Orchids in the Greenhouse

Growing Orchids in Your Greenhouse: An Introduction For Beginners

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Growing orchids is steeped in mystery. Within the past century, though, we have seen a shift from orchid growing being the associated with the very wealthy. Today, many people choose to grow these exotic plants indoors or in a greenhouse.

You don’t need to be rich or an expert to inject a dose of striking color into your indoor garden.

We will look today at some basic pointers to help you if you are just starting out and feel a little overwhelmed.

Orchids Are Tougher Than You Think

Most people instinctively label orchids as delicate plants requiring too much attention to make keeping them worth the effort. This is not strictly true.

If you think about orchids in their natural habitat, they are actually remarkably tolerant. They can deal well with lots of wind or rain. Orchids also cope admirably during dry spells. With this kind of treatment from Mother Nature, these plants need to be durable.

There are actually some similarities between growing orchids and cactus. Surprised?  Me too.  The intricate root system is expressly designed to absorb nutrients and water rapidly. This is then stored in the thick stems and leaves of the plants just like with cacti.

So…Set aside your preconceptions and think about giving orchids a shot.

What Are The Best Orchids For Beginners?

With over 25,000 species of orchids in the wild and a comparable number of man-made hybrids, you will certainly be spoiled for choice.

If you are just setting out on your journey of growing orchids, these moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) make a superb starting point. You can pick up moth orchids in an array of colors and patterns. The flowers remain for a number of months. They also have the potential to rebloom.

We so often do too many things at once in today’s wired world.  Multitasking can work when you can proficiently handle any given job. More often than not, though, it leads to a drop in quantity at the expense of quality. Keep it simple. Get a single moth orchid and tend it for a year. See how things work out before progressing. As your confidence grows, you can widen your ambition.

growing orchids

Replicate Nature To Grow Orchids The Easy Way

Orchids differ from standard houseplants. By far the best approach for successfully growing them is to mimic nature.

Give them the treatment they are used to in the wild and they should thrive.Orchids tend to grow on rocks and trees. They are known as air plants as the bulk of their nutrients come from the air rather than from soil. The quickest way to kill off your new household addition is to use potting soil and to think of it like a houseplant.

Side-stepping this traditional medium and using bark, husks or moss can be tricky for novices. If you are serious about your indoor garden, using a hydroponics system is a smart move. You can harness the properties of clay pebbles and even enjoy a water gauge so that watering your orchids is not left to chance.

Some Orchid Basics

Before venturing into specifics, it’s a wise idea to learn some of the fundamentals that will help growing any type of orchid.

Water

Orchids enjoy humid environments. With watering, you need to strike a fine balance. Over-watering is the leading cause of all houseplant deaths. With orchids, though, you must take great care not to dry them out either. You should strive for quick drainage and plenty of air circulation around the roots.

watering orchids

Potting medium is key and affects watering. You have a good range at your disposal…

  • Sphagnum moss
  • Bark chips
  • Coconut husk
  • Floral Styrofoam

Most importantly, do not use regular potting soil.

Pay attention to where your orchid originates from. Plants from Hawaii and Taiwan have different needs. One great watering solution is to pop your orchids in pots that sit on a drip tray. You can buy these without spending a fortune and they work very well with these marvelous plants.

The problem with using unusual potting mediums is that it can be tough for beginners. How much water do the materials hold? How often should I water?You can overcome these conundrums by choosing a hydroponics system.

Light

As a general rule, orchids like as much light as possible .When they grow naturally, orchids that favor high trees in tropical forests are naturally disposed to require more light than houseplants. Growing them at home, a nice window is about the best you can do. The early morning and afternoon sun is ideal.

Orchids can burn quite easily so you’re best to keep them out of direct sunlight.

Nutrition

You are more likely to kill an orchid by giving it too much fertilizer rather than too little. Less is definitely more here!

A sound nutrition program, though, will enhance growth and boost blooms. High-nitrogen fertilizer and fish emulsion are good choices for growing orchids. With a hydroponic system, simply add a few drops of the fertilizing solution.

Temperatures

Although most orchids come from hot, tropical regions, they do not need blistering temperatures in order to flourish. One of the principal things orchids experience in the wild is a massive difference between the temperature at night and during the day. This can be naturally achieved at home by placing the orchid by a window. A sunny window notices a sharp drop as night falls so is the perfect location.

In terms of humidity, orchids are most comfortable when the levels are high, anywhere from 50-70%. This can be tough to accomplish at home. One option is to turn the thermostat down in the area where you’re growing your orchids.

In the summer, orchids would far sooner have warmer temperatures than the dry air belched out by AC units. Try to avoid using the air conditioner near your plants. You can also take them outside during the warmer months. Just be careful not to expose them to direct sunlight and they will thank you for the breeze and natural light.

Repotting and Reblooming

orchids in pot

Repotting

If the roots of your moth orchid are starting to look crammed then it’s time to repot your plant. You should repot every 2 years in any case. Older compost will break down and stops enough air reaching the roots. You can take care of this yourself or, if you are not experienced, just pop it to your local nursery.

Reblooming

Once your moth orchid is finished flowering, you can trim the spike and encourage reblooming. This great video shows you what to do in a couple of minutes. Minimum effort for round two of flowers: win-win!
 

 

Some Common Problems With Orchids

We will look now at 4 of the most frequently encountered problems by beginners trying to grow orchids.

1) Sun Scorch

If you allow your orchid to encounter direct sunlight, you are likely to see bleached and scorched leaves as a result. Shade your plants from harm.

2) Overwatering

Giving your orchids too much water will lead to soggy, soft roots. These will ultimately cause the plant to collapse. Stick to weekly watering.

3) Overfeeding

This will also provoke root damage. Pay close attention to recommended rates of application. Don’t feed your orchids during the rest period.

4) No Flowers

Failure to flower may indicate that your orchid is in need of a rest period. It might also pay to lower the temperature.

Other Problems

Orchids can suffer at the hands of a number of pests…

  • Scale insects
  • Aphids
  • Whitefly
  • Mealybugs
  • Red spider mites

Additional care should be taken if you transplant your orchids outside over summer. Watch out for slugs and snails. Viruses can also set in. Look out for pale green or yellow spots on your plant. Any streaks or discolorations are also indicative of a virus. The bad news with viruses is that they tend to be lethal. If you are sure that your orchid has been affected, the best course of action is to throw the plant away and move onto the next one.

Wrap-Up for Growing Orchids

Here are some key takeaways if you want to try growing some orchids at home:

  • Start out with moth orchids until your confidence grows
  • Use orchid growing medium not potting soil
  • Grow indoors away from direct sunlight
  • Water as required, generally weekly is sufficient
  • Drip trays can help with humidity levels
  • Take your orchids outside in the summer months but keep them out of direct sunlight
  • Think carefully about fertilizers and do not over-fertilize
  • Pay attention to reblooming for bonus flowers!

Happy Gardening!

Margo L

Hi, I'm Margo have just recently graduated from UNL's Agronomy and Horticulture department. I grew up on a farm in south central Nebraska and was always in the garden.