Tom MacCubbin is the Extension Agent Emeritus for Orange County and the University of Florida. For more gardening tips and articles visit BetterLawns.com.
Just about everybody has one - An orchid obtained as a gift or purchased from a garden center or during a plant show. When first obtained enjoy it in a bright location in your home and keep it moist. Then, what do you do?
Some orchids can last for months to even a year in the home but most stop blooming in a matter of 6 to 8 weeks. When an orchid finishes blooming do you toss it or try to grow it on? I certainly hope you grow it on to enjoy more blooms at another time. Orchids only need three immediate things from you. One bit of care needed is easy.
Simply give your orchid a bright spot outdoors. This can usually be under a tree. We hang as many orchids as possible from trees. Others are set on benches or stands. If you have an overhand or shady arbor, this would be a good spot too. Very few orchids want a full sun location. Some can take sun for part of the day but that full hot summer sun is brutal.
Next keep the soil moist but not wet. We use the word soil very loosely as most orchids are growing in a bark, fiber or even rock medium. Only a few orchids grown by gardeners grow in real soil. An orchid growing medium is usually coarse and allows for good drainage and air movement. A few orchids are growing without any medium and the roots just hang down. Watering at our house involves using a hose to just mist the velvet-like root systems. This is normally done every few days if it does not rain. Bare-root orchids can be misted every day during the hot dry weather. Some also say they can often lift an orchid's pot to see if it needs water.
Lastly don't forget the fertilizer. Any good soluble fertilizer will do. Most orchids like to be fed every other week at this time of the year. The fertilizer solution is sprinkled or misted over the root system. They do not need that much. Some gardens like to use the new slow release fertilizers. This works well if the orchids are growing in a medium that holds the fertilizer particles in place.
That's it. Wasn't that easy? Well, sometime in the future you are going to have to repot your orchid but that may not be until after a year or so of good growth. We can talk about that later.