Saturday, April 11, 2009

Learning to Care for My Orchids

Today Thomas and I attended a class on Growing Orchids in New Mexico. It was held at Tropic of Capricorn here in Santa Fe and was taught by Michael Clark. It was a very informal class that was fun and had a lot of great information. The reason I wanted to take the class is because over the last four or five years I have acquired four orchid plants (either as gifts or ones that I purchased myself). Of course they looked great when I bought them but only one of them has ever bloomed again, that was my Phalaenopsis. And one recently died. All the orchid plants look good - they have nice leaves and seem healthy but I just can't get them to bloom. I have tried all kinds of things. Things that other people suggested, things I found on the internet and things I read in books. But nothing seems to work. And I really don't know what I did to get the Phalaenopsis to bloom. About three weeks ago I was in the store and talked to Michael. He suggested some fertilizer and this class he was having. So I bought the fertilizer and also sign up for the class. He told me to start with a fertilizer to help promote the plants to grow more leaves (about 25% more) and then after that I could start with the fertilizer to help them bloom. I did just that. All three of my plants have new leaves and look healthier than ever. Today I started them on the bloom formula. It actually looks like two of the plants actually have spikes coming out for blooms - at least I hope that is what they are.

My Phalaenopsis blooming March 2008

So anyway, here is what I learned at the class today.

The orchids need good bright light but NO direct sunlight. East and north facing windows provide the best light.
Most orchids need a temperature differential between night and day to bloom. Most like night temperatures of between 55 and 65 degrees F. Michael stated "If you are uncomfortable then your orchids are probably uncomfortable".
Orchids like about 50% humidity. In New Mexico we generally have between 10% - 30% humidity. To increase the humidity you can do several things. Put pots of water near the plants, use a humidifier, mist the leaves, put them in a bathroom that is used daily or use humidity trays.
Rain water is best. You should water the plants thoroughly and then allow them to go almost dry. Michael suggested to water weekly.
If the plant is blooming just use clear water. He suggest that you should feed the plant a growth formula to help promote leaf growth first (30-10-10 formula is what he uses - this has more Nitrogen which helps leave grow.) When the plant has 25% more leaves then he says to switch to a bloom formula (6-30-30 formula is what he uses - it has more phosphorus to help the flowers.)
Never repot when the plant is in bloom. And you only need to repot when the plant's roots are pushing it out of the pot. He suggest to use an orchid potting mix - never soil.
Never mist the flowers it leaves stains on them. Never let them sit in water, it causes rot and fungus (the main problem with orchids). In the summer (June 1st - October 1st) you can put them outside - not in direct sun and not on the ground.

My orchids as they look today (April 2009)

This class provided me with a lot of new ideas to try. First I am going to repot my plants - it has been a while and they all look like they could use new potting mix. I will continue with the bloom formula to see if that helps. I am also going to start using a humidity tray to help get them more moisture. I feel like I have them in a good spot for light and I think I am watering them enough. I will wait and see what happens, hopefully I learned some good things today and that will help.

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