How to grow Orchids
Orchids are a great addition to any home, with their exotic, delicate and diverse flowers and their beautiful shapes and vibrant colours. But as any gardener knows, although they are irresistible when it comes to beauty, growing orchids can be challenging.
Different Orchid Varieties
The first thing to realise if you are thinking of growing your own orchids is that there are thousands of different species and cultivated varieties. In fact, there are in excess of 30,000 different orchid species and 200,000 hybrid varieties and they all have their own peculiar habits, likes and dislikes.
Before you go any further and whether you are buying from a shop, garden centre or specialist nursery, take a little time to research which orchid variety you are going to grow.
Some varieties of orchid are difficult to grow unless you are able to recreate their natural climatic and environmental needs, so it is important that you pick the right one for your conditions.
- The easiest to grow in Australia are Cymbidiums and Dendrobiums (Sydney Rock Lily and Cooktown Orchid) as they will thrive outdoors in most parts of Australia except for very cold climates.
- If growing indoors, Cattleya, Phaelaenopsis and Paphiopedilum orchids will do quite well.
Remember to ask for a fact sheet that details exactly what temperature, watering regime, orchid food and lighting your selection likes best.
What You'll Need
To grow orchids successfully, you will need:
- An orchid of your choosing
- A suitable pot with good drainage
- Scotts Osmocote Orchid Potting Mix or Scotts Osmocote Orchid Coarse Potting Mix (depending on your type of orchid)
- Scotts Osmocote Pour+Feed for Orchids
- Scotts Osmocote Mist+Feed for Orchids
Plant and Place
The Perfect Potting Mix
The age old green-thumb secret is that when you start with the best, you’ll grow the best.
Normal potting mixes are too dense and retain too much moisture as most orchids have thick fleshy roots which are quite vulnerable to root rot.
Using a premium quality and free-draining potting mix, like Scotts Osmocote Orchid Potting Mix, is especially important as it is designed specifically for orchids (including epiphytic and terrestrial orchids), and it contains the necessary nutrients to keep them healthy!
If growing epiphytic orchids, such as Cattleyars, Oncidiums or Dendrobiums, Scotts Osmocote Orchid Coarse Potting Mix is most ideal.
If growing Australian native ground orchids, like Greenhoods, Donkey or Sun orchids, ensure that you use Scotts Osmocote Potting Mix for Natives as it it designed for phosphorus sensitive plants.
Orchids growing indoors need bright indirect light to thrive.
Never place them on tables or windowsills where they will receive direct sunlight as this may burn them.
Watering orchids can take some trial and error. It's important avoid overwatering and to let their roots dry out in between waterings.
The best way to know when to water is to gently push your finger into the soil and test for moisture. If the potting mix is dry, give it a nice drink. If it's damp, don't water! Come back in a couple of days and test again.
Temperature & Humidity
Different orchids prefer different temperatures, but the general rule is a temperature that is comfortable for you will generally suit your orchid!
Be sure to keep them away from heaters and air conditioning vent, as pretty much all orchids prefer warm humid conditions. Regularly mist their leaves with Scotts Osmocote Mist+Feed for Orchids to keep them happy and healthy.
It’s important to continue replenishing nutrients once the fertiliser in the potting mix runs out so that your orchid remains happy and healthy.
Apply Scotts Osmocote Pour+Feed for Orchids, every fortnight to boost your orchid with a carefully balanced blend of essential nutrients, including Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus. These nutrients will help produce greater growth and more beautiful blooms.
For a more sustained approach, feed your orchid with Scotts Osmocote Controlled-Release Fertiiser for Orchids. The controlled release technology feeds your plant for up to 6 months, releasing nutrients and trace elements only when the plant needs them. Scotts Osmocote Controlled-Release Fertiiser for Orchids is also boosted with Potassium and Iron for greener foliage and greater plant growth.
It’s important to repot your orchid every two or so years to avoid it from getting too root-bound, and to maintain overall health and vigour.
Be sure to pick a new pot that has good drainage (drainage holes are great!) and is large enough to support plant growth but not so large that you the risk of excess potting mix remaining damp, leading to root rot.
Never repot your orchid while it is in bloom. Wait until flowering is over, then cut off the flower spikes. As you repot, check that all the roots of the plant are healthy, removing any that aren't.
TO NOTE: Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchids) may produce two or even three ‘crops’ of blooms from the one flower spike, so check carefully for new buds developing before cutting off what you think may be a spent spike.
How to repot your orchid:
- Hold your orchid by the stem and gently slide it out of its pot.
- Carefully loosen the roots with your hands, removing some of the old potting mix from around the base. This will also help it settle easier into its new home.
- Add a layer of Scotts Osmocote Orchid Potting Mix into the new pot and pack it down, removing any air pockets. If your new pot doesn't have a drainage hole, use a slightly smaller plastic pot with drainage holes and pop it inside the pot. Alternatively, layer the bottom of your decorative pot with pebbles before adding the potting mix. The aim is to create a reservoir for any extra water to pool into, away from your plant's roots.
- Place your plant in the pot, making sure it's centred, and then add potting mix around the plant until it's secure.
- Give your orchid a thorough watering and a capful of Scotts Osmocote Pour+Feed for Orchids to welcome it into its new home!
Pests, Problems and Answers
Don't despair if you struggle with your orchids at first. They can be a little temperamental and the key really is in the detail of the care.
|Orchid flowers falling off||
Orchid flowers drop off naturally as they age, but if they all drop at once, this is likely to be caused by a sudden change in watering, temperature or humidity rather than any orchid diseases.
|Leaves changing colour||
Depending on the type of orchid, leaves may turn yellow or purplish if the light is too bright. Low light will cause orchid leaves to darken in colour.
Overwatering can cause root rot. The orchid's leaves turn yellow and may droop and the roots look mushy and black or brown.
Spider mites are sap-sucking mites that can affect orchids and other houseplants. Severe infestations cause orchids to drop leaves and eventually die. Symptoms include a fine webbing covering leaves and stems, as well as mottled leaves with tiny mites and eggs on their undersides.
Mealybugs are small white fluffy-looking insects that suck sap, reducing plant vigour. These orchid pests can form large colonies quickly, so any signs of infestation should be tackled as soon as possible.