Growing orchids indoors
Anyone can grow orchids indoors; you don’t need to live in the tropics or have the luxury of a greenhouse, and there are plenty of options that will give you a beautiful display of flowering orchids year round. Orchids grown in the home during the colder months respond wonderfully well to spending the summer outdoors in a protected area, and this also extends the range of orchids available for indoor cultivation.
No flowering plant will do well without sufficient light. In the home, where most available light is incidental (that is, at an angle, and therefore less intense), plants will need to be fairly close to an east window, or lightly-shaded north window. Extra hours of light will not entirely compensate for poor light quality. A south window will only provide adequate light in summer. If the light is too intense in a northern or western exposure, then a sheer curtain can serve to diffuse the light.
Orchids will be comfortable where you are comfortable. Typical home temperatures of 10 to 12 °C at night and 24 °C during the day are fine, with some leeway for seasonal fluctuations. Guard against excessively low or high temperatures immediately adjacent to glass windows.
Heating and air-conditioning systems have a big effect on humidity in a home and even without those systems, rugs, drapes and some furniture can act as giant wicks that absorb the humidity. That said, it is also not advisable to keep (or make) the interior of a home too wet in order to accommodate plants. Instead, group the plants to take advantage of their collective transpiration (exhaled moisture) or place them on gravel-filled humidity trays to raise the humidity in their vicinity to 50 percent.
Care must be taken to balance the rapid surface drying that can take place in the home with the lowered metabolic processes of the plants (a result of the lower light levels). Each particular type of orchid will retain its basic water needs, whether for moisture or periodic dryness. The home grower also needs to give thought to the logistics of watering. You can carry plants to the sink or even outdoors when the weather allows, or water them in place and then remove excessive water so the containers do not sit in water.
Fertilize orchids regularly, using a low dosage – approximately one-quarter the usual dilution rate – of a liquid fertilizer that is appropriate to the potting mix in which your plants are grown. Fertilize less often during the winter. (Nitrosol, Chemilcult, Multifeed P etc.)
- Phalaenopsis (Moth orchids), are absolutely the best orchid houseplants; they are happiest in the same conditions as those enjoyed by African violets.
- Oncidiums – there are many types sold in flower, but for continued cultivation indoors buy the smaller types and ensure that they are kept in bright light.
- Paphiopedilums (Lady’s-slipper orchids) have long-lasting blooms and grow well under home conditions (the same as those for African violets).
Many other varieties can be grown indoors during the colder months and then kept in the garden in summer.
Information supplied by Plantae Orchids, www.plantae.co.za.
R45 pensioners and children under 12