Orchid Culture for Beginners

There is more interest today in orchid growing than at any time in the past, and each year more and more amateur growers are induced to take up their culture. 

Nonetheless, the long-established impression that orchid culture is much more difficult than other plants still deters many would-be enthusiasts from undertaking to grow them.

Orchid CulturePin

There are few greater misapprehensions in all floriculture than this belief that orchids present such difficult cultural problems.

Minimum Cultural Requirements 

Those who overcome their fears by learning their minimum cultural requirements seldom fail to achieve a reasonable degree of success, even under only partly favorable conditions. 

Once having made a start, they almost invariably find orchids growing to be far simpler than first imagined. 

Still, it must be admitted that, in some respects, the culture of orchids does differ from that of most other plants.

Orchid Growing: Rooted Love for Plants

The first requirement for successful orchid growing, I would say, is a genuine, deeply rooted love for flowers and plants in general. 

Real interest in whatever one attempts is a prime requisite to success, particularly in growing orchids. 

Direct Proportion

Furthermore, what one gets out of his orchid-growing project, as in the case of any other project, is usually in direct proportion to what he puts into it in interest and endeavor.

To the thoroughgoing, all-out enthusiast, the study of the orchid family presents unlimited possibilities, both as to cultural methods and especially to biological characteristics

Par is the largest of all plant families, with an estimated 15,000 or more species and hybrids becoming more numerous every day.

Orchids In Living Room

Orchids in the dwelling. Most inquiries about whether orchids can be grown in the living room are rather difficult to answer since accurate information on existing conditions is usually lacking. 

However, ninny amateurs have succeeded in growing orchids in the dwelling, so it is obviously only a matter of providing reasonably favorable conditions.

The two greatest handicaps to growing them in the average dwelling are insufficient sunlight and excessive air dryness.

Temperature Of Orchids

The third is that the temperature is usually too high at night. When these three handicaps are overcome, orchids can thrive and flower in any home.

Abundant sunlight can be provided by placing the plants in a solarium or bay window, preferably facing south and unshaded during the greater part of the year. 

Sonic Shade And Humidity

Sonic shade may be necessary for midsummer when the sunlight strikes the plants directly and cause the burning of the leaves.

However, providing sufficient humidity in the air is usually somewhat more of a problem. 

The air in most houses during late fall, winter, and early spring are much too dry for the healthy growth of most plants, especially orchids, which need more humidity in the air and less moisture at the roots than almost any others.

To ensure these essentials to a healthy culture, the Wardian case is the greatest boon to orchid growing in the home. 

Orchids in Flower Boxes

Without a Wardian case, orchid plants are best placed in flower boxes nearly filled with silica pebbles upon which the pots may be set. 

The gravel is kept moderately wet even when the plants do not need watering; thus, a constant humid atmosphere will rise about the plants. 

Sources Of Humidity: Shallow Pans Of Water

Other sources of humidity, such as shallow pans of water, may be set on the radiators, or small cans of water may be hung in floor registers where they will be out of sight and easily filled with a funnel.

The increased humidity in the air will benefit not only all house plants but the human family as well. 

Incidentally, plants in the home are beneficial because of their beauty and cheerfulness and because they are constantly giving off moisture and oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.

Night Temperature

The night temperature for most orchids should be about 00°, though slightly higher will not harm cattleyas and similar types. 

The leaves of the plants should be gently sponged with pure water as needed to keep them free from dust and scale. 

Watering the plants themselves, other than a fine spray on the foliage at frequent intervals, will probably not be necessary more often than once or twice a week. 

Greatest Enemy; Overwatering

Overwatering is the greatest enemy to successful orchid culture, like in the dwelling or the most up-to-date greenhouse.

Soft water, such as freshly collected rainwater, is the best; no matter what, the source of the water should not be alkaline. 

Never water the material in which- the plants grow so long as the surface is moist. 

Potting Material For Good Soaking

It is best to allow the potting material to dry out fairly well before watering and then give it a good soaking. 

Excessive watering soon destroys orchid roots, and the plant either dies or becomes sickly and easy prey to orchid insects. For success, then, never overwater.

Wardian Case In Orchids Culture

The Wardian case. The Wardian case affords conditions more favorable to successful orchid culture in the home than any other means. 

The ease is usually constructed by the person who will use it, but it may be made by a cabinet maker who can build it according to measurements of the space it will occupy.

Edward Remde of Cleveland: Enthusiastic Amateur Orchidist

The best Wardian case I have seen was built by a friend, Edward Remde of Cleveland, an enthusiastic amateur orchidist. 

This case is ideal in size and construction, though the double window in which it is placed does not allow maximum light due to partial shade from a nearby tree.

Dimensions Of Mr. Remde’s Case

Mr. Remde’s case dimensions are height, 28” inches; length, 43” inches; width, 22” inches. 

Beneath the case proper is a pan 3” inches deep and 3” inches larger in each dimension than the case itself. 

The ease has short legs which stand in the pan on blocks, raising the bottom of the ease so that there is a space of about 1” inch between the upper edges of the pan and the bottom of the case, which is made of heavy wire mesh upon which the pots stand. 

This space of 1” inch, together with the 1 ½”-inch space on all sides due to the pan being much larger than the case, permits air to enter at the bottom of the ease after passing over the moist Hadith in the pan. 

The Flow Of Air And Humidity

The flow of air is controlled by the degree to which the ease lid is opened. Pebbles placed in the pan would serve as well as Hadith and might present a more pleasing appearance.

A humidity of 50% to 70% percent is maintained as constant as possible, but the plants are not watered more often than once a week, depending upon their needs. However, the leaves are lightly sprayed at times with pure water.

This particular Wardian case is very attractive and scientifically made of the metal channel and plate glass and would be an ornament to any home. 

Artificial Lighting for Sunlight Deficiency

To supplement the somewhat deficient sunlight reaching the plants from the windows, artificial lighting is provided 24” inches above the plants using 4 fluorescent tubes. 

Two of these are 40- watt “daylight.” -tubes yield a bluish light, and two operate at 3500°.

Kelvin And Yield A Yellowish Light

Kelvin and yield a yellowish light. This arrangement of alternate tubes recommended by the Boyce Thompson Institute is best for plants. 

The lights are allowed to burn for 4 hours every evening and until 10 a.m. every morning, and since their installation, there has been a noticeable improvement in the appearance of the plants.

Small Greenhouse

The small greenhouse. The next step is a small greenhouse for the reader who is already growing orchids in a Wardian case but whose mounting enthusiasm is causing him to become concerned over its limitations. 

I say “small greenhouse” advisedly because “small” is always only relative, and the Wardian case graduate’s first greenhouse is most likely to be relatively small.

I have often said that I know of no structure of like size which is as certain to yield so full a measure of satisfaction as the small greenhouse, and I’m sure that is doubly true if it is filled with orchids. 

If you doubt it, just try this prescription of a physician who has tried it himself, and you will soon be writing testimonials. 

Enthusiasm For Orchids Becomes Disease

True, your enthusiasm for orchids may soon become almost a “disease,” which you will probably never recover from. 

It is one “disease” that benefits both the mind and the body of the person who contracts it, and you will never desire to shake it off.

If you already own a greenhouse, you need not hesitate to grow orchids with your other plants, provided the house is run at a temperature of about 60° to 65° at night. 

Cymbidiums And Green-Leaved Cypripediums

Cymbidiums and green-leaved cypripediums do much better in a night temperature of about 50° degrees Fahrenheit, so if yours is a cooler house, these are the kinds best suited to your facilities. 

Of course, more humidity is needed for orchids than is demanded by most other plants, though this can be maintained by sprinkling under the benches and on the walks. 

Orchids need not be separated from the other plants, although this is usually the better plan given the care with which orchids must be watered.

Orchids For Beginners

Orchids for the beginner. The kinds of orchids best suited to the beginner will largely depend upon the conditions under which they will be grown. 

Any list of orchids recommended for growing in the home must be limited to those that will withstand the less favorable conditions for their growth. 

It is advisable to always begin with mature plants of either species or hybrids. Always purchase strong, healthy plants even though the price will be higher than for inferior stock. 

Inferior Plants

To make a start with inferior plants is pretty certain to result in disappointment and little, if any, bloom.

Small seedlings, even If strong and healthy, require years to arrive at blooming size, and one is likely to become discouraged waiting unless he also has natural plants that produce flowers in the meantime. 

Mature Plants

As regards the cost of mature plants, it’s good to remember that the first crop of bloom from a good specimen may almost represent, in dollar value, the cost of the plant itself.

It is usually advisable to purchase species because of their lower cost rather than hybrids until the basic requirements of orchids have been learned. 

However, some hybrids possess a greater ability to grow and flower than some species and may be more beautiful when they bloom. 

Genus Of Orchids

It is also usually best to make a start with one genus or at least with genera of like natures and requirements, such as:

  • Cattleyas
  • Laelias

Also, their hybrids, or similar generic hybrids like Brasso-cattleyas and laeliocattleyas.

Mossiae: Good Cattleya

Among the good cattleya species are mossiae, which flowers about Easter, and sehroederae which is also in bloom at about the same time. 

Cattleya trianae flowers during the winter months, around the Christmas holidays, or a little later. Gaskelliana flowers in the summer. 

Skinneri: Flower for Mother’s Day

Skinneri is in flower around Mother’s Day, and Bowringiana, which resembles it, flowers in the fall. 

The last mentioned is tall growing and therefore not adapted to the Wardian case, though it is one of the best for the amateur to grow in the window garden or greenhouse. 

Other Cattleya Species

Almost any other cattleya species and hybrids may be grown in a Wardian case, provided the case is sufficiently large and high to accommodate the height of the plant.

Cypripediums, or “lady slippers,” are especially well suited to Wardian ease culture. 

  • They are among our most beautiful orchids
  • They have great diversity in their color combinations
  • They are exceptionally good keepers when cut and 
  • They do not require as much sunlight as most other orchids 

The “green leaved” cypripediums thrive best at a night temperature of 45° to 50° degrees Fahrenheit, while the “mottled leaved” kinds do better at about 60° at night.

Lady Slippers for Orchidists

Orchidists are coming more and more to appreciate the “lady slippers,” and, as wide fine varieties may be purchased at quite reasonable prices, they are especially to be recommended for amateurs. 

Lately, my own first venture into growing orchids was with Cypripeditun insigne, which is considered easy to grow.

Insigne Flarefield Hall: Good Variety

I still like it, although many of its hybrid varieties greatly exceed its size and beauty. Insigne Flarefield Hall is a good variety and inexpensive.

Any orchidists who have cypripedium plants for sale can advise you which are the best plants to purchase for the money you wish to invest. 

Grow Orchids In A Wardian Case

Were I obliged to grow orchids in a Wardian case rather than in a greenhouse, and I should certainly choose. some cypripedium with which to start.

If you desire to grow orchids but can only provide them with somewhat less-than-ideal conditions for their culture, do not hesitate to attempt. 

Your efforts will probably be rewarded with far more success than you thought possible.

44659 by Dr. Norman C. Yarian