Essential Guide to Orchids Growing Orchids for Pleasure
The moment you hear the word “orchid”, you have an immediate vision of an exotic exquisite flower being presented to a dainty young maiden, getting ready for her first prom. This particular word has become synonymous with grace, class, and luxury. And they are not as rare as they are supposed to be, even if they come in the “expensive desirable item” category.
There are 20,000+ species of orchids growing all over the world. Most of them have not been classified at all and many species are still being discovered in remote corners of the earth, and their classification being debated by botanists all over the world today!
Ever since orchids became a rage in the 19th century, with horticulturists growing them in hothouses and experimenting with them, more than hundred thousand cultivars and hybrids have sprung up from the original 20,000 varieties and species. So that is how Vanda, Cattleya, Dendrobium, and other popular orchid specimens came into the public eye and social usage.
Apart from the colorful and fragrant flowers, the leaves of many varieties are also considered to be ornamental. These leaves are perennial and they are going to live for a number of years. On the other hand, there are other varieties which are going to develop new leafy outgrowths, after shedding the old leaves every year.
The ornamental leaves of Macodes sanderiana, which is a species which can be found clinging to rocks instead of growing on the branches of trees has thin veins of gold and silver on the green leafy background. This is quite an unusual natural phenomena, and other orchid varieties also have mottled leaves due to the uneven distribution of pigmentation and chlorophyll.
In the same manner, Ludisia discolor is very much in demand because the white flowers are not so attractive as the leaves which are more colorful and eye-catching.
My knowledge of orchids began when I was a youngster living in deep, dank, dark jungles and mountainous areas. Luckily I had a set of parents who liked collecting orchids because they could recognize them.
My father as a young man, exploring “his jungles” was quite capable of shinning up trees, removing them still attached to their own branches, and then cluttering his limited accommodations with these jewels of the forests. And then he hoped for the best, trusting that they would grow there. They often did, and luckily he married a lady who knew about orchids and other plants, flourishing so bountifully in nature’s Gardens.
Mother taught him how to cultivate them and make them last for years.
The roots of these orchids were wrapped up in cotton cloth, so that they were not damaged. They were then bandaged to unusually shaped branches of wood. Then the whole root and branch area was dipped to liquid manure so that the bandage got soaked with essential nutrients, but the roots did not touch the powerful manure.
And so the orchids flourished for many many years in their little house in the woods. When we kids arrived, and became little jungle folk as a matter of course, we were often told to go exploring in the woods, and get the orchids we found growing there.
It was much later that I, slogging for my Science Degree at University [Botany, Zoology, and Chemistry, all in one go…] began to learn about the taxonomy of orchids. So moments of recognition of “Oh…kay, so that particular flower was possibly an Epidendroideae species or a Apostasioideae species…”1 was an extra knowledge bonus, less than a decade later. And I still wonder whether any of those numerous colorful and fragrant treasures collected during childhood were ever classified or even seen by botanists, living outside those areas.
Propagation of Orchids
Propagation is perhaps the most challenging of gardening operations in the cultivation of orchids, and there are no hard and fast rules which can be laid and which can be successfully applied to every species. That is because they differ so widely in point of habitat and growth.
However, as a general rule, most orchids can be increased by division either of the roots, or through these pseudo-bulbs which are the swollen stems.
Here are some tips, which have been used very successfully by orchid growers, with a lot of experience.
Some species of orchids are easily increased by dividing them into pieces are by cutting the older pseudo bulbs from the plants after the latter have stopped flowering. This works best with orchids like Dendrobiums. The best time for doing this is just as they begin to grow, or when they are at rest.
Cut through the plant with a sharp knife between these pseudobulbs. Be careful not to harm the roots. Each portion or piece is going to have some roots attached to it.
Part them and pot them. Do not water until they have begun to grow on their own.
Dendrobium Nobile and Pierardii are propagated by bending the old pseudo bulbs, around the basket or pot in which they are growing. You can also propagate them by cutting old flowering bulbs away from the plant, and laying them on damp moss. Potting is done when they make roots.
Other Dendrobium species are increased by dividing the roots. Vanda, Aerides, Saccolabium, Renanthera and Angroecum species are propagated by cutting off the top of the plant just below the first root and also by taking young growth from the bottom of the plant.
Epidendrum, Cymbidium, Cattleya, Bletia, and many other varieties are propagated by dividing into pieces with portions of the root attached. Young bulbs on the pseudobulbs can also give rise to new orchid plants.
You may consider these methods to be limited, but these are the general principles used down the ages for propagating orchids. A lot is going to depend upon the growth of the individual species. It is only with experiment that the gardener will be able to arrive at the best and quickest as well as the safest method of increasing any particular variety.
Thus, in the case of orchids of purely epiphytic growth, Phalaenopsis as an example, which throws up separate growths, you can consider each growth to be a fully developed plant. All you have to do is to severe them. This is easily done by cutting through with a sharp knife. Make sure that you do not injure the roots. After that attach them to logs, slabs, or other wooden containers to secure fresh plants.
The best season for preparation of an orchid is certainly just before the plants begin to grow. That is in February. Most of the species are however best increased during the rains. That is why many gardeners in tropical regions, preferred this time of the year for propagation as there is less chance of your plant dying off for want of moisture.
This essential guide to orchids has given you plenty of information on how you can grow these attractive plants easily in your garden and add to its natural beauty.
Here are some URLs which I have found online, which you are going to find interesting. The tips given here are common sense and very practical tips, and have been written by experienced orchid growers.
Every day new orchid plants are being discovered and more species and varieties are being added to the orchid knowledge base while collectors in all parts of the world are sending immense consignments of orchids to other parts of the world.
Orchid clubs and forums are springing up on the Internet, in a number of countries. The fierce competition between orchid growers to get some rare variety blooming right in time for an orchid exhibition is almost as aggressive as you may see between other plant gardeners with their prize blooms and specimens.
It is going to be a full-time life’s effort trying to find out the different ways of cultivation and propagation of these new varieties of orchids. Nevertheless, this book has given you good information on how you can make orchid growing a pleasurable hobby and possibly a future profitable business.
I found some of these tips interesting. I did not know that orchids were also prey to these bugs and caterpillars, because all my orchids have always been very healthy! Anyway, the way to get rid of these mealy bugs is by spring them chemically, according to Rob. I would suggest trying a soap and water solution which is at least not poisonous. Into this, you can add a little bit of natural pesticide in the shape of neem oil. 250 g to the gallon and spray all your plants – orchids and others at the same time!
So start appreciating these flowers, and enjoy their presence in our world.
Live Long and Prosper!