You Too Can Grow Orchids - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

You Too Can Grow Orchids

Most home gardeners shy away from raising orchids, thinking them too challenging even for their “green” thumbs. But given the diversity of plants that are found in the orchid family, there is bound to be at least one member that the average home gardener can tackle.

In fact, according to the American Orchid Society (AOS): “If you can grow houseplants, you can grow orchids. Like any other plant, orchids must have the growing conditions they need to survive. But they are amazingly sturdy and resilient.”

The first thing to do in choosing an orchid to grow is to become familiar with the four basic types, as that will determine the growing conditions needed to be successful. Most orchids are classified as epiphytes, or air plants, which grow chiefly on trees in nature. Other orchids are lithophytes, which cling to the surfaces of rocks; saprophytes, which grow in decaying vegetation on the forest floor; and terrestrials, which send their roots into soil or sand. As most orchids are epiphytes, they can be grown in tree bark (fir or redwood), crumbled charcoal, pebbles or on cork planks.

Some of the easier orchids with which to start a collection include Cattleya, Phalaenopsis and Oncidium.. The proper temperature, watering and fertilizing schedules vary with the specific type of orchid.

There are many good books available to help guide the novice orchid grower along their path. The AOS recommends “Growing Orchids: A Cultural Handbook” prepared by the American Orchid Society, 1993, and “Home Orchid Growing” by Rebecca T. Northen, Fourth Edition, 1990. There are also good general books on growing orchids included as part of a series of gardening books by such publishers as Taylor’s Guides, Ortho, and Sunset.

In addition, you can find lots of great advice by joining the American Orchid Society both at the national level and the local branches in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Ft. Wayne, Lafayette, Michiana, and Terre Haute. For more information, contact: American Orchid Society, PO Box 565477, Miami, Fla. 33256; telephone (305) 740-2010; fax (305) 747-7154.

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