It’s that time of the year again, the heady days of summer seem so far gone and Spring is still a couple of months away. The garden is short on flowers, but for a couple of winter staples. This is when house plants step into the fold to provide some much needed winter colour. Amongst these is the moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) which has saturated the market with its exotic blooms and affordable price. It does, however, remain an enigma to many when it comes to watering regime and re-flowering. This is one of the most common questions I get asked, so here is a quick guide to orchid care.
Phalaenopsis is a mainly tropical genus, so these orchids are best grown at temperatures above 18°C. In their natural habitat, they grow on trunks and limbs of rainforest trees, in medium to low light and so when kept as houseplants, they are best kept on an east facing window sill, which receives the gentle rays of the morning sun. They should be potted in a course bark and watered with a wet-dry cycle allowing the roots to dry, but not desiccate, before re-watering. The key to keeping orchids healthy is to avoid overwatering them. Between Halloween and Valentine’s Day watering should be reduced considerably, with moisture being added a couple of times during this period. And finally re-flowering: you can initiate this by a drop in temperature of 2-3°C for a couple of weeks. Do this during the winter period when you reduce the watering, or move the orchid to a cooler location in your house. It should then be a matter of weeks before you see a new flower stalk emerge. Watering should remain as per above and this is also governed by light and temperature.
If this has whet your appetite for a bit of winter colour, then why not visit the Garden, where our Orchid event ‘Orchids 2017: Another India’, will run from 12 February to 12 March in the warmth of our Glasshouse Range. This year’s theme is India and will showcase an array of South Asian orchids, many drawn from the Garden’s reserve collections, to provide a colourful taste of the Subcontinent – enough to brighten up any dreary winter day.
Alex Summers, Glasshouse Supervisor
Publication Date 08/02/2017