21st October 2011
A LEADING orchid expert says that orchids are easy to look after in comparison to other houseplants and that consumers should not be put off.
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gold medallist Chris Channon, who works with one of the UK’s leading suppliers of plant nutrients, Growth Technology, says people worry about orchid care but it’s simple.
He explained: “I have grown many sorts of plants in my life, but I can confidently say that orchids are the least problematic. As with any plant, provided you remain within certain parameters of temperature, light, moisture and nutrients, there is somewhere in the home to suit cool, through to warm growing orchids. Despite popular belief, they are perhaps the most suitable plant for growing in a centrally heated home.”
Chris, who gives orchid advice to consumers nationwide at events organised by Growth Technology, managed Deva Orchids, a successful nursery near Chester, for more than 21 years.
Here he answers the top five questions he is always asked at orchid events.
What should I be aware of when I buy a new orchid?
Always choose a plant with a vigorous root system. Avoid any plants that have roots that are covered by ceramic pots, paper doilies, cellophane sleeves, moss etc so they are not visible. They will be covered for a reason. Look for firm leaves with none drooping, as this will mean the plant has either been kept too dry or too wet. Avoid plants sold where plants should not normally be found and therefore will not be cared for correctly, ie in cool conditions, by doors, in florists and in unheated DIY outlets or hot and dry conditions such as High Street stores. Always look for vigorous flower stems with a high flower/bud count ensuring there are no buds missing in the middle of the flower stem, which is a frequent sign of temperatures dropping below the minimum required.
Do orchids need feeding?
In the wild most orchids derive the majority of their nutrients from a fungus that lives on and in their roots. As pot plant orchids are all produced through a laboratory, they are sterile and devoid of that fungus, so we must feed our orchid to replace that fungal ‘feeding’. There is not one orchid feed but two orchid feeds needed. A high potassium feed for when the plant is in bloom and a high nitrogen feed to encourage new growth. The grow feed should always be urea free. Urea is particularly unhelpful in an orchid feed and can lead to root rot if allowed to build up in the growing medium. Avoid drip feeders, which do not work with orchids and are a very expensive way to feed an orchid. ALWAYS water thoroughly between feeds.
When should I water my orchid?
Always water thoroughly allowing the water to flow freely through the pot. The secret of successful watering with the majority of orchids is to then allow the growing medium to ALMOST dry out before re-watering. Remember that most orchids are killed by overwatering. Overwatering is not how much water you give, but how often. Using clear pots is helpful. When the compost is dark, the roots are green and condensation forms in the pot, DO NOT WATER. When the compost dries and looks paler, the roots turn a white/silver colour and there is little condensation, that is the time to WATER. Use rain or tap water but always let it stand for at least 24 hours to acclimatise to room temperature and allow any chlorine to escape.
How can I get my orchid to re-flower?
Phalaenopsis flower stems should be cut just above the top unflowered stem node while there are a few flowers left on the spike. Two to three months later, flowers will re-appear on a side stem from that node. DO NOT allow all the flowers to drop or you may not enjoy those extra flowers and NEVER count or measure where to cut, ALWAYS cut above the top unflowered stem node as lower nodes are mostly unviable. ALWAYS use a bloom feed. Other types will flower on completion of the new year’s growth into a pseudo bulb/cane etc. For these plants, use a ‘grow’ feed while growing and ‘bloom’ feed as the growth completes, until flowering.
Do orchids need re-potting?
Orchids are growing in an organic growing medium, which slowly breaks down. To ensure a plants good condition, this must be replaced periodically. Usually every other spring, though some may require annual re-potting. Remember that re-potting is changing the growing medium NOT using a larger pot, that is potting on and for Phalaenopsis we very rarely pot on. We use the same pot, merely changing the medium.
More info - 01823 325291 or visit www.focus-on-plants.com.