Orchids bring exotic beauty to your Nassau County garden

by Jane Brown, Master Gardener

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Orchids with their exotic beauty have a certain mystique with a rich emotional tone and appeal. They come in an infinite variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

Because the brilliant blooms of orchids can last six weeks or more, they have become a favorite houseplant. They offer an achievable and affordable glamour whose splendor is almost impossible to resist.

Some people believe growing orchids is difficult and requires special skills, but that is not the case.

If you can understand the requirements for sunlight, warmth, water, humidity, air and food, you will be a successful orchid grower.Orchid

This is an example of the Phalaenopsis orchid variety, considered a good choice for beginning growers.

Sunlight: Most orchids like to be grown in bright, indirect light. Light shade during the middle of the day is advisable but full morning sun and late afternoon sun is ideal. Hang orchids outside under a tree when the temperature is above 50? F. Orchids grown in the right amount of light have olive-green foliage. Deep green foliage means they need more light.

Temperature: Orchids thrive indoors in the same temperature we prefer (60?-85? F).

Water: Orchids can be damaged by too much water. Water only when planting medium is dry to the touch. If you must err in watering, err on the dry side.

Humidity: No expensive equipment is necessary or advisable to provide humidity for orchids grown inside. Any pan large enough to hold your plants is perfect. Fill the bottom of a pan with tiny stones, gravel or shells. Next, fill the pan half full of water. Place the pan in a sunny window and arrange your pots on top of gravel or stones. Be sure the pots sit above the level of the water, never in it. This is the safest and best way to supply humidity to orchids grown inside.

Air: Orchids need to be grown in a location with air movement - a small oscillating fan or ceiling fan provides adequate air movement. Good air movement will help reduce problems with many pests like spider mites and mealy bugs, as well as help control bacterial and fungal outbreaks.

Fertilizer: As soon as orchids are actively growing and blooming, fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a balanced orchid fertilizer and orchid booster to promote blossoming. Orchids require the least amount of fertilizer when not actively growing and in winter months when light intensity is low.

When selecting plants, start with fully grown specimens with large numbers of budding blooms. Your first plants should be a healthy, strong and well established in the pot.

A good choice for beginning orchid growers might be Phalaenopsis or Dendrobium.

The most important thing to learn about orchids is to relax and enjoy them. Growing orchids is fun! Don't worry about them. They will actually thrive better on neglect than on too much care.

These tips will help you get started but once the orchid bug has bitten, you will want more orchids and you'll also want to know more about them.

For more information, see the University of Florida/IFAS publication, "Tips on Growing Orchids in Florida" at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep017.





Jane Brown

Jane Brown lives in Fernandina Beach and is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. For information on the Master Gardener program and application requirements, contact Becky Jordi at 548-1116 or rljordi@ufl.edu