Master Gardeners | Apr 19, 2017
The orchid family of plants is the largest in the world with over 30,000 species with thousands of hybrids and varieties. Ontario has its fair share. We have, what are called terrestrial orchids. One of the best shows of these terrestrial orchids are the slipper orchids found in the Purdon Conservation Area in Lanark. These orchids grow in the ground.
What I am writing about has become a real plant phenomenon. It is the moth orchid ( Phalaenopsis amabilis ). This has become very popular. It is probably the easiest orchid to grow, has very nice large flowers with many colours and bright green foliage. It is called an epiphytic orchid meaning that it grows in the canopy of large trees in the tropics. Because of this they do not grow in soil but are air plants and derive nutrients from the rain and air and sometimes debris accumulating around them. They require humidity and air movement. When you buy these plants you will see the growing medium is bark and sphagnum moss with some of the roots outside the pot. This is normal.
When you buy this orchid they will be in a clear plastic pot which will be in a ceramic pot for show. The ceramic pot will have NO holes. This is a real problem when watering. Take the plastic pot out to water using rain water not chlorinated town water. Use plenty of water. Let the pot drip dry and if you want, place it back into the ceramic pot, or repot the orchid in a slightly larger pot using an orchid mix.
If you are going to fertilize use a liquid fertilizer at quarter or even a tenth the strength recommended. Do not keep them moist but let them dry down between watering. They do not need bright light but adequate diffused light. I put mine outside in a shaded area for the summer. Remember I said canopy so keep them shaded. The home during the winter is as dry as the Sahara desert. This is the biggest challenge. Keep these plants away from hot air registers. Spritz them often. These are truly fascinating plants and having them rebloom is exciting. When the orchid has finished blooming, do not cut the old flowering stem until the new bud growth is evident. If you are treating it right it will send up a new flower spike or make new flowers on the old stem. Anticipation!