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In The Garden – Orchids – Jan/Feb2016

In The Garden - Orchids - Jan/Feb2016

3 easy-to-grow varieties

Are you looking for long-flowering, easy-to-carefor plants with exotic flowers and a habit of re-blooming without much fuss? Some orchids are so easy to care for that I put them in the same category as African violets: only orchids are easier. If you enjoy ignoring your indoor plants, allowing them to go dry for long periods of time, orchids are the perfect fit for you.

The availability of orchids today is a testament to the advances made in plant propagation through “meristem propagation.” Karl von Nägeli was the first to use this technique in 1858. We have merely perfected the process since then and put it into production.

Orchids consist of more than 26,000 species and 143,000 hybrids (about 1,500 of which are naturally occurring, including many that grow in Ontario). Most orchids sold for use in the home are members of three groups: Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum and Cambria.

These are reliable indoor performers that tolerate our dry air in winter and the low light of our northern latitude. The limited root mass makes for an ideal window sill plant.

This is the most popular of orchids for the home gardener. They are epiphytic, which means that they grow in trees and rocks in the tropics. When the bloom fades, cut the stems below the last flower, just above a node (where the leaf meets the stem). In most cases, a new stem will develop and it will re-flower. These are ground dwellers [terrestrial]; orchids that grow naturally in tropical and subtropical Asia. They are easily identifiable by their pouch-like lip, much like our native Lady Slipper orchids. This is a spectacular species with gorgeous single blooms born on a stem ranging in colour from white, green, brown, claret, red, yellow and pink. Cambria orchids provide a spray of bloom on a single stem that is quite impressive.
LOCATION: Warm home. Low-light conditions/no direct sun. Enjoys a north-facing (low-light) window, but prefers an east-facing one. LOCATION: Defused light to direct sunshine. Versatile. LOCATION: Diffused light, north or west facing window is ideal most of the year. North is favoured during the intense summer time.
TEMPERATURE: Low 18C and high of 29C. TEMPERATURE: Low 13C to high of 24C. Generally like it cool. Green-leaved hybrids are tougher than varieties with mottled leaves. TEMPERATURE: Low of 13C and high in the summer of 24C.
HUMIDITY: Stand in a tray of pebbles among a group of like-minded plants. Mist leaves often with tepid water, including the roots that are exposed. HUMIDITY: Use pebble tray to increase humidity. Misting can cause mould. HUMIDITY: Group with other plants and use a pebble tray with water in the bottom to raise humidity, especially in late spring and summer. In winter, reduce temperatures and watering frequency.
RE-BLOOMING: Three weeks of cooler (18C) temperatures will kick-start this orchid to re-bloom. FERTILIZE: Sensitive to fertilizer burn. Feed year-round with high-nitrogen fertilizer. FERTILIZE: Use half-strength Schultz orchid fertilizer.

Look to the Southern Ontario Orchid Society for the real scoop on orchids. In February they hold a show at the Toronto Botanical Garden. For more information, visit


Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is the Lawn & Garden Expert for Home Hardware. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at