Can You Grow Orchids In An Apartment? Insanity Some Say

When we tell our friends that we grow orchids, they look at us with pity, as if to say, “It’s only temporary insanity – they’ll get over it.” 

We are not country dwellers blessed with a greenhouse and the ideal conditions supposedly necessary for growing these exotic plants. 

Indoor OrchidsPin

We live in a New York City apartment and aren’t going to “get over it.” Quite the contrary, our original two-plant collection has grown to several dozen and threatens to crowd us out of our apartment.

So why do we raise orchids? 

At first, it was a challenge that “couldn’t be done.” But then, after we had achieved success, we just couldn’t stop.

We feel that there are no more beautiful flowers, no plants that yield so great a reward for so little effort. 

Orchids rate high in beauty, variety of color and form, and quality. There are many misconceptions and half-truths about orchids. 

They are all supposed to be native to steaming jungles, either carnivorous, parasitic, or able to live on air, and, lastly, tremendously difficult to grow. Don’t you believe it!

Adaptable Orchids

Orchids can be found in almost all parts of the world, tropical, temperate, and sub-arctic. They are neither carnivorous nor parasitic, nor do they live on air. 

They have the usual requirements of food, water, air, and light of other plants we are more familiar with. 

If these requirements are met, orchids will grow.

Two Groups Of Orchids

As far as their cultural requirements are concerned, orchids can be divided into two main groups:

  • Epiphytes
  • Terrestrials 

The former, which grow naturally on trees, are grown indoors in the partially decomposed fiber of the Osmunda fern. 

Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial orchids that grow in natural soil are best planted in a 2-to-1 mixture of leaf mold and gravel, such as granite paving chips.

Peat or sphagnum moss may be added, but we found the leaf mold and granite mixture quite satisfactory.

Basis of Orchid’s Temperature

Orchids may be divided for further convenience based on their temperature requirements:

  • Cool
  • Intermediate
  • Warm

For these three groups, night temperatures of 50°, 55°, and 60° degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, are ideal, with daytime temperatures about 10° degrees Fahrenheit higher. 

However, our experience has been that orchids are not as particular to temperature as many who write about them imagine.

Orchid’s Growing Requirements

Orchids, like other plants, require sunlight. Most of them can use all the sun they can get during the winter. 

Burning may be avoided in slimmer by shading the plants from midday sunshine.

Water is perhaps the most critical factor in growing orchids in the home. Orchids are nearly indestructible. 

Probably the only way to kill them, outside of freezing them solid, is to water your orchid plants too frequently and, by doing so, cause rotting.

Excellent Drainage

Orchids require excellent drainage. While it is impossible to say exactly how often to water, our experience is that orchids should be watered no more than once a week. 

Moreover, little harm is done if you neglect to water your plants for a week or even more – we left ours unattended for three weeks last summer. 

When you do water your plants, however, be sure to water them well. Lack of moisture in the air is apt to limit the home culture of orchids more than anything else. 

Two Practices For Orchids

Orchids, unlike most plants, have no outer protective or guard cells to limit the moisture loss of leaves. 

Two practices are recommended to counteract this loss. These are:

  • First, keep pans of water on the radiators. This, incidentally, will benefit your own health as well as that of your orchids. 
  • Secondly, syringe the orchid foliage on bright sunny days. 

If you place your orchids in a Warclian case or miniature greenhouse, you will come closer to furnishing ideal conditions. Still, such elaborate equipment is optional for the less demanding orchids.

Whether or not to feed orchids have long been controversial, but the consensus these days seems to lie in favor of feeding.

Good Fertilizers For Orchids

A wide range of fertilizers has been used successfully, with several soluble commercial fertilizers particularly good for orchids. 

Remember, though, that overfeeding is worse than no feeding at all.

Once you have decided to grow orchids, you are faced with the greatest problem, which ones to choose. 

Considerations For Selecting Orchids

The family Orchidaceae is the second largest group of flowering plants, and within it is great diversity. When most people think of orchids, they visualize the hybrid cattleya of the florist. 

Yet there are thousands of other orchids, equally beautiful and exotic, and in many cases, equally worthy of a place in your collection. 

The problem of selection can be approached from several aspects.

Investing On Prices

To begin with, there is the consideration of price. Orchids are sold at prices ranging from a few dollars for a plant of blooming size to many hundreds of dollars for especially fine hybrid plants. 

Obviously, investing a great sum in an initial collection would be foolish when you have not even convinced yourself that you can grow orchids.

Blooming Period of Orchids

Another consideration is the blooming period. Selecting a variety of genera and species makes it easy to have one or more orchids bloom year-round. The advantage of this is immediately obvious.

It is also well to keep in mind the growing conditions you will be able to provide for your plants. 

Humidity For Certain Types

Certain types require the additional humidity of a Wardian or other nearly air-tight glass case (such as a glass-covered fish tank), and unless you are prepared to supply such a case, these plants should be omitted from your collection. 

Moreover, you will get better results by selecting plants that require those temperature conditions you can most easily give them.

Orchids Species Than Expensive Hybrids

We suggest you first limit yourself to the orchid species rather than invest in the more expensive hybrids. 

In addition to the advantage of lower cost, the species have the added virtue of blooming during a specific (and predictable) season. 

Although the species of orchids may not be quite as spectacular as the hybrids, we can assure you that you will be more than satisfied with them.

Outstanding Orchid Genera

It would be impossible to describe here even the few outstanding orchid genera. 

However, we recommend the several groups of orchids listed on this page as a good nucleus for your collection. They are only a few of the thousands from which you can choose.

If you want an exotic and beautiful houseplant with long-lasting flowers and, above all, one that is easy to grow, try an orchid. 

Once it has flowered for you, you’ll always need more orchid plants.

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