Wednesday, March 28, 2007

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Orchid Growing Tips

Since I started growing orchids, I have discovered, or heard tips that have made a big difference to me. I’d like to share some of them and if you have any I’d love to hear from you either via e-mail or on the Orchid Reply.

Staking. I have more different kinds of stakes than you can imagine, but most of the time I only use one kind—bamboo shish-kabob skewers purchased at the grocery store. These are about 10” long, have one end that is sharpened and they are perfect for staking up all but very tall or very large plants. Another thing I have done for those long inflorescences is to take a thin branch from a tree and dry it. This provides a natural looking stake that can be cut to any length you want.

Plant Clips. There are a number of vendors on the web, or at most orchid shows, for small butterfly, dragon fly, bee, clips. The clips are invaluable in keeping your orchids attached to stakes and for keeping spikes upright to display flowers perfectly. I attach a colored clip to each of my plants, either on the pots or on a stake. The color of the clip indicates the color the flower will be. This makes finding plants easier when you are doing a monthly inventory, and is kind of fun and decorative!

Grow Dendrobiums in hanging baskets. When I got my first Dendrobium, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to keep it from falling over. Because many of them are tall and it is recommended that they be grown in small pots, they tend to be top heavy. A friend of mine grows hers in wooden orchid baskets which eliminate the falling over and staking problem. If you have a place to hang plants, you might try this.

Colored Electrical Tape. Use different colored electrical tape—available at any hardware store--to indicate special needs plants, or to indicate those that you need to give special attention to for follow up for pests or fungi. This works especially well when you have a number of plants and gives you a quick and easy way to identify plants. I use one color for extra watering, another color for plants in dormancy, another for scale infestations (these get checked on every time I’m close to the plants so I can catch any additional scale).

Color Coded Spray Bottles. Use different colored spray bottles for different kinds of sprays—one for plain water, one for fungicide, one for an insecticide, etc. Using different colors makes it more difficult to spray with the wrong thing. Most garden centers today offer different shape, size and color bottles which work just as well.

Biodegradable Insect Killer. This is a tip that is for any kind of garden, not only for orchids. Use kitchen dish soap mixed with water to kill insects. I use a regular spray bottle and put 1/4 cup liquid dish soap to a pint of water. Spray on any kind of insect and the soap will stop up the breathing pores of the insect and kill it—even wasps—and quite quickly. I prefer using this than insect spray. For orchids, most sources say to use 1 teaspoon per gallon. It will still kill insects, but a little slower.

Water and/or mist in the morning. Water and mist your orchids in the morning rather than the evening. This gives them the whole day with heat and air movement to use the water. Molds grow on orchids that are damp at night. You will have fewer problems if you follow this rule. I do mine as I’m waiting for my coffee to finish.

Use bamboo skewers as watering sensors. Use bamboo skewers (the kind from the supermarket) to determine whether or not an orchid needs watering. Cut the skewer an inch or so longer than the medium is deep and keep the skewer in the medium. When you think it's time to water, pull out the skewer and touch it or hold it to your cheek or lip. If the skewer is dry, water. If it's wet, wait. How wet or dry the skewer is will depend on the need of each particular orchid.

Try buying a flask. For those of you who are adventurous, have lots of space and are very patient!! For the price of a single plant, you can buy a flask. The learning comes because you can mount a few, compot some, and pot up some singles. Keep some dry, some wet, more/less light, etc. The learning comes from watching how each set of plants responds under certain conditions. It is very educational, and easier than people who haven't tried it think. Plus, if you are a beginner, you have added some volume to your collection to trade with others in a couple years.