Characteristics, cultivation and care of orchids

There are some orchids that bloom in winter

They are a type of plant with a peculiar and impressive beauty for humans: orchids. They belong to the botanical family Orchidaceae and are groups of monocotyledonous plants that are distinguished by having leaves with quite complex formations. Thanks to them there are numerous interactions in nature and ecosystems, and then we will see their importance.

Do you want to know in depth all the characteristics, care, types and cultivation of orchids? Well, we started.

Key features

Within the orchid family about 25.000 species of plants are found. They are easily recognized when viewed from a distance since they present flowers with good bilateral symmetry. It is as if they were perfectly modified by the human being. The stamens have them fused at the base in style.

Among the various species of orchids we can find many differences. One of them is size. It is capable of varying between just a few millimeters and in other specimens we find a gigantic size. As for the size of the flowers, it also has high diversity depending on the species that we are seeing. There are orchids with very small flowers that reach one or two millimeters in size, while others can be up to 20 centimeters. Some species of giant orchids of more than 30 meters have been found.

The aroma is also very varied depending on the specimen that we are treating. We can find aromas from the most delicate, soft and others that have a rather unpleasant smell.

As you have seen, depending on the type of specimen we are analyzing, we can see big differences. And there are orchids that appear spontaneously in numerous ecosystems with different characteristics. All this makes each species suffer different adaptations and take on different characteristics. The only exception to it they are the orchids that appear in desert and polar climates. In this case we find similar orchids. The best in the world are found in the intertropical areas.

Types of orchids

Broadly speaking, we can differentiate two types of orchids: the terrestrial ones and the epiphytes. The first are those that, as their name suggests, grow on the ground, but the others are those that grow on the branches of trees, palm trees, etc.

Let's see some of them:

Dendrobium

Dendrobium orchids are epiphytes

Image - Wikimedia / CT Johansson

Air shipments are the most efficient if you need your cargo or documents to arrive quickly and securely. Dendrobium They are a genus of epiphytic orchids native to Southeast Asia that develop a pseudobulb from which sprouts a stem that exceeds 30 centimeters in length. The leaves are short and oval in shape, green in color. The flowers are grouped in short inflorescences of various colors, such as pink or white.

Epidendrum

The Epidendrum paniculatum is an epiphytic orchid

Image - Wikimedia / Orchi

Air shipments are the most efficient if you need your cargo or documents to arrive quickly and securely. Epidendrum They are native to tropical America, generally epiphytic in habit. The stems sprout from pseudobulbs, and look like reeds. Its leaves are green, often leathery. The flowers are grouped in inflorescences generally white or pink.

Oncidium

Oncidiums are tropical orchids

Image - Wikimedia / Arne and Bent Larsen, Haarby, Denmark

Air shipments are the most efficient if you need your cargo or documents to arrive quickly and securely. Oncidium they are orchids known by the name of dancing lady. Its origin is in tropical America, and they have elongated and green leaves. The flowers are grouped in inflorescences and are very numerous.

Phalaenopsis

The Phalaenopsis orchid blooms in winter and spring

The Phalaenopsis they are the most popular epiphytic orchids. They are known as the butterfly orchid, alevilla orchid or mouth orchid, and are native to Southeast Asia. The leaves can be evergreen or deciduous, depending on the species, although those that are marketed are evergreen. Its flowers sprout at the end of the floral rod, and are very bright colors.

Vanilla

Vanilla is a very large orchid

The Vanilla They are terrestrial or hemiepiphytic orchids that grow in the tropical regions of America, Asia and West Africa. They are one of the largest, since they can measure more than 30 meters long. The leaves are dark green and leathery, and the flowers are grouped in racemose inflorescences.

What do orchids need?

In order to be able to enjoy our orchids both in terms of flowers and aroma, we must respect certain requirements and give them some special care. These wonderful flowers capable of decorating any garden or interior room of a house must be taken care of.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the care of indoor and outdoor orchids is very similar. Therefore, by learning general care, you can give your plant a healthy life.

Where should you put an orchid?

Let's start at the beginning. You just bought an orchid, you come home and ... where do you put it? Well then, This will basically depend on one thing: the climate in your area. The orchids that are sold are of tropical origin, and in addition to jungles where the humidity is high.

Therefore, They cannot be outside during winter if the temperature drops below 15ºC., as they would literally freeze to death. So if it is the case that in your area the climate is cool, or cold in that season, then it is best to put it and grow it indoors. But if not, that is, if the climate is warm all year round and there are no frosts, you can have it outside.

Luz

Orchids need light but not direct

Sunlight is necessary for orchids to grow strong and healthy. However, it is not good to leave them in direct light, since they are sensitive to them. It is best to put them in semi-shade in well-lit places. If direct light hits it for a long time, it can cause it to wilt completely, losing all its color and aroma.

If we have it in the garden outside, the best place to locate them is one where there is a larger plant or a few trees that can provide some shade and that does not give it direct sunlight. This way we will be avoiding possible damage to the plant.

Water

Another aspect to consider is water. This element is just as important as sunlight so that our plants have a good development. But the orchid is perhaps a little more demanding to water than other plants can be. If we usually water them with tap water, we will be exposing them to an amount of chlorine that can be dangerous for them. High pH can also damage it.

To avoid this situation, it is best to use bottled water if we have few plants. If we have large quantities throughout the garden, it is best to install a filtering system so that the chlorine does not wreak havoc on our precious plants.

The frequency of irrigation must also be controlled. In the hottest season and with less rainfall, you have to water more frequently. However, in winter it is important to increase the time between watering and watering. The best indicator to know when to water is that the substrate is partially dry without being completely dry.

As I always say, well-drained soil is the best ally in gardens. We must avoid at all costs that when watering our orchid the soil becomes flooded, since we will get them to rot completely. To increase the drainage of a soil with a tendency to compact, it is advisable to do some tilling or some holes frequently so that they act to improve drainage.

Warm weather

Since orchids live in tropical areas, they need an ever higher temperature. They cannot descend less than 5 or 4 degreesOtherwise they will wither in a short time, and even so it is best not to expose them to temperatures below 15ºC. If the area where you live is frequented by cold spells, you have several options: the first is to have them indoors on the coldest days. For this you must plant your orchid in a pot and be able to move it when necessary. This is unthinkable if we have the garden completely full of them.

Another option in case of having a large number is to place a kind of greenhouse for the colder months. In this way we will be protecting them not only from low temperatures, but from strong gusts of winter winds.

As they come from tropical environments, they are plants that are used to high levels of humidity. Thus, it is highly recommended that they have a humidity level above 40%.

How do you care for an orchid at home?

Orchids can be grown at home

Now that we know what the basic needs of orchids are, we can talk about how they are cared for at home, which is where they are usually grown the most, especially in temperate or cold climates.

Location

They need light, but also humidity, so a good place to put them is a bathroom where there is a lot of light. Failing that, it is possible to have them in other rooms, such as the living room for example, but in this case it would be necessary to place containers with water around it or a humidifier so that their leaves do not dry out.

It is also possible to spray them with rainwater, or from the tap if it is suitable for human consumption, once a day during the summer. But the rest of the year it is not advisable to do this as they could rot.

Substratum

Although today they sell ready-to-use orchid substrates, it is important to note that these are more recommended for epiphytic species, like Phalaenopsis. You can buy them from this link.

If they are terrestrial it is better to use coconut fiber (on sale here) since these need to have the roots buried, and not exposed.

Irrigation

How to water orchids? Okay, if they are epiphytes and are in transparent pots, we will do it when the roots are white or whitish. But if they are terrestrial, we will water them two or three times a week during the summer, and a maximum of two a week the rest of the year.

In any case, whenever we water, we must ensure that the substrate is very damp, and use rainwater or, failing that, soft.

Phalaenopsis
Related article:
Learn everything you need to know about watering orchids

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We can pay them with a specific fertilizer for orchids (on sale No products found.), following the indications that we will find on the package. Thus, we will ensure that they are healthier and, therefore, that they have enough energy to flourish every season.

Transplant

Orchids are very slow-growing plants, and since they are also relatively small, transplantation is not very necessary. We will only do it if they have been in it for more than 3 years, and not so much so that they have more space but rather so that they have new land (but without taking away the one they already have).

This will be done in spring, once the temperatures remain above 18ºC, taking care not to manipulate the roots too much.

Pests

Whitefly affects orchids

Image - Wikimedia / Amada44

There are a number of pests that can attack orchids, and they are:

  • Mites: as the Red spider. They are very small animals that, when feeding on the sap, leave yellowish spots on the upper part of the leaves. They can also produce cobwebs, but they are removed with diluted neutral soap and water.
  • Snails and slugsThese are mollusks that love the tender parts of plants. Therefore, it is important to keep orchids protected, either with molluscicides (for sale here) or with anti-snail home remedies.
  • Cottony mealybug: they are the most common pest. As the name suggests, they are quite reminiscent of cotton. They are found in the leaves, which is where they feed. Fortunately, they can be eliminated with anti-mealybug insecticides (on sale No products found.), or if you prefer to use something natural, with diatomaceous earth.
  • White fly: it is a whitish insect with wings, measuring about 4mm, and found on the leaves. The White fly a lot to orchids, so it is advisable to put yellow sticky traps near them to control it (for sale here).
  • Aphids: The aphids They are very small insects, which are favored by a dry and warm environment. They can be both on the leaves and in the flower buds, and cause significant damage, such as the appearance of discolored spots on the leaves or the abortion of the flowers. They must be treated with anti-aphid insecticides (on sale here).
  • Trips: The trips They are very small insects, about 0,5-2mm, that feed on the sap also, from the underside of the leaves where they leave whitish spots along with their excrement, black in color. They can be seen with the naked eye, both adults and larvae. To eliminate them, the ideal is to clean the plant with water and neutral soap, or use an anti-thrips insecticide (on sale here).

Management

Apart from pests, diseases must be taken into account as well. If they receive more water than necessary, for example, the fungi could harm them. But they are just some of the enemies they have:

  • Parasitic soil fungi: such as Fusarium or Rhizoctonia. They will be the ones to rot the roots if the orchids are overwatered. Therefore, it is not only necessary to ensure that the soil dries out a bit between waterings, but it should also be treated with fungicides if we see the roots badly, that is, stunted, brown, black or with a kind of »dust» white or gray (you can buy it No products found.).
  • Virus: these microorganisms get inside the orchids when, for example, they are pruned with uncleaned tools, or when they have a pest that serves as a vector, such as aphids. The symptoms are the appearance of rounded spots that gradually lose the natural green color of the leaves, until they turn black. There is no treatment; the only thing that can be done is to burn the plants.

Pruning

Orchids really don't have to be pruned. We will only remove the dry leaves and the withered flowers with clean and disinfected scissors.

How does the orchid plant reproduce?

Finally, if you want to know how to reproduce your plant, you should know that the fastest way to get an orchid is playing it through keikis. Keikis are small plants that sprout from the orchid itself, but unfortunately not all of them generate them with the same ease. In fact, in Phalaenopsis they are rare, but in Dendrobium they are more common.

Now, To get them to generate them, what you can do is cut the floral rods above a knot towards the middle of them. Afterwards, the knot must be exposed, carefully removing the skin that protects it. Thus, we will expose it to light and therefore it will be able to produce a keiki.

Once it does, we will see that the aerial roots of the future orchid will begin to grow. But we will only transplant it when it has at least three true leaves.

I hope that with these tips you can take care of and get to know orchids better.


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