Displaying Orchids in Your Home and Garden

When it comes to displaying your Orchids there are a number of things that you will need to consider.

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Depending on variety, you will need to ensure that your plants have the appropriate amount of light and space as well as humidity and placement plays a big part in how well your Orchids will thrive.

Displaying Orchids Indoors

If you are growing your Orchids indoors, it is recommended that you place your plants near a window, and this in itself can have a big impact on aesthetic effect.

You will also need to take into account the direction your plants will grow in, i.e. whether they are Terrestrial or Epiphytic; Monopodial or Sympodial.

You will need to bear in mind that some Orchids can grow up to several meters long and will therefore require ample amount of space in which to mature.

Orchids are known for their dazzling array of colours and differing flower structures and this too is something you may wish to think about. With such a massive choice, it is easy to find colours and varieties that will match the colour scheme of your home whilst adding a touch of the exotic.

When in bloom, Orchids are second-to-none in terms of elegance making them a popular choice amongst florists for bouquets and wedding displays and they can be remarkably understated.

You may wish to make your plants a centrepiece, combining varieties and colours to make a superb, eye-catching feature or you may wish to simply have a single plant to add a modest, inconspicuous touch of class to any room.

Displaying Orchids at Weddings and Other Events


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If you are using Orchids for display at a particular event, there is guaranteed to be a variety for any occasion.

For many years, Orchids have been hugely popular for wedding displays, representative of beauty, they are guaranteed to elicit a positive response from guests who will be in awe of their stunning presence; whites, pinks, reds and pastels are all highly popular but when using orchids you will never be constricted should you choose do stray from the norm.

Such is their sheer versatility, you may also wish to use other varieties of flower to compliment your orchids, bulk up displays and keep down costs. Submerged displays are also highly popular and can definitely add that extra wow factor.

Displaying Orchids Outdoors


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If you live somewhere with a warm climate, you may wish to grow your orchids outdoors.

This is the ideal environment for Epiphytic orchids which grow naturally on rocks and trees. Although it is possible to create this effect within the home, by growing outdoors your plants will be given ample space to grow and thrive in a more natural environment.

The opportunities are seemingly endless when it comes to displaying your orchids, and if cared for properly, the desired aesthetic effect you wish to achieve can last for several years, with beautiful sprays of delightful colour every summer, creating an impressive feature for you and your guests to admire.

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Orchid Flasks – How to Grow Orchids From Seed

Orchid flasks are used in order to keep seedlings in a sterile environment before being shipped out to growers all over the world and are a great way of growing your plant from seedlings to maturity.

Although the gestation period lasts around four years, after this you will have seedlings flowering for the first time, and the satisfaction of knowing that you have raised them yourself.

Flasks are available from a number of online distributors and nurseries globally; however, if you are growing for your own benefit, on a non-commercial basis, it is recommended that you purchase a ‘hobby-flask’.

These usually contain around 15 seedlings and will mean that your home won’t become swamped with more plants than you have room for. Your seedlings should be around 40-50 mm long before you attempt to de-flask and this should not be done in the winter time as the cold can damage your plant and ultimately prevent proper growth and development, you should also ensure that you do not de-flask too quickly after receiving your seedlings as they need time to acclimatise.

When your seedlings are big enough to remove, you should prepare them for potting by drying and hardening them for a number of days. Once this process is complete you will need to sterilize your work area, equipment and potting medium to prevent infection and disease in the plant, you should also make sure that you have purchased the right kind of potting medium for your particular genus of plant.

When removing your seedlings, you should gently shake the flask to loosen them and invert it, before washing off ager gel in a bowl of water at room temperature and leaving to dry on a sheet of clean newspaper for 30 minutes to an hour. Initially, it is recommended that you plant your seedlings together as they tend to grow better in a community pot.

Once this has been done, you will need to water well and allow to drain. At this stage you should be careful not to use fungicides on your plants as they can actually act as growth inhibitors and be highly detrimental to your plant’s development, instead, you should find a place in your home that can be utilized as a suitable growing environment; this place should be warm, sheltered with good levels of both humidity and light – the right growing conditions can act as as good a deterrent against infection and disease as any.

For the first few weeks following the initial planting you should ensure that you do not over-water your plant as this is the most common cause of death for seedlings; instead you should lightly mist your plants every day when the surface of your potting mix appears dry to encourage new root growth and prevent de-hydration.

Once your seedlings are well established in their pot and have grown onto their second lead or new larger leaf, you can move on to re-pot into small individual pots, taking care to follow appropriate methods of care determined by your particular species of plant.

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Potting Mix for Orchids

When growing orchids, it is crucial to use the right potting mix. Each variety of Orchid has slightly different requirements so it is important to find a mix that is appropriate. These can usually be found at your local garden centre or online, but you can also add to it yourself, changing combinations until you find a medium that works for you and that will provide you with the correct levels of water retention and aeration.

As a rule, Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Dendrobium and Vanda varieties should be potted in a medium-grade potting mix whereas Paphiopedilum, Miltonia, Odontoglossums and Oncidium varieties require a finer mix.

Choosing a Potting Mix

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of orchid mix on the market today, and it can be difficult to gauge which one is right for you.

Fir Bark

For beginners, a fir bark mix is usually recommended due to its value for money, ease of availability and, most importantly, the results it produces.

However, you should be aware that it tends to break down a little quicker than other potting mixes and will result in you having to re-pot your Orchids a little more frequently; fine grade mix particularly, holds more water and will break down even quicker.

You could, alternatively use a red wood bark which holds water better and will decay more slowly.

Coconut Husk

Coconut husk is also highly recommended for growing your orchids, again, due to its being inexpensive and readily available. It holds water well and will produce good results, however, as with fir bark, it decays quickly and so your plants will require re-potting on a fairly regular basis.

An alternative would be to use coconut fibre, which is longer lasting but has a high salt content and must be thoroughly leached out before use.

Sphagnum Moss

Schultz brand Canadian Sphagnum peat moss, a c...

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Sphagnum Moss is considered an ideal growing medium for smaller seedlings and plants that are in ill-health.

It provides a good ratio of water retention and aeration, but should not be packed too tightly, however it is liable to rot fairly quickly, and if due care isn’t taken, can lead to rot in the plant itself.

You should ensure that, if using this particular type of medium, you use a high quality product and not be tempted into buying inferior products available on the market.

Providing you get the growing conditions right, a Peat-based mix can result in fast growth for your orchids, but, can also result in a very quick death should you get it wrong.

It is vital that, when using this kind of mix, you take extra care during cold, wet winters and will need to use fungicides regularly to prevent infection.

Inorganic Potting Media

There are also a number of inorganic products available on the market;

Charcoal for example, takes a long time to decay and is great for absorbing toxic substances;

Lava rock provides good drainage but can be heavy;

Pearlite is great for water retention and decays very slowly but is very light and if used alone will retain too much water and should be used with another product to ensure proper drainage.

You should always consider outside factors when growing your orchids. Light, heat and humidity all need to be taken into consideration and will ultimately effect the combination of products you eventually settle on.

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Orchid Pruning

Pruning your orchids for the first time can be a daunting prospect for the inexperienced grower, but it doesn’t have to be.

Picture of a Boat Orchid (Orchidaceae Cymbidiu...

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By following the simple steps below, you can benefit your plants in a big way, making them structurally stronger, easier to control in terms of size and shape, encourage blooming next season and revitalize old flowering branches.

There is a slight variance between different types of Orchid but as a general rule you should prune your plants as soon as all the flowers have died and the plant has ceased to bloom.

This should be done in the autumn when the stalk begins to yellow and dead branches can be easily seen and removed, if left later than this, it is very probable that it won’t flower next season.

When doing this you can either prune from about 3cm from where the blossom stalk originated on the mother plant, or you can completely remove the end of the blossom stalk, cutting it back to around 1 cm above a node; this is often said to be the most appropriate method for pruning Phalaenopsis or ‘Moth’ Orchids but should not be used on Dendrobiums that flower from leafless canes – cutting the spent cane off this plant will cause it not to re-bloom.

It is also possible to prune your Orchid whilst the stalk is still green although this will potentially result in the loss of blossom.

For Cymbidium (‘Boat’), Dendrobium and other Orchids, you should gently lift the plant from its container and check the roots.

Healthy roots can be identified by their agility and will have a grey-green film. Unhealthy roots will be brown and brittle or spongy, and these will need to be removed before re-potting in fine-grade fir bark and watered. Phalaenopsis however, may be cut right down and produce a new spike next season, even from a seemingly worn-out cane.

New Growth

You may find, occasionally, – although this is in no way guaranteed – that after pruning your Phalaenopsis (Moth) Orchids, old blossom stalks will produce spikes from their nodes or even generate small baby plants known as ‘Keikis’ or ‘Pups’.

These baby plants are genetically identical to the mother plant and may eventually be removed it and be re-potted on their own. This should be done after they develop roots that are around 6cm long – strong enough to support the new plant.

Using the right tools for the job

Open secator - Secateur ouvert

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When pruning, you should also take care to ensure that you use the right tools, sharp secateurs are perfect for the job, although a sharp knife or one-sided razor blade will do.

You should also make sure that you disinfect the blades thoroughly, and, if you are working with more than one plant, only work on one at a time, continually disinfecting your blades in between each one. This will help prevent the spreading of any diseases, and maintain the general health of your Orchids.

Obviously, there are thousands of different varieties of Orchid, and if you are in any way unsure about maintaining the health of your plant you should always seek expert advice from your local garden centre.

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Orchid Identification

There are literally thousands of types of Orchids throughout the world today, largely down to hybridization, however, there are a few more common types that you are more likely to come across.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Arguably the most common type of Orchid is the Phalaenopsis or “Moth Orchid”. Popular with growers, it is easy to produce, can be forced to bloom for months at a time (particularly when the plant has matured) and thrives in the home, preferring warm, shady conditions.  It is also unusual in that it can be re-potted at any time, although it is best to do this when the plant is not in bloom.

The Moth Orchid is native to Java and South Seas, the Philippines and Queensland, Australia and can be characterised by its round, flat and fleshy leaves which have a deep crease or fold in the centre and that grow from the middle of the plant.

Its inflorescences grow from the body of the plant and can produce anything from two to dozens of flowers depending on its parentage which can vary from white, plainly coloured, mottled, spotted, striped or mixed.

Due to their versatile nature, Phalaenopsis Orchids are also popular for cross breeding, some of the more common hybrids including; Arachnopsis, Beardara, Doritaenopsis, Moirara and Renanthopsis Orchids.

Oncidium Orchids

Oncidium varicosum Orchid

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Another type of Orchid you are likely to come across is the Oncidium or “Dancing Lady” Orchid. From the Tropics of the Americas, this plant requires cooler conditions than most Orchids and likes to be kept evenly moist throughout its growth, if the plant is too dry, you will notice that the leaves that grow on the plant will have an accordion-like look.

Oncidiums are known for their ease of growth and their dazzlingly coloured sprays in yellow, tri-colour and red “sharry baby” which is notable for its chocolate scent. The Oncidium has elongated pseudobulbs and will have one or two leaves at its apex. The flower spikes may also be branched depending on the species.

Again, Dancing Lady Orchids are also popular for cross-breeding, some of the common hybrids include; Bellara, Colmanara, Maclellanara, Odontioda, and Odontonia Orchids.

Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobiums are one of the largest genus of Orchids with over one thousand species coming from diverse habitats such as the Philippines, Australia, Borneo and New Zealand. They are notable for their elongated pseudobulbs and are tall and imperial in stature with modest sized leaves that will continue to provide sustenance even when they have fallen.

Dendrobiums thrive best in small pots although this occasionally causes a problem due to them being quite top-heavy. This problem can be solved by using a heavy clay pot to plant them in or using bits of old broken brick, gravel etc to weigh it down.

There are numerous hybrids and they come in pinks, purples, yellows, whites, oranges and reds.

Paphiopedlium Orchids

A less common but highly popular Orchid is the Paphiopedlium or “Lady Slipper”. Named after ‘Paphos’ (a city on Cyprus) and ‘Pedlion’ (the ancient Greek word for slipper), Paphiopedliums or ‘Paphs’ are instantly recognisable due their unusual slipper-like labellum which is generally in contrast with the rest of the flower in terms of colour.

They are terrestrial in nature and originate from tropical Asia, preferring to be kept moist at all times due to the fact it does not have a water reservoir.

They are highly collectable and relatively easy to grow, providing you ensure that you meet its humidity requirements and taking care not to over-water.

New growth will come in the form of a fan of new leathery leaves from the base of a previous fan, and these leaves are indicative of their temperature preferences; plain leaved Paphs prefer cool temperatures, whereas mottled leaved plants prefer warmer environments.

Flowers tend to last for several weeks and colours range from soft neutrals to opulent, earthy tones.

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Orchid Fungus

You may be surprised to know that fungus is necessary for the growth and development of your Orchid.

The Good

Fungi dwells in the Orchid’s root cells making a dual organism known as ‘mycorrhiza’, this fungus penetrates the root walls and gathers vital nutrients that are broken down and fed upon by the Orchid and the two generally live in harmony with each other.

The Orchid is capable of germinating seeds without the fungus, however the process can only be completed once the fungus has infected the embryo. This relationship of reliance can last the duration of the Orchid’s life, particularly in species where the plant is deficient in Chlorophyll and cannot absorb nutrients from the soil.

The Bad

That being said, it is possible, on occasion, that this fungus may also result in infection and rot in the plant, symptoms of which are yellow leaves, decay, and if left untreated – death.

This is very preventable however, and providing you take proper care of your plant, these problems should never arise. You can prevent infection by ensuring that you keep air moving, opening windows or using a fan; not watering on cool, cloudy days or over-watering generally; changing the growing medium fairly regularly and treating as soon as there are any signs of trouble.

There are three main types of fungal infection to look out for in your plant, all of which vary slightly in terms of symptoms.  If you observe soft, rotted areas on leaves that are purple-brown in colour with a yellow outside edge, your plant may be suffering from ‘Black rot fungus’ which, if left untreated, will eventually spread to the roots and kill the Orchid.

Proper Treatment for Infected Orchids

To treat, you should completely cut off the infected area as well as around 2cm of healthy tissue using tools that have been sterilized in either a 10% bleach solution or with a flame before drenching with a fungicide that contains Etridiazole. Repot in a new, sterilized pot and keep it alone in a place where there is little moisture until dry and water moderately until the plant is fully recovered.

If, over a period of months, your plant seems to lose vitality, becoming droopy and stunted, it may be suffering from ‘Root rot fungus’, if this is the case, you will find brown-black blotchy areas in the roots and its leaves will have a yellow, contorted appearance.

To treat, you should carefully cut off all rotted roots and infected areas, again, being careful to sterilize your tools before use, and repot in new potting mix and sterile pot. You should then take your plant outside and soak with fungicide according to its instructions, keeping a close eye on it until it has visibly recovered.

Finally, if you find that the leaves on your plant begin to yellow on the underside before spreading to the top of the leaf, it may be suffering from ‘Leaf spot fungus’. As the name would suggest, this type of fungus affects injured leaves and you will find small, round sunken spots which are brown in colour. Treatment for this is simple as you only need to remove visibly, badly damaged leaves and again, spray with fungicide.

If you are treating your plants for any of the above infections you should take care to ensure that your tools are properly sterilized, particularly if treating more than one plant as infection is easily spread between plants. If in doubt, contact your local garden centre.

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Orchid Keikis

When your plant has finished blooming, you may find that it produces small, identical plants known as keikis.

If your plant is generally in good health; producing leaves, growths and sprouts, this is fine, and will probably just mean that your plant is genetically predisposed to do this, however, if your plant is not doing these things, then it is likely to be a sign of distress and requires your attention.

Keikis (Hawaiian for ‘baby ‘or, literally ‘little one’) are produced asexually from the mother plant of – usually – Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis or Vandaceous Orchids, and are genetically identical to the parent plant.

On Phalaenopsis Orchids they will sprout from a node along the flower stem; on Dendrobiums, it will sprout either along the length of or from one end of the cane to the other.

It is also possible that, on Phalaenopsis Orchids, a different kind of Keiki will develop at its base, usually under its bottom leaves, and along the main stem where dormant nodes can lead to growth. These however should be left on the plant as they will cause no harm to it and will grow quickly due to the large root system of the mother.

Keikis often grow as a sign of distress from the mother plant when it is deficient in nutrients and thinks it will die and so needs to proliferate to ensure its continuity of life. This is usually caused when the plant is either watered too much or too little; has too much or too little sun; or has unsatisfactory humidity requirements. This generally occurs when the humidity tray in which the plant sits isn’t re-filled once all the water has evaporated.

You have two options once a Keiki has sprouted, you can either completely cut down the flower spike, ensuring you pay special care and attention to it throughout the winter and before blooming recommences next season ( this is the most widely recommended method from growers and can be done at any stage during the Keiki’s development). Or alternatively, you can re-pot the offshoot to produce a new plant.

If you decide to do this, you will need to wait until it has grown roots at least 8cm in length and carefully re-pot both the mother and baby plant in fine-grade fir bark, cutting the Keiki about 8cm down the spike, covering and encouraging its roots to go down into the soil and establish itself.

It is sometimes recommended that when doing this, you should re-pot both mother and baby plant in the same pot for the first year as the mother will help regulate moisture conditions, as well as providing structural support and stability and therefore encouraging the baby to grow, develop, and later blossom.

However, it is widely suggested that instead, when re-potting, you should carefully place the Keiki at the top of new pot, ensuring its roots are covered, and initially place in a shadier place than its mother, misting it daily and then, upon growth, putting it back in a spot with the same sunlight conditions as the parent plant.

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How to Grow Your Orchids Under Artificial Lights

As with many other types of indoor plants, Orchids have very specific requirements in terms of water, nutrition and lighting. Probably the most important of these factors is the type of light that your orchid is receiving.

Different species of orchids require different amounts of light. Orchids usually prefer a large amount of diffused light as found in their natural tropical habitats around the world. This gives them cooler light in the morning and protects them from strong sunlight in the afternoon, to simulate this you can sit your orchid near an eastern facing window. Ideally your orchid should get approximately twelve hours of light per day, however due to strong sunlight in the afternoon this is not always ideal.

You should aim to find out as much information as possible about your particular species of orchid so you know what light and shade ratio will work to produce the best results. There a few ways you can do this.

The simplest and most obvious of these is to ask the vendor who sold you your orchid. They should be able to provide you with much of the relevant information you need to make an informed decision. Another method is to look up the information online while you are researching which orchid would be the best choice for you before you make a purchase.

You will find that some orchids will enjoy a lot of sunlight while other orchid species prefer far more shade. Typically speaking, orchids that will thrive in sunny conditions will require more care and attention, but will produce large frequent booms although they may be shorter and their leaves may also appear slightly smaller and yellow. On the flip side orchid species that will thrive in much more shaded growing conditions can provide a wonderful healthy plant but may produce smaller more infrequent blooms.

An artificial light source called a grow-light combined with a timer can help ensure that your orchid receives the right amount of light relatively hands free for a small extra cost. Fluorescent lights can offer your orchids a good light source that is not too strong. Check with your orchid vendor to find out kind of light would suit your species of orchid best.

Coupled with natural sunlight and a full understanding of your orchid species, artificial lighting can help you produce a healthy orchid that will produce gorgeous blooms throughout its season.

For a long time it was believed that only highly experienced horticulturists could get beautiful results from their orchids but, using these methods to provide the right kind of light for your orchid, even beginners can grow fantastic, healthy, beautiful orchids.

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How to Water Orchids

Orchids have risen quickly in popularity as a house plant simply because of their wonderful variety of colors, sizes, species and attractive flowers. Just as with other plants, providing your orchid with it’s ideal growing conditions is key to a beautiful, healthy orchid. An essential part of this process is providing your orchid with the correct amount of water. As this amount can vary significantly between different orchids it is very important to research and educate yourself about your specific species. However, a general knowledge and understanding of orchids and their origins is going to be beneficial to you in the beginning.

Preferred Orchid Climates

Around the world orchids are usually located in tropical regions, these regions receive a large amount of rain and conditions are extremely humid. An ideal habitat for orchids would have a humidity level of around 80%, this would be expensive and awkward to achieve at home and not especially comfortable for you. For this reason orchid growers have developed several other easy to implement techniques for keeping their orchids healthy and growing indoors. One of these methods, and arguably the easiest, is to provide your orchid with a constant supply of water by placing your orchid pot in a larger pot containing pebbles. The pebbles can then be watered and provide your orchid with an artificially created high humidity micro climate. The pebbles separate your orchid from direct contact with the water in the tray preventing your orchid from over-watering which is very important.

This is one of the more common mistakes that new growers make when caring for their orchids but once understood is easily avoided. It’s a common misconception held by many that once the orchids potting soil appears dry their plant requires watering. This does not usually hold true, especially when it comes to orchids. Soil or bark can often appear dry but may still hold moisture. A good guideline is to water orchids sparingly once every week or second week. For indoor orchids you should make sure that potting bark or soil has dried out completely before watering again. Some species of orchid grow on the trunks and branches of trees and it is completely natural for their roots to dry out before they receive water again.

Fertilizing Orchids

Your orchid will also require fertilizing periodically but this too should be done sparingly. Specialist orchid fertilizer is available at most gardening centres.

Despite their beauty orchids can be temperamental but with proper care and understanding of their needs orchids can thrive in a home. This includes:

  • The correct amount of potting bark
  • The right level of water
  • Proper amounts of sunlight
  • Fertilizer

Orchids are really not that complicated and a little knowledge will take you a long way. Building a regular routine around watering and fertilizing is an excellent way to ensure a long healthy life for your orchid and your continued enjoyment of these beautiful plants.

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Simplifying Orchid Types

Despite the fact that there are thousands of species and hybrids of orchid out there, it’s possible to break these down into two distinct orchid types. The Terrestrial Orchid and the Epiphytic Orchid.

Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial orchids as the name suggests are species which grow on the ground and tend to be more hardy than their epiphytic siblings. Able to thrive in more temperate climates, you can often find them in shaded woodland areas or near the coast in many countries, some even do fairly well in more urban areas.

Terrestrial orchid species are some of the most popular orchids among growers, especially new enthusiasts as they tend to be slightly easier to grow. Terrestrial orchid types or genera include Cymbidiums, Aplectrum and Calopogon.

Cymbidiums are one example of a terrestrial orchid type that includes about 40 species and thousands of hybrids. Very popular, especially with beginners because they are relatively easy to care for and will produce beautiful blooms annually. They also make up one of a number of orchid types that are semi-terrestrial, they have both underground roots and aerial roots and are equally at home on rocks and trees as they are on the ground. Their natural habitat covers South East Asia, Japan and some parts of Australia, they were also one of the first species to be cultivated.

Epiphytic Orchids

Epiphytic orchids grow on trees or rocks, usually nestling themselves in crevices, on bark or in the crooks of branches. Orchids that can grow on rocks or very stony ground are also known as Lithophytes. The term epiphytic is not exclusive to species of orchid either and is used to describe any plant species that have a root system above the ground. I should also point out that it is not the same as parasitic or symbiotic either, both terms that suggest a shared source of nutrients.

It’s the organic matter that collects between the orchids roots and branches that provides epiphytes with their nutrients. Their roots are also specially adapted to it’s natural conditions where heavy rainfall is followed by extended periods of drought. The roots are covered in an light colored layer of cells that allow allow your orchid to absorb water quickly and easily. The roots will then release the water to the rest of your orchid slowly, sustaining it during dry periods. This is why it is important not to over water your orchid and let the roots dry out completely to mimic it’s natural growing conditions.

Of all the genera or types of epiphytic orchids, Dendrobiums are probably the most well known with over 1000 different species. Like most epiphytes their natural habitats are tropical and sub-tropical regions and they thrive in warm, humid environments in areas of North India, South East Asia, Polynesia and Australia. You’ll find Dendrobiums are easy to grow, although they do require a little more care than Cymbidiums and do not flower as easily or as regularly either.

Another popular epiphytic orchid type is the Phalaenopsis. With long lasting blooms and a wide variety of colors, Phalaenopsis are one of the more common types of orchid you will find used in wedding displays.

If you spend a little time finding out about your individual orchids natural environment you’ll find it much easier to care for your orchid and understand its specific needs.

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