Most people turn a deaf ear when orchids are suggested as ideal house plants. Yet anyone who can grow African violets or gloxinias indoors can grow orchids.
There is hardly another group of plants more compatible with our way of living than these exotic epiphytes.
Furthermore, orchid blossoms are astonishingly durable. Most of them remain fresh and lovely from two weeks to two months.
And since each orchid plant has its specific period of bloom, carefully selecting a dozen plants will provide an almost continuous display of flowers throughout the year, whether a blizzard or a heat wave prevails outside.
And that’s not all. So many kinds of orchids can be had with flowers of almost any size, shape, or color at a price range for any pocket.
Calling orchids “houseplants” does not mean they can be set about on the mantel or piano at will.
A better designation is “window plants” since one of their definite needs is morning sun or, better still, a bay window or window extension. A space will do if big enough for 12 four-inch flowerpots and if supplied with an abundance of the morning sun at all seasons.
If I had to choose 12 orchids for indoor growing, my favorite dozen would have both big and little flowers.
I like variety in color, too, so the range would include white, lavender, green, yellow, and rose. Beginning with the New Year, the flowers would come along about like this:
First, there is Cattleya trianaei. This is a favorite lavender, an old-faithful that blooms through the holiday season and into January. This blossom makes up most of the holiday corsages, for Canleya is the genus we think of as the typical orchid.
The cost of a Cattleya trianaei is about the same as the price of one of its blossoms on New Year’s Eve, and the plant may produce three or more flowers each season.
While C. Hailed was in full bloom, spikes would progress on Oncidium tigrinum splendid to make a show of bright yellow “(lancing ladies.” Though small, there may be 2, 5, or even 50 flowers on a spike – as bright and cheery as a summer’s day in midwinter.
These flowers are effective on the plant and exquisite for corsages to wear on furs. The color is a brilliant butter-yellow, and the name comes from each blossom resembling a girl in a swirling skirt.
The hybrid Cattleya Enid would follow, and then a shower of tiny two-toned purple flowers clinging to the dropping canes of Dendrobium mobile.
I would choose Laeliocattleya, Aphrodite, for Mother’s Day, which blooms just about this time. The flowers are snow-white and large, with a bright magenta lip.
Summer would find some of the little Florida native orchids in bloom. Their graceful spikes of petit flowers are in pleasing contrast to the big spectacular Laeliocattleya Aphrodite. My pick of this group would be the little chartreuse Epidendrum lampense.
One small clump of bulbs generally produces several spikes of about a dozen flowers each. The individual blossoms are about an inch across, and a bright purple blotch in the throat makes a gay accent. The clump intact, bulbs and all, is an artistic centerpiece for summer dining.
Just for variety, I would include a plant of Catasetum macrocarpum. It makes three or four flower rods during the summer. The blossoms are dark red, heavy, and strange in shape.
They are no things of beauty but unusual enough to be fascinating. They do not last long individually, but the number produced on the plant extends the season over several weeks.
Oncidium papilio, while blooming profusely during the summer, keeps it up almost continuously year-round and would be ideal for the window sill dozen for that reason, even though it needs a lot of room.
The plant is compact, but the flower spikes are 2’ or 3’ feet long. The yellow butterfly-like flowers are perfect mimics, even to the antennae.
The flowers come singly at the end of the spike, but as each one fades, another follows immediately.
Other Orchid Blooms In Fall
Blooms in the fall would include Cattleya dowiana, a bright yellow Cattleya of good size, and my favorite lady-slipper, Cypripedium insigne.
The slipper is yellow-green marked with white. It is waxy and durable; the flower will last 6 weeks or more.
Next, Odontoylossum grande, the big, holds a “tiger” orchid with flowers about 7” inches across. It is yellow, marked with brown.
And for December, I’d take another hybrid, Laeliocattleya belle, which produces about 6 big rose-purple flowers just about Christmas Day.
Combinations are especially suitable for a small collection, as each plant may bloom twice a year.
There are many, many others equally lovely. But this is my favorite dozen.
Now, with such variety in the growth cycle of these 12 plants, it isn’t easy to keep them all satisfied within a tiny space.
Sonic would be resting while others would be in total growth. But the fundamental requirements are the same.
Ideal Growing Temperatures And Humidity
The minimum temperature for these plants is about 50° degrees Fahrenheit. It should not be lower at any time, but the sun will run it up much higher during the day.
The air must be humid, and this is the point on which our homes fall short as far as the orchids are concerned.
The humidity around the plants can be raised by placing pans of water on nearby radiators and placing the plants on racks over trays of water on the window sill. Daily syringing of the leaves with a hand spray helps, too.
The growth cycle stage indicates the amount of water to be given at the roots. Plants in active growth require more than those at rest. But a small collection allows time for attention to the needs of individual plants.
On warm days, fresh air should be admitted. During the summer, the whole collection of plants will benefit by being moved out under the apple tree, except in climates where the night temperature is below 50° degrees Fahrenheit.
It is unnecessary to nurse these plants for 7 years before they bloom. However, it is quite true that they require about that much time from seed to first blossom, lint the window sill is not the proper place for seedlings, and the window gardener is advised to select blooming-size plants only.
Orchid plants are extremely tough and can endure considerable abuse while the inexperienced grower is learning their requirements. All house plants must have attention.
Perhaps orchids are a little more trouble than the usual run of potted plants. However, I can think of nothing lovelier than a year-round display of blooming orchids on the window sill.
44659 by Mary Noble