Category Archives: Garden Tips

Growing Orchids for Beginners

So you want an introduction to growing orchids for beginners? You’re in for an adventure, since growing orchids is addictive! I’ll give you some “gateway” orchid care instructions below. Once you know how to grow orchids, they’ll thrive for you, as most are easy to care for. They’ll grow bigger, make more flowers each year, and you’ll be far less likely to kill them and feel guilty about it.

Growing orchids is easy! If you imitate a plant’s natural habitat, it will thrive. There are very many types of orchids, coming from a wide variety of different habitats (on every continent except Antarctica!) so there is almost certainly an orchid that likes the conditions you are able to provide. The most commonly available orchids, such as the Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis, are so popular because they do well in typical homes.

You might also want to see the page on growing orchids indoors for more information on reproducing orchid habitats in typical homes, or proceed to the slightly more advanced orchid care instructions in the caring for orchids section, which is not specifically aimed at growing orchids for beginners.

Regardless of which of the many types of orchids you are growing, a few tips will help you keep them happy. Growing orchids for beginners mostly involves learning a few basics:

Lighting

Different kinds of orchids have different lighting needs, which are generally divided into three rough categories:

  • High lighting (about 3,000-5,000 footcandles, or 30,000-50,000lux) is typical for south-facing windows in the northern hemisphere. Direct sunlight should usually be avoided, particularly at hotter times of the day. Some common types of orchids that like high light are Cattleya and Vanda orchids.
  • Medium lighting (about 2,000 footcandles, or 20,000lux)
  • Low lighting (about 1,000 footcandles, or 10,000lux) is common for shaded windows, or east-facing windows. Low lighting is preferred by Phalaenopsis and Pahiopedilum orchids, among others.

As a general guideline, orchids should be given as much light as they can happily tolerate. Leaves will tend to become greener when lighting is low, and yellower (occasionally with red spotting) when there is a lot of light. If sunburned black or brown patches appear on the leaves, reduce the lighting.

Orchids with thicker and/or more erect leaves tend to be able to tolerate more light than those with thinner or more horizontal leaves.

Too little lighting is one of the more common mistakes in growing orchids for beginners.

Temperature

Orchids are often divided into three general temperature categories:

  • Warm-growing orchids like day temperatures between 70°F (21C) and 85°F (29C). This includes most Phalaenopsis orchids.
  • Intermediate orchids like day temperatures between 65°F and 75°. This is typical of Cattleya orchids.
  • Cool-growing orchids like temperatures to stay below 70°F (21C), say from 60°F (15C)-70°F (21C) during the day. This includes most Masdevallia orchid species, for example. Because this temperature range is difficult for most people to provide, these plants are not very widely marketed, except at places that mostly cater to orchid hobbyists.

Orchids generally appreciate a 10-15°F drop in temperatures at night (6-8C).

Most of the commonly-available orchids are chosen to make growing orchids for beginners easy, which means that if you got your plant at a supermarket or orchid mass-market place, it will probably do well in temperatures that are comfortable for humans.

Humidity

Most orchids like humidity to be about 70%. This is considerably more humid than most homes, so you’ll want to make some effort to provide your plants with extra humidity.

Orchids usually appreciate misting with a spray bottle. If the plant has aerial roots growing up out of the pot, those roots will especially appreciate getting some moisture.

You can also set up a humidity tray: put water in the bottom of a tray, with enough gravel that a plant set on top does not sit in the water. As the water evaporates, it will provide some extra humidity for the plant. These are a great help to growing orchids for beginners, or anyone else keeping tropical plants on a windowsill.

Water

Overwatering kills far more orchids than under watering; it’s the most common cause of orchid disease. So when in doubt, don’t water! The potting mix used has a lot to do with how often an orchid needs watering, but most orchids are sold in mixes that allow for roughly weekly watering. For most orchids, stick a finger a couple inches into its potting mix, and if the mix is dry, it’s time to water. Don’t water until it’s at least approaching dryness.

To water an orchid, take it to the sink and run water through the pot until it flows out the bottom, trying to get as much of the potting mix wet as possible. Alternatively, submerge the plant’s pot in a bucket for a few seconds, then lift it out and let it drain off excess water.

Symptoms of overwatering are similar to symptoms of underwatering: the plant appears to shrivel and dry out. In the case of overwatering, this is because most of the roots have died and rotted. If in doubt whether you’re overwatering or underwatering, lift the plant out of the pot and see whether the roots are firm and white (healthy) or soft and mushy (dead). In the latter case, the plant should also be repotted.

Orchids often grow aerial roots up and out of the pot; try to get these wet when you water.

Repotting

It’s best to repot orchids every couple of years as the mix (usually bark) that they’re potted in starts to break down. Most orchids are epiphytes (they grow on trees as air plants, rather than in the ground) so if the potting mix is starting to decompose, compress, and become denser, orchids get unhappy because their roots expect greater access to air.

Pruning

Many people growing orchids as beginners wonder about pruning orchids. Trimming old flower stems that have turned brown is a good idea. If it’s still green, it may rebloom, either from the tip or by branching further back on the stem. So don’t cut back green flower stems.

Pruning orchids to keep them small is a bad idea, because it is very stressful to the plant. If you cut a leaf, often the whole leaf will die back. Cutting stems is also usually bad. The only stems to cut on orchids are rhizomes (when dividing a plant; leave at least three or four growths per division) and flower stems (when they’re done blooming and have turned brown, or if you want to put cut flowers in a vase.) Trimming orchids should really only be done to remove leaves, roots, or flower stems that have already died and turned brown.

Also, sterilize your cutting tools (or use disposable razors) so that you don’t spread orchid diseases between your plants.

Article courtesy of www.orchid-care-tips.com

Get Beautiful Garden Color Fast!

You’ve decided to add color to your garden. And you’d like to do it now. But where to begin?

A good first step in choosing a garden’s color palette is to establish mood and emotion. Do you envision it as a serene and peaceful haven, where you and your family can be rejuvenated and unwind? Or does a lively and energizing space for entertaining and outdoor activities have more appeal? Do your tastes lean to the traditional, or are you more attracted to modern, trendy environments? Whatever you see as your ideal garden space, give initial attention to how you want yourself and others to feel when they are in it. You can create a desired emotional response just with color! Hot hues – reds, oranges and yellows – are dramatic, stimulating and energizing, and lift the spirits on cloudy days. Cool tones – blues, aquas, greens and purples, as well as most pastels – are soothing and relaxing.

Next, use an artist’s color wheel to help you decide on a scheme: monochromatic (based on a single color), harmonious (based on colors adjacent on the wheel, such as yellow and orange or blue and violet), or complimentary (based on contrasting colors, such as blue and orange, red and green). 

Of course, researching appropriate plants, purchasing them, planting and growing all take time, and it may be months or even a year before your vision becomes a reality. But there’s no need to wait to introduce desired colors into your landscape. Here are three proven ways to get color in an instant:

Mix it up! Use plenty of different sized containers filled with annuals in your chosen colors for fast, easy and moveable bursts of color. Just as you can quickly change or improve the look of an interior with throw pillows, cushions and slip covers, you can also rapidly color up your outdoor space by utilizing pots and planters of bright and cheery annuals. Fill up a variety of planters with pleasing combinations of these abundant bloomers and place strategically where you most need and want color. You may find such a perfect combination for a given area, that you’ll feel confident in permanently placing perennials and shrubs in the location in similar color combinations.

Use garden decor for lively bursts of color! Plants and flowers are the obvious and first choice of color for the gardener. But garden decor should be included in any comprehensive plan in order to echo and enhance the natural plantings, to create a counterpoint of complimentary color or even to brighten up an otherwise dark corner. Brightly-hued and decorated metal sculptures, mosaic stepping stones, enamel ornaments, ceramic bird baths, tiled fountains, painted planters and decorated bird feeders and houses can be vital elements in any garden color scheme. And they have the added benefit of remaining colorful throughout the winter months. Use them as focal points on patios, hang them from arches or tuck them among lush beds of flowering plants. 

Furnish with style! Garden benches, patio sets, chairs, chaises, tables and stools are available in a full spectrum of colors and motifs. How about a purple Adirondack chair made out of recycled materials for an instant jolt of joyful color? Or an antiqued blue rustic iron bistro table with matching chairs? Weatherproof fabrics are another colorful option for outdoor cushions and cloths.

Whatever mood you want to create in your garden, you can create it fast with color!