It has been a busy few days of gift giving and by far one of the most popular gifts that has been bought here in CountryLife for people to give as presents has been orchids. I think people love them because they make such impressive presents to give to someone. And you don’t even have to be a gardener to appreciate the beauty of an orchid.
Orchids are part of one of the largest families of flowering plants with over 28,000 different species in it so there really is one out there for everyone. Orchids have grown in popularity since the 19th century when horticulturalists started to collect them and cross-breed different types together. This has resulted in an explosion of different types and hybrids being introduced to the market.
Three of the main species of orchids that you will find in people’s homes are phalaenopsis orchids, dendrobium orchids and oncidium orchids. Of these types phalaenopsis orchids, or Moth orchids as they are more frequently called, are the most common and in my opinion, the easiest to care for at home.
This orchid is also the longest flowering with a spike of flowers often staying in bloom for up to four months. And thanks to the introduction of hybrids you can now get Moth orchids in every shade of colour imaginable from white, pink, red, green, yellow, orange to shades of purple.
When it comes to caring for orchids at home, it is important to remember where the plants originally came from. They come from warm humid jungles and so should be kept in a warm shaded spot in a house. They do not like direct sunlight though so I find a north-facing window is a great spot to place them on.
It is also important to know that orchid roots are slightly different to those of normal flowering plants. Orchid roots can photosynthesise and because of this need light falling on them. This goes against everything gardeners are taught about protecting roots and covering them in soil. It is important to allow the roots to hang outside the pot so they can get light and help feed the plant. It is important however when you are re-potting them (normally every two to three years) that you use orchid compost which is specially designed for orchids to grow in. It often contains a lot of bark and is very loose to allow air in. Normally compost is too dense and will suffocate the roots.
You can buy orchid mists in most garden centers now which you spray on the plant every week and it keeps the plant flowering beautifully. At home every so often we dump all our orchids into the shower for a quick water and this helps to remove any dust that might have collected on the leaves. They tend to like the humid atmosphere in the bathroom too so you can almost consider it a spa for your orchids.
If you haven’t owned an orchid yet, give it a go. They are easier to keep than you might think. If you have any questions ask any of our horticulturists in store!