Orchidaceae, usually referred to as the Orchid family, is a morphologically diverse and widespread family of monocots in the order Asparagales. It is currently believed to be the largest family of flowering plants with between 21,950 and 26,049 currently accepted species, found in 880 genera. The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium (1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species).
Orchids have a magical beauty and allure, with incredible colors, shapes, and scents. Maybe this contributes to the belief that they are difficult to grow and bloom. In reality, most orchids are not difficult plants. As a matter of fact, some are practically indestructible. With a few basic tips for orchid care, you can make your orchid grow, thrive, and bloom.
Orchids are Ancient Plants
Evidence of orchids appears from the age of the dinosaurs, 120 million years ago, making them some of the first flowering plants. Orchids are one of the largest and oldest families of plants in the world. For centuries, people all over the world have fallen in love with their flowers. Their bright colors, bizarre shapes, and enchanting smells have evolved to attract pollinators. Many have a relationship with a single type of insect or bird that can pollinate their flowers.
The first step to taking care of your orchid is learning what kind of orchid it is. Most of the orchids commonly found for sale are hybrids that have been created specifically for their flowers and ease of care in homes and offices.
Cattleya or Laelia
These classic corsage orchids are showy and often fragrant. Because they need to thoroughly dry between waterings, they are a great choice for people who sometimes forget to water. These come in oranges, purples, pinks, reds, yellows, and whites.
Give them bright light with some full sun. Leaves should be medium-green.
Water them once every week or two.
Give them warmth and regular fertilizer.
Repot every 2-3 years.
These are large, cool growing orchids with grass-like leaves from the Himalayas. They grow well on the US Pacific coast and other Mediterranean-type climates. Some miniature varieties need warmer temperatures. They come in reds, browns, yellows, pinks, greens, and whites.
Give them bright light with some full sun so the leaves are light green. With cooler temperatures and adequate watering, Cymbidiums can handle full sun.
They need a temperature drop of 20°F/10°C at night.
They like heavy water and fertilizer in spring and summer, and less in fall and winter.
Cymbidiums dislike repotting. Repot only when the plant is pushing out of the pot.
This is a large genus of orchids with varied growing needs. Many come in pinks, purples, yellows, whites, oranges, and reds.
The most common kinds need bright light, including some full sun.
They enjoy intermediate to warm temperatures (55°-60°F/12°-15°C minimum at night.
Give them heavy water and fertilizer, and winter dormancy.
Repot every 2-3 years.
Quick Guide for Basic Orchid Care
Orchids need six things to bloom. If you cannot identify your orchid, then start with these basic care guidelines:
Light - Give orchids bright light, but no direct sun.
Water - Water them thoroughly once or twice a week -- more when it's warmer, less when it's cooler. Make sure the water drains completely out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. Never leave the plant sitting in water!
Fertilizer - Fertilize them when they are growing.
Air movement - Provide gentle air circulation for the plant.
Humidity - Provide some humidity for the plant; most do not like very dry environments
Proper temperatures - Keep the daytime temperature between 65°- 75°F /18°- 24°C with a nighttime temperature drop of a few degrees.
Pests & Diseases
Unhealthy plants are more susceptible to parasites and disease. Low humidity and poor air circulation weaken plants. Be sure to address any of these underlying problems while treating specific issues:
Scale - These small, immobile brown lumps on the stems, leaves, or flowers can become a persistent problem.
Aphids - Soft-bodied, small insects can be green or black. They usually attack new leaves or flowers.
Mealybugs - These white parasites look like little pieces of cotton.
Spider mites - While these insects are too small to see, they can still cause a lot of damage. Fine webs on the undersides of leaves and a bronze or yellow color to the leaves can indicate their presence. They like dry air, so keeping the humidity high will discourage them.
Snails & slugs - These can eat leaves, flowers, or roots.
Viruses - Unfortunately viruses in orchids are difficult to identify and are usually incurable. Symptoms to watch for include deformed flowers, streaking patterns on leaves, and deformed growth. Discard infected plants.
Pets - Some animals do not bother plants, but others may chew them. Keep plants out of reach. Protect new flower spikes.