Many gardeners are afraid of growing orchids. They’ve heard horror stories of how difficult they can be to care for. But like most plants, you just need to give them what they need – adequate light, humidity, water and ventilation. Basically it’s just mimicking their native habitat & growing conditions
Of course, there are other nuances, such as fertilising, re-potting and disease control. With proper care, they will grow and re-bloom, rewarding you with their stunning colour, form and, sometimes, fragrance every year.
Here’s a selection of easy to grow orchid types, and tips for growing them.
Cattleyas are some of the most commonly grown orchid plants, and their culture is often used as a basis for comparison with other types of orchids.
Originally a Brazilian epiphyte (air plant), Cattleyas, Laelias & related hybrids like warm, frost free conditions, regular water , bright filtered light & a free draining potting medium.
More specific information about Cattleyas here.
This popular orchid is glamorous and very hardy. The flower spikes will easily last for six weeks, with sprays in combinations of yellow, white, pink, red or brown. The main flowering season is from winter to spring, but selective breeding is extending this period.
Special needs: Cymbidiums prefer indirect sunlight. Keep moist all year, and increase watering
and fertilising from spring to autumn. All orchids are most commonly grown in pots, but due to their hardier habit, cymbidiums will grow well in garden beds, too, in frost-free climates, providing they have filtered summer shade.
They have brilliant, long-lasting blooms in a variety of colours, from white to cream and pink, orange and purple, and bloom from spring to early autumn.
Special needs: Vandas prefer tropical climates, although some will grow in a sheltered sunny spot in a warm, frost-free climate. Grow in pots, in a coarse, quick-draining, pine-bark mix. More detailed info on Vanda page.
With golden flowers, patterned in brown and russet, these plants have graceful, long-stemmed sprays of small flowers that move in the slightest breeze, which explains their common name – dancing ladies. The flowers appear from autumn to spring, and look magical grown in pots or in clumps in the garden, where climates are warm.
Special needs: Grow in indirect sunlight. Water year round, but allow potting mix to sufficiently dry in between watering.
Admired for their colour combinations and markings, zygopetalums are large, long-lasting and can be highly fragrant. The stems can grow up to 60 cm tall and carry up to a dozen flowers, with blooms mostly appearing in autumn or early winter.
Special needs: They respond well to frequent watering and feeding, and like to be kept moist all year. Increase watering and fertilising from spring to autumn. Keep pots under filtered sunlight. See also Zygopetalum Orchid Care
These flowers may be more subdued in colour than most orchids, but are no less attractive. Their distinctive slipper-like lip and flower colours, in green, cream, russet and white, with various patterns and markings, make them highly prized. They flower from autumn to spring and their blooms often last for more than a month.
Special needs: Best grown in small, deep pots in a well-drained, bark-based medium. Keep plants shaded and moist year round. Paphs.net gallery links
Being the largest and most diverse group of orchids, there’s bound to be a dendrobium to suit your climate. Some like it hot, some like it cool, they can have fat pseudobulbs or bulbs that grow long and stem-like. Among the most popular forms are the Singapore orchids (Dendrobium hybrids), but there are other species like D. nobile, which can look fabulous in pots (pictured). There are also species native to Australia, including the Cooktown (D. phalaenopsis) and Sydney rock orchid (D. speciosum).
Special needs: Keep well ventilated and under filtered sunlight. Watering varies from species to species, so read the growing label carefully.
Resembling its relative, the Cattleya, in growth, shape and colour, laelia flowers are less ruffled, and bloom from autumn to spring, depending on the variety. Most laelias bear flowers in short but glorious sprays.
Special needs: Most species require bright, warm and moist conditions in summer. Let potting mix almost dry out before watering.
One of the most fabulous and easiest orchids to grow indoors is the butterfly-like moth orchid. They may look delicate, but they’re surprisingly hardy and bloom for up to six months. They are native to Papua New Guinea, India and southern Nepal, so they like a warm and tropical, climate. With care, you can grow them inside.
Caring for Phalaenopsis orchids in your home is not difficult, if you get the basics right. Here’s what to do.
Light: Choose a room that gets light for most of the day. Put plant near an east-facing window or a north-facing window with a sheer curtain. West-facing windows can be too hot.
Staking: The tall delicate flower stalks need support to avoid breaking. Secure the stems to slender bamboo stakes with a small clip or wire.
Water and fertiliser: Keep plants moist as they don’t have storage organs. Don’t let potting mix dry out, but don’t drown it, either. Apply liquid fertiliser every 7-14 days.
Re-potting: Each year or two, re-pot in new media. Remove plant from pot, trim dead roots and re-pot in a container big enough to hold two years growth.
Humidity: To create more humidity around the plant, sit the pot on a saucer of pebbles and water, and spray each morning with an atomiser.
10 Fairy orchids bear showy blooms in many shapes and colours, from white to pink, brown and orange, or even a combination. They’re native to eastern Australia and New Caledonia, and flower mostly during spring and summer.
Special needs: Most species will take cool to cold conditions, but need at least 70 per cent shade in a humid environment. Protect from frost and avoid excessive heat. Keep moist, with high humidity and good air circulation.
Climate: Orchids predominantly come from tropical and subtropical climates, (although there are some species from every climate on the planet except really dry or really cold) but most orchids can be grown outdoors in any warm, and frost-free environment. In cooler climates, they will need a mildly warmed greenhouse.
Position: Orchids prefer filtered sunlight under a canopy. Generally, do not position in direct sunlight or in dense, shady areas. You can also naturalise some species of orchids by mounting them on trees – many wild orchids spend their lives as epiphytes, growing on the trunks, branches or outer twigs of trees. When mounting an epiphytic orchid onto a tree, use nylon fishing line or old pantyhose to secure the plant tightly to the host. Include a pad of sphagnum moss around the base of the plant, this helps to establish the roots.
Growing in pots Most orchids are grown in pots for convenience and practicality – it’s easier to provide them with the type of coarse, free-draining soil mix they need to thrive. Before you start, make sure the pot is sturdy and has generous drainage holes – no orchid likes wet feet. Although you can make up your own mix using ingredients such as pine bark, sphagnum moss and gravel, a simpler alternative is to purchase a specialised orchid mix, such as Yates Orchid Potting Mix or Debco Orchid Growing Media. (Potting Media Reviewed - AOS Culture sheet)
Growing in garden beds: If you live in the right climate (warm to tropical), you can also grow many orchids in garden beds. The basic requirements are a raised bed filled with well-drained orchid mix and a canopy of filtered shade provided by trees or shadecloth.
Water: Ensure your plants get a deep watering, with excess water flowing freely out of the drainage holes, as opposed to a splash with the hose. If the plant sits in a saucer, make sure you let drain for 20-30 seconds before placing it back in the saucer. Most orchids have different water requirements – some like to dry out between watering, while others like to be slightly moist. Always check the growing label of your orchid for exact watering requirements. Also some watering tips from BIOS & Be Water Wise
Humidity & Air Movement: In the wild, orchids thrive in places of high humidity. If you don’t have an enclosed growing area, you can help increase the humidity around the plant by filling a saucer or tray with pebbles and water. Place the orchid pot on top of the pebbles, making sure the pot doesn’t touch the water. A daily misting will also help keep the humidity high. Give the plant a light spray in the morning – misting too late in the day means the leaves will remain wet overnight, which can encourage disease.
Fertiliser: During the growing season (spring and summer), apply an orchid fertiliser such as Yates Orchid Food or Neutrog Strike Back for Orchids, which are designed to promote flowering. A liquid fertiliser such as Campbell’s Orchid Special Fertiliser B can be applied throughout the remainder of the year, every 7-14 days or when the plant needs watering. See also Care of Orchids: Fertilizing 101 Orchid Nutrition for Winter
Light: Orchids need filtered light, some more so than others. Very few orchids grow in full sun, & even those only for part of the day. See genera specific culture sheets for the correct light requirements for your orchids.
Growing Orchids Under Artificial Light - The Orchid House
The Orchid Growing Pennant (A Taxonomy of Needs for Orchid Growing)
by Nick Wooley
Back-Cutting & Re-potting How to divide and re-pot your orchids
Larger orchids, such as cymbidium, cattleya and dancing ladies, have pseudobulbs – bulb-like organs at the base of the plant – so they can be easily divided. When the orchid is becoming too large for its pot, or when the potting media is soggy and drains poorly, it’s time to divide and re-pot. The ideal time to do this for most orchids is when the plant starts new growth, usually right after it flowers.
What can go wrong? The most common ways to kill an orchid
One of the most common ways to kill an orchid is by over- or under-watering. The roots get damaged, which can result in yellow or wilted leaves, or they get bud blast (when buds fall off instead of opening). Here’s how to check if you’re guilty of this.
Care & growing of orchids
WikiHow - 6 ways to Care for Orchids Orchid Growing - 101
Like all plants, orchids can come under pest attack. Here’s what to look for.
Aphids feed on the entire plant, particularly on flower buds, and this causes them to be deformed when they open. The insects leave clear, sticky droplets and, if ants are also on the plant, it’s sure to be aphids (the ants collect the sticky droplets). Spray with Defender MaxGuard, Confidor or Eco-Oil.
Thrips can be destructive, especially to flower buds, mature flowers and young leaves. They’re tiny, but their damage is easy to detect, showing up as light streaks on flowers or stippling on the leaves. Spray with an insecticide such as Yates Natrasoap Insect & Mite Killer or Defender MaxGuard.
Scale can cause small round yellow spotting on new leaves or yellowing of mature leaves. They are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate, so check your orchids regularly for signs of them. Scale insects look like a small brown dot, and can often be found on the underside of the leaves. Treat with Eco-Oil or Yates Pest Oil.
AOS website PESTS & DISEASES with useful topics & links
Web page by St Augustine OS on PESTS Their symptoms, treatment & prevention measures.
List of Agricultural Pesticides & Fungicides including application rates by Alan Merriman
Diseases that affect orchids are predominately caused by Algae, Bacteria & Fungi or Viruses.Here are a few resources to help you combat these problems.
On-Line Doctor - Diagnose your Orchid ailments Diagnosis photo gallery & solutions (Cloudsorchids.com)
ALGAE, BACTERIAL & FUNGAL DISEASES
Web page by St Augustine OS on Orchid Diseases Their symptoms, treatment & prevention measures.
Cinnamon as a fungal treatment at repotting by Dr. George Tsambourakis
Sporekill ® An environmentally friendly fungicide/algaecide (also kills some viruses) by Alan & Miriam Merriman
Web page by St Augustine OS on Orchid Viruses Their symptoms and control & prevention measures.
Orchid Viruses by Graham Corbin of Brisbane Orchid Society
Virus Contrrol from Bribie Island Orchid Society
Pests & Diseases - Bribie Island Orchid Society website
OTHER TYPES OF PLANT DAMAGE
Web page by St Augustine OS on Other types of damage to Orchids Their symptoms, treatment &prevention measures.
Spotted Sun Orchid is a native terrestrial orchid (grows in loose soil)
Many Australian Native genuses are terrestrials, some of which are illustrated here, growing in the leaf litter & rotting plant material on the ground.
Photo credit: gloriousnebo.com.au
Web Site made with Serif WebPlus.
Page last updates 05/08/2014
CULTURE SHEETS from AOS
For the NOVICE
EXOTIC GENUSES Catasetum
Care for Australian Natives. OS of NSW
Starting out with Native Orchids. APSA.org.au - Brian Walters
Neville Roper SSOS
by ABC Program “Gardening Australia”
Bribie Island O.S.
AUSTRALIAN NATIVE ORCHIDS ANOS (Victoria Group)
(epiphyte growing on a tree)
(All terete leaved Dendrobiums from Australia & New Guinea have been moved to the newly created Dockrillia genus)
Photo credit: Wiki commons
Grown in pots, either plastic or terra cotta. Open holes in the pot allow air to circulate through the potting media. Good air circulation is a must to control fungus & rot.
Photo credit: iloveorchids.blogspot.com
Many sympodial epiphytic orchids like to be grown in broad, flat pots or baskets. Air movement around the roots is all important.
Photo credit: orchid-expert.com
(Sm..Thelychiton speciosus) Usually found growing as a lithophyte (on rocks) or as an epiphyte (attached to trees) photo credit: cpbr.gov.au