Choosing the right type of orchid for the conditions in which it will be living is a fundamental part of any program on how to care for orchids. There are therefore a number of decisions that will have to be made prior to purchase. These include situation, temperature, light, space and what to look for when purchasing.
Some orchids can survive quite happily in both the limited light and the dry air which exists in the average room while others need a greenhouse atmosphere of additional light and warm air. If your aim is to sincerely enjoy orchids in the home environment, there are hybrids which are bred for their ability to survive in these conditions. By far the most popular choice is the Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) which can easily thrive in a centrally heated environment. For cooler conditions, an orchid such as Cymbidium or Miltoniopsis (sold as Miltonia) is ideal.
It is vital to ascertained the temperatures you will be able to provide in the situation you have chosen for your orchid. This is best done using a maximum / minimum thermometer during a cold winter spell. Orchids can be divided into three groups, cool (50 – 55 deg F), intermediate (55 – 60 deg F) and warm (over 60 deg F). These temperatures are merely guidelines and it may be that an orchid will be able to survive short periods outside these ranges. This is particularly true of the popular hybrids and species listed below which are all more tolerant of temperature variations: –
Brassavola, Encyclia, Paphiopedilum, Brassia, Epidendrum, Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Miltoniopsis, Cambria and Oncidium
Some orchids can survive quite happily with the light available on the average window ledge while others will require really bright surroundings and are there unsuitable for placing in a room situation. Check the list above and find an orchid which will suit your situation.
If you are intending to grow your orchids on a windowsill for example, it will be necessary to ensure that the plant you choose will not grow too tall. Check the maximum height the plant will achieve when placing your order whether from a catalog or a garden center or nursery.
From all this you can see that orchid care is not straightforward but like all things in life you only get out what you put in!
What to Look For
Underground Roots – These should be pale colored and not blackened. Buy plants with transparent pots to check the condition of the roots.
Surface – This should be weed free and have sufficient space for rhizomes to spread. Rhizomes are horizontal stems which in time can develop into new growth.
Aerial Roots – These should be firm and pale. Dead roots are not a good sign. Look for green tips.
Leaves – Do not be fooled by color as this can vary between dark and yellowish green. The leaves should be free from blemishes and firm not floppy.
Flower Spike – There should be flowers present together with some buds which should not be shriveled.
Insects – Ensure an absence of these on buds, leaves and the pot base.
The usual route into learning how to care for orchids is to purchase (or be given) a Phalaenopsis or perhaps a Paphiopedlum both of which, as we have previously noted, will be able to survive and possibly thrive in the average living room. Frequently, these plants are kept because their blooms are long lasting but after a while, when the blooms fade, the plant is thrown away. The next stage would be to try your hand with others from the list in the "Temperature" section of this article. Cymbidium will grow in an unheated room for instance. Finally, things become much more interesting if you can induce the plant which has finished flowering to flower again because you become an orchid drawer rather than just a keeper and the fun really begins! Do not be too surprised if you get bitten by the orchid bug and find yourself growing a lot larger selection in a greenhouse.
Orchids are fascinating and great fun to care for.