University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article
line
GROWING ORCHIDS 201
 
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
 
The orchid family is one of the largest and most varied in the plant kingdom. Some root in the soil, while others are “epiphytes” clinging non-parasitically to the trunks of trees or rock cliffs. Some orchids require moderate shade and others thrive in full sunlight. Additionally, some can withstand long periods of drought, while others require constant moisture. The key to successfully growing orchids is the proper choice of species and an understanding of the environment in which they grow naturally. There are several orchids that make good choices for a beginning grower.

Lady's Slippers (Paphiopedilum, said as paf-fee-o-PED-eh-lum) species and hybrids require relatively low light levels. Some need cool (45 to 55 degrees F) growing conditions while others do well at intermediate temperatures (55 to 65 degrees F). They are terrestrial and should be potted in a finer textured potting mix than epiphytes. Coarse sand and peat make a good potting medium. Lady Slippers will not tolerate drying but should not be kept in a soggy condition. These species are good candidates for growing under fluorescent lights.

Boat or corsage orchid (Cymbidium, said as sym-BID-ee-um) species and hybrids require high light intensity and cool temperatures. These terrestrial orchids will not flower without low night temperatures (33 to 40 degrees F). The miniature species and hybrids are somewhat less demanding with regard to temperature and are the best candidates for indoor culture. A well-drained potting mixture is required for best results.

The corsage orchid (Cattleya, said as CAT-lee-ah) species and hybrids are the most common cut-flower commercial orchids. These orchids are epiphytic and require intermediate temperatures and high light intensity. They should be potted in a coarse, well-drained potting mix without much water-holding capacity. The species often have a stringent rest requirement between flowering cycles. Many hybrids are much less demanding and make good indoor plants.

The Spray orchid (Dendrobium, said as den-DRO-bee-um) species, especially one most commonly found (phalaenopsis, said as fail-a-NOP-sis), are good candidates for indoor culture if large size is not a problem. This species is an epiphyte requiring intermediate temperature and relatively high light intensity. Most of the varieties will grow and flower well if given a four-week rest period as new growth matures. Watering should be reduced during this period but not stopped. Some varieties may flower without a rest period.

Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) species and hybrids are epiphytes requiring warm temperatures. They grow well under relatively low light intensities and are good plants to grow under fluorescent lights. These plants must have a very coarse potting medium that drains rapidly. They do not tolerate drying and must be watered frequently.

Visit the American Orchid Society website (www.aos.org) if you want to learn more, find local societies, discover resources, or to pursue growing orchids as a hobby.  Even if you just buy an orchid in bloom to enjoy now, it is not uncommon for individual flowers to remain in good bloom for two to three months if given the right care and conditions.
 

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles uvmext logo