How to Grow Orchids

Knowing how to grow orchids can be tricky, but the rewards are worth the effort. Orchid arrangements can bring a little bit of the rainforest into your home. You can keep beautiful and healthy orchids by managing your plant's need for light, humidity and temperature.

How To Grow Orchids In Your Home
Variety: Orchid, Cattleya (group)
Zones: Central and South American native, typically grown as a houseplant
Soil Type: No soil required-coarse fir bark is the preferred growing medium
Soil pH: N/A
Sunlight: Full sun
Availability: Sold as mature plants. Look for healthy plants already in an appropriate pot. If you want to have your orchid bloom in a specific season, buy one that is already in bloom in that season.
When to plant: As houseplants, orchids can be purchased at any time of the year. Cattelya orchids require a south-facing window for maximum sun exposure. Be sure to keep temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees. Orchids also like high humidity environments. If you live in a dry home or climate, place a tray full of gravel under your orchid pot and fill the tray with water. Don't let the water touch the bottom of the orchid pot.
Planting Method: Orchids will need repotting every two years or so. Repotting should take place in the spring. You'll need to repot your orchid when the rhizomes (thick roots) stick out over the edge of the pot or if the growing medium becomes soft and drains poorly.
After removing your orchid from its pot, cut away excess growth, leaving three to five pseudobulbs (root stems). Try to place the cut side of the orchid against the wall of the pot when repositioning. Replace existing growing medium with fresh, coarse fir bark. Commercial orchid growing medium is preferable.
Watering: Place your orchid pot in a sink and allow tepid water to flow over the growing medium and base of the plant. Orchids should be watered once a week and misted lightly each day. Morning misting is best for your orchid.
Fertilizing: Feed your orchid a balanced fertilized or specialized orchid food. With balanced fertilizer, feed twice a month at half the recommended strength. For orchid food, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Sooty Mold: appears as a black powdery substance on the leaves of the plant. Sooty mold usually forms in the presence of aphids or mealy bugs. Mold should be wash from leaves with warm, soapy water. Addressing the insect infestation will limit the appearance of sooty mold.
Root Rot: Plant will yellow and wither from this condition. Root rot is caused by over watering or poor drainage. Make sure the growing medium hasn't broken down (spongy instead of firm). Repot if necessary.
Mealybugs: Tiny beetle-like insects with a white furry coat, mealybugs suck sap from a plant. Mealybugs secrete a sticky substance that promotes the growth of sooty mold. Treat the infected plant with insecticidal soap. Make sure to apply soap to the joints where leaves meet the branch-a favorite mealybug hideout.
Spider Mites: Tiny cousins of spider and scorpions, spider mites may appear red to brown or yellow to green. Spider mites damage leaf cells as they suck moisture from them. Plants infested by spider mites may have brown or tan speckled leaves. Ladybugs are a natural predator of spider mites. Sharp blasts of water from a hose can dislodge spider mites and insecticidal soaps can be effective as well.
Saving Seeds: Growing orchids from seeds, while possible, is difficult and takes specialized materials. Orchids can be propagated by division. Dividing an orchid will mean that both plants may not bloom for a year or more.

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