Orchids for Beginners

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Exotic, oddly erotic, and with features so diverse and highly evolved they are hypnotic to look at, orchids are typically not considered a good “beginner” plant. While their care is different than your typical peace lily or other more common houseplants, they should not intimidate even those with self-proclaimed brown thumbs. With so many different species to choose from, there are several that are well suited to your living room, and require only slightly more care than a typical potted plant. With blooms lasting for a month or more, they are a much better value than a bouquet of cut flowers, even if you can’t keep it alive for much longer than that. Here are a couple of tips and tricks, however, that should have them blooming joyfully again and again.

Choose the right species
With over 880 different genera containing more than 25,000 different species, the Orchid Family is the largest and most diverse of all flowering plants. Highly adapted to specific environmental conditions, different types of orchids can be found growing anywhere from canopies of the tropical rainforests to the tundra floor. Several genera that are grown commercially as houseplants are suited for the constant, average temperatures of the typical home, such as Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) or Dendrobiums. Most florists and grocers choose these types over the others because they are well adapted as houseplants and are easy to grow. So should you.

Choose the right growing media
While a potting mix is fine for most houseplants, many orchids are naturally epiphytic, meaning they grow up in trees rather than in the ground. This allows for unique features, like aerial roots that are able to photosynthesize. For this reason, a growing media such as small pieces of bark mixed in with peat is often used. You can pick up a bag, if your are potting up your own, at any garden center where they might also sell beautiful containers with holes in their sides as well as in the bottom to promote better drainage and air circulation. While not big feeders, orchids benefit from a once-monthly fertilizer to encourage new blooms.

It’s how you water them, not how much

Contrary to popular belief, most orchids don’t like “wet feet” and letting them sit in a saucer of water can cause their roots to rot. Watering slowly, allows the growing media to absorb and store water for slow uptake by the roots. One way to speed up this process that many have found successful is to place an ice cube in the pot (not directly touching the plant) and allow it to melt over the course of time.

Orchids are not for everyone, but don’t let their special care scare you away. It’s just one more feature that makes the unique and so rewarding to grow.

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