even with repeated downpours. The leaves and crown are so arranged that water that falls on them just slips away and falls down or trickles down all the way down along the stem. Also the breeze following a downpour quickly dries off the plants, preventing collection of water and microorganisms in the crown and other nooks and crevices.
I strictly avoided wetting the leaves and only watered the orchids in the root region earlier. I did face crown rot and stem rot issues. So I decided to make the orchids resistant to crown rot by spraying them down with my gardening spray pump.
I took this step as I have a west facing windows, which allow good air circulation. So if you do not have good air circulation in your grow area or do not have a fan to circulate air, then this is best avoided.
Initially, when I begun spraying water, I found water pooling in the crown even after hours after i was done with watering. So I used to tip the pots to drain out the water from the crown. But after some days, I noticed the orchids draining out water from the crown automatically. Talk about adaptation! 🙂 I have never faced crown rot issues after that, even during the rainy season when there is a continuous downpour.
However, growing orchids in your home environment or in a greenhouse is quite another story. The growing conditions you provide in terms of potting media, light and air movement will vary based on your climatic conditions. Growing phalaenopsis orchids with their crown positioned vertically to provide an aesthetically pleasing display, may not exactly be conducive for exposing your orchids to the rain. To remove the tediousness of everyday watering, we have also modified our care routine by growing orchids in moisture retentive medium. While this can work well during the warm dry summers, it can adversely affect your orchids if they are continuously exposed to the rain during the monsoons.
I grow my orchids on my windowsill, in my tropical grow conditions using organic potting mixes of pine bark and sphagnum moss. Warm summers are followed by the rainy season. While I make some superficial changes to provide a conducive environment for growth during various seasons, additional care needs to be taken so that the orchids don’t develop issues such as fungal and bacterial rot. Taking care of these issues will help you provide the right amount of exposure to rain, which will stimulate growth and blooming in your orchid.
Let us begin with the commonly faced issues when our orchids are exposed to rain:
Crown Rot – This is one of the most common issues faced by orchid hobbyists when their orchids are exposed to rain. When rain water collects in the crowns of monopodial plants such as phalaenopsis or vanda orchids, the long exposure to moisture, along with the bacteria and fungi that are on the surface of the leaves, tend to create an unhealthy environment for the orchid, wherein the bacteria and fungi start multiplying due to excessively moist conditions. This leads to rotting of the tender tissue in the crown of the plant. The infection spreads to the other portions of the stem and the plant slowly begins to lose its leaves. Timely intervention can help you save the orchid, but it will set back its growth and blooming to some extent.
Rotting of leaves – Rain drops often collect in the base of the axil of the leaves. These regions are snugly bound to the stem and can allow moisture to accumulate. This again leads to an environment conducive for bacterial and fungal growth. Since the leaves are arranged on either side of the stem or pseudobulb in the case of vanda, phalaenopsis, oncidium and tolumnia, dendrobium and other such orchids, the infection spreads quickly to the stem and other parts. Sometimes, soft water-filled black spots appear on the leaves. If left untreated, they quickly spread and destroy the whole leaf and subsequently the stem. Only timely intervention and appropriate remedial measures can save the plant.
Root rot – Moisture retentive medium such as sphagnum moss, when added to the potting medium tends to hold copious amounts of water. This is utilised by the the plant and the medium dries off after a couple of days. But when your orchids soak up rain water, the medium remains damp for prolonged periods, then fungal and bacterial infections become rampant. The roots become soggy and begin rotting. The first sign of root rot is when the leaves become thin and dehydrated despite moisture in the pot. This is indicative of a damaged root system. If not treated on time, the infection quickly travels up the root, to the rhizome and the pseudobulbs. This further causes the leaves and stem to turn yellow and black, and decay.
Rot of new growths – Just as with crown rot, rain water that remains trapped in new growths of oncidium and cattleya orchids can also lead to bacterial and fungal rot. As the water travels into the crevices, it collects bacteria and fungi on the surface of the plant and its narrow vertical structure does not allow air to enter and dry up the moisture. The prolonged dampness promotes bacterial and fungal attack on the roots, leading to rotting of the delicate tissue. Losing a new growth to rot can lead to setback for the plant as these new shoots are the ones that would mature and bloom in the coming season. Moreover, orchids put out new roots through these new growths. If the orchid does not have a healthy root system, then this could prove to be a major setback for the plant. So, these delicate new growths need to be protected from rainfall.
Advantages of rain water for your orchids
Now you must be wondering that if there is so much of risk involved, then why you should even consider placing your orchids in the rain. Well, for the simple reason that rain water has manifold benefits on your orchids. The first and foremost being that it has the right pH of around 6.5, which is suitable for healthy orchid growth and blooming.
During rains, Nitrogen from the atmosphere is converted to oxides of Nitrogen by lightning. Nitrogen and sulphur oxide gases, along with carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, are brought down to the earth by rain. The Nitrogen is converted to nitrates when it dissolves in rainwater.
As the rainwater comes down, some of the nitrates are converted to metabolic by-products such as Vitamin B12 by bacteria in the air and on the surface of plants. This is rich in Nitrogen and Phosphorus (If you check out the structure of Vitamin B12, you will find several nitrogen atoms and a phosphate group in each molecule). Vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed by plants directly, so it is broken down by bacteria and fungi to form soluble nitrates and phosphates. These are then readily absorbed by the plants, resulting in the insrant greening effect on plants seen after rainy showers. I allow my orchids to soak up the rain. The results are simply amazing. They develop a lush green hue that is incomparably beautiful and healthy.
Another advantage of rainfall is that it can help your dehydrated orchids become hydrated and healthy once again. Since rainwater is readily absorbable, you can place your severely dehydrated orchid in rain and the leaves and pseudobulbs will plump up again. I have revived quite a few orchids that were dehydrated due to an inadequate root system. The plant basically gets a new lease of life and will begin producing new roots and growths when it gets soaked in the rain.
Healthy plants thrive in the rain by shooting up to almost a centimetre in length of new growths, leaves and roots. Spikes and sheaths also begin to develop as a result of rain. I have known cases where a vanda orchid did not bloom for ten consecutive years, but bloomed in the eleventh year, when the hobbyist allowed the vanda to soak up the rain during monsoon. Such is the power of rain water. In fact, experienced orchid hobbyists often collect rainwater in large clean storage tanks and water their orchids with it throughout the year.
Now let us understand how you can effectively provide the above advantages without adversely affecting or damaging your orchids. A little care will help you keep your orchids safe while exposing them to the rain. While most of your orchids will thrive in the rain, you may face issues in some orchids based on their health. You need to watch over them with a keen eye, for any signs of susceptibility.
Six care tips for your orchids during the rainy season:
Follow these six cautious care tips to protect your orchids when you expose them to rain:
Prepare your orchids for the rainy season
My tropical grow conditions are ideally suited for warm growing orchids. During summers, the climate tends to get very warm and dry, increasing my frequency of watering. To increase humidity, I superficially line up the periphery of the pot with sphagnum moss. This provides humidity and keeps the orchids cool. But come rainy season, and I remove this top layer of moss and replace it with bark chips. This prevents excessive moisture retention, which would lead to rotting of the orchid roots and stems.
Along with this, I also clean up the leaves of the orchids with a soft cloth or sponge dipped in mild dish-wash solution and allow them to dry under a fan. This removes any superficial dust and mites.
When it begins to rain, I use small polythene bags to cover the new growths and protect them from holding moisture. I followed this tip from the YouTube channel, My Green Pets, and it has worked just fine for me.
Prevent retention of moisture for a prolonged period
Since we grow orchids upright as opposed to how they grow in the wild, water tends to pool up in the crown area of the pseudobulb, leading to rot. To prevent this from happening to your orchids, you can allow them to soak in the rain and once it is saturated, tilt the pot slightly and allow the excess water to run off along the axil of the youngest leaf. This will allow minimal moisture to remain in the crown, which can easily be dried up by air-drafts.
If you grow your orchids outdoors in your balcony, patio or on your window-sill, the breeze will dry off the remaining moisture. But remember to tip the pots sidewards at a 45º angle so that excess water does not remain trapped in the pot. Alternatively, place the orchids under a fan. This will ensure that they dry off quickly. You could also draw out the moisture by rolling up absorbent paper and blotting out the moisture.
Check on your orchids after they get wet in the rain
One way to ensure your orchids are safe, is to check them every day for signs of infections and rot, especially after you have exposed them to rainfall. Catching infections, rot and pest infestations early on will help you save your orchid by taking appropriate preventive measures. Look out for soft, damp, dark spots on the leaves. This is an indication of leaf rot. Also yellowing and soft rot in the crown region or the stem indicates crown rot and stem rot, respectively. These require immediate remedial action.
Ensure a good wet-dry cycle
While it rains almost every day during the season, we cannot give our orchids the advantage of getting soaked day-after-day during the season. The reason being that we pot our orchids in moisture retentive organic medium like coconut chips, sphagnum moss and bark chips.
Excessive retention of rainwater can lead to a soggy environment. Orchid roots do not like prolonged soaking wet conditions and quickly begin to rot. Excessive moisture over prolonged periods in the medium makes the medium very acidic. This is either caused by excessive moisture retention due to moisture absorbent media or due to poor drainage and ventilation of the pots. You need to ensure that both these issues are set right before you think of soaking up your orchids in the rain. If not detected early on, the rotting can even spread to the pseudobulbs, and destroy the plant completely.
To prevent rot from setting in, you need to limit the exposure of your potted orchids to rainfall. Let your potted orchids reach near-dry conditions before allowing them to soak up rainwater again. If they are already moist, do not expose them to rain again as excessive moisture in the medium will promote rotting of roots and new growths.
or any inorganic material that is non-absorbent, you can go ahead and allow them to soak in the rain during the entire season. Just ensure they dry up after each soak, so that no water pools up in the new growths and crowns. You can easily tip your mounts to one side to drain out any moisture that is trapped in new growths or sheaths.
Take quick remedial action if you observe signs of rotting
Once you identify any rot issues in any of your orchids, you need to take quick remedial action to treat them at the earliest.
In the case of stem, crown and leaf rot, you may have to remove the rotted tissue by cutting or scraping away the affected portion. Apply cinnamon powder on the cut surfaces to prevent them from getting re-infected.
For root rot issues, you may need to cut away the affected portion of the roots and rhizome and apply 3% hydrogen peroxide to the healthy part of the rhizome and root system. In case the infection is severe, you may need to apply a suitable fungicide in below recommended proportions. This will help salvage the healthy portion of the plant.
Some hobbyists recommend a fungicidal spray (prophylactic) every fifteen days to prevent fungal and bacterial rot. Personally, I avoid spraying harmful chemicals and instead prefer much conservative and harmless methods to control rot issues. I use fungicides cautiously, only when there is a major problem with orchids. These are highly toxic and therefore should be applied with extreme caution and care, especially if you have children and pets around.
Additional precautions to be taken
Once you wet your orchids in the rain, do not allow the excess water from the medium to drain out onto other pots. This can lead to rotting of the crown, stem, roots, leaves and also new growths of the orchid. The rot is mainly due to spread of infection from one pot to another. This can be prevented by placing a saucer under the pot to collect water or allowing it to drain out fully before hanging it up above your other plants.
Another reason for spread of infection can be attributed to the use of unsterilized equipment for trimming your orchid leaves and roots. This can get aggravated and lead to spread of the infection due to a prolonged moist environment. So always sterilize your cutters with rubbing alcohol and flame it with necessary precaution. Ensure all safety measures are taken during this procedure.
For instance, Fusarium Wilt is a fungal disease that is commonly spread by sharing of water and using unsterilized pruners or cutters for trimming your orchids.
Armed with these tips, you can confidently allow your orchids to soak up in the rain and get all its inherent advantages. This will promote their healthy growth and blooming. And you get some respite from watering your orchids. Just watching them soak in the rain will make you very happy. After all, growing orchids is also about keeping ourselves peppy and happy.
Please leave a comment below if you have some more useful tips so that I can include the same in the post (and credit you for the same).
It’s summer once again. 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 rot caused by 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 bud spikes and flowers
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 in spring, as summers begin, 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 reasonably large 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 large sized orchid in a bigger pot with a well-draining organic medium like bark chips with a few strands of moisture-retentive sphagnum moss or coco chips 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 good 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 size 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.
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. Then hang them back in place. This will allow them to be hydrated till the next day.
Always check how they respond. Look out 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. Speaking out of experience, this works very well, and your care routine will get considerably simplified.
3. Provide adequate humidity
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 have trained my Vanda orchids in such a way that I allow them to soak every third day. In between, I spray water on them in the morning and evening to maintain humidity. But if I feel that they dry up faster in summer, then I increase the frequency of these intermittent soaks. You can make this out if the root velamen shrinks and shrivels due to dehydration.
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 Cattleyas and Dendrobiums 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 ambient humidity levels. 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. 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 mature 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 ambient humidity.
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, taking care to prevent water from collecting in the crown. To know more about this, you can read my post on care tips for the rainy season.
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.
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.
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. I apply an organic silicon supplement once a month.
This enables it to also withstand stress in case of changing climatic conditions and sudden weather fluctuations, 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.
I hope this post provides you 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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Now that you have settled down into a comfortable routine of growing your orchids by providing them with the right conditions for their growth, there are additional requirements that will keep them healthy and free of pests, help them grow well and prepare them for the blooming season. Just as you take care of your other indoor plants, you need to regularly check on them and ensure that they are healthy and disease-free. This regular maintenance will facilitate their peak growth and help them flower year after year.
Listed below are care tips that would help you spruce up your orchids and maintain them in optimal conditions at all times.
Orchids need to grow in clean and healthy medium that will provide the right balance of moisture and air for their optimal growth. In their native habitat, orchids grow on trees and absorb humidity from the atmosphere.
Similarly, they need to receive a continuous supply of moisture from the medium, without being excessively wet. A combination of chunky bark with strands of moss will provide the right balance of air and moisture. This medium can last for a year or two, but may begin disintegrating faster, if it is not allowed to dry out between waterings.
Orchids need to be re-potted when:
They are not potted in suitable medium for their growth.
They are growing/extending out of the pot and so require a bigger sized pot.
Medium such as bark begins rotting and disintegrating.
Medium gets infested with snails or fungus, which can destroy a plant completely.
To repot, you need to discard the old medium, wash and sterilize the pot if you plan on reusing it, and repot using fresh medium. (I will be covering this process at length in a separate post.)
Orchid plants need to be spruced up from time to time to provide a neat and groomed appearance. Old dried leaves, sheaths and pseudobulbs should be removed as these could harbour pests.
Sometimes, the rhizome travels outside the plant, sending out tangled roots that are susceptible to bruising. This also reduces the compactness of the plant and reduces its aesthetic appeal. Canes and pseudobulbs that are awkwardly shaped can knock down other plants by getting entangled, or they themselves can get knocked down, leading to damage. These need to be cut and repotted.
Longer canes that are bent out of shape can be braced using stakes and wire ties. In time, they will conform to the shape they are trained for and will accordingly grow to provide a beautiful display.
Wrinkled and limp leaves are signs of a stressed and dehydrated orchid. Check the reason for this condition by unpotting the plant. This happens mostly when the orchid lacks good roots and hence cannot absorb water. The plant continues to survive despite lack of roots and gets revived when new roots appear. Reduce the watering in such a case as the medium can get soggy and lead to fungal infections. A stressed plant can rapidly go downhill as it is easily susceptible to fungal and pest attack.
3. Keeping plants dust-free
Orchids need to be kept free of dust as it affects their growth significantly. The leaves need to absorb sunlight for photosynthesis. Moreover, the stomata that are present under the leaves need to breathe freely to facilitate the exchange of gases.
If the leaves are covered with dust, these functionalities get adversely affected and it slows down growth, thereby affecting bloom production. So it is very much important to keep the plants clean by spraying them with water and allowing them to dry under a fan or placing them where they are exposed to air drafts.
This ensures that moisture is not retained in the crown of the plant and inside the sheaths of new growths, thereby preventing rotting of the pseudo bulbs. Another efficient way is to draw out the trapped moisture by blotting it with absorbent tissue paper.
A safer, and equally effective way is to wipe the leaves with a very mild solution of dishwash soap. Dip a soft cloth or sponge and gently wipe clean the leaves, ensuring that the leaves do not get bruised. Unless very dusty, avoid wiping the underside of the leaves, to prevent the stomata pores from getting clogged. This method will ensure better photosynthesis, respiration and growth of the plant.
Another alternative to the dish-wash soap method is to squeeze a 2-3 drops of lime juice in 100 ml of water and clean the leaves with it. This makes the leaves shiny and healthy.
4. Spike and bloom care
Orchids generally bloom once or twice a year and during this time, special care needs to be taken to provide them with adequate moisture and fertilizer, especially when the spike begins to grow. When the buds begin to bloom, avoid the application of fertilizer to make the blooms last longer. Some growers support the use of fertilizers during blooming. Personally, I have lost blooms whenever, I have applied fertilizers, especially if the plants are stressed out due to transportation or have been re-potted recently. So depending on how your orchids respond, you can follow either way for the best results.
Orchid spikes are fragile and need to be handled with care. They can be supported with stakes to ensure they provide an attractive display. Once the blooming is done, the spike can be cut off at the base, leaving a little stump, especially in the case of Oncidiums and Cattleyas. On the other hand, you can also leave the spikes on Phalaenopsis or Tolumnia till they dry out. Since they are sequential bloomers, they may surprise you with more blooms on secondary spikes.
In rare cases, old woody Phalaenopsis spikes are retained on the plant as these can be used for anchoring fresh spikes, giving a natural look. But scraggly spikes can look unsightly, so it is always important that your orchids look neat and aesthetically appealing.
5. Pest Control
Orchids need to be protected from pests such as snails, thrips, mealy bugs, roaches, spidermites and fungal attack. So it is important to scrutinize your plants regularly to keep them in check. There is an urgency to isolate and treat them as early as possible as sometimes, these could lead to irreparable damage and many-a-times, orchids succumb to these fast-spreading infestations.
You can use conservative and harmless treatment methods like hydrogen peroxide for snails and protection against fungal and bacterial growth, besides using rubbing alcohol for getting rid of mealy bugs. Spraying with a suitable systemic fungicide is helpful in the treatment of thrips or fusarium infestation. The latter involves a lengthy period of isolation and treatment of the plant.
Spider mites are a menace for orchids. These quickly multiply and thrive if the plant foliage is kept dry and dusty. Frequent spraying of water on the foliage is an absolute no-no as it makes them susceptible to rotting from remaining wet.
I am a big fan of DIY solutions. So I recommend the one shared by Miss Orchid Girl (Visit www.missorchidgirl.com for more details) to make a mild solution of liquid dish-wash soap and a drop of paraffin oil. This is an ingredient in moisturisers and body lotions. So adding a drop of this can work as well.
Apart from this, your orchids may also be a home to other insects such as ants and springtail, which are harmless—the former search for happy sap, the syrupy secretions at the apex and feed on it; the latter clear up fungal growth in the medium. So these can be left alone too. However, be watchful of ants as they can help spread mealy bug infestations from one plant to another.
While these form the basic care tips for maintaining your orchid collection, growing and caring for orchids allows a lot of flexibility. Depending on factors like the medium, the environment you are providing and most importantly, how your orchids respond to your care, the problems you face, you can deviate and come up with a care regimen that suits them best.