Outside Culture

Is it time to move orchids outside yet? Janis R.
Yes! Once the night temperatures are consistently approaching 60 degrees F, almost all orchids will benefit from living outside. Higher light plants such as Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, and Oncidiums will need to be located in areas where filtered sun can reach them such as under partially shaded trees. Avoid full sun! Lower lights types like Paphiopedilums and Phalaenopsis need to be entirely in shade. Moth orchids additionally need to be protected from rain since they are susceptible to crown rot. This can be accomplished by either tilting them on their sides (as they grow in the jungle) so that water cannot collect in the axils of the leaves or by placing them under a roof.
Some hobbyists build special tables covered with awnings or shade cloth which hold their orchids and diffuse the sunlight. The tables may be flat or stair-stepped. Of particular interest, is the need to keep the pots off the ground where slugs and snails are just waiting to devour the foliage and roots. Some consideration should also be given to protecting the plants from wind damage.
At the end of the summer, it is always surprising how much the orchids have grown. Sometimes the plants have doubled in size!

Would housing a Jewel orchid in a terrarium be beneficial? Mary Ann M.
Jewel orchids are so called because of their strikingly gorgeous foliage which can be found in a variety of colors. They are not a specific genus of orchid but rather a grouping loosely based on their exotic leaf patterns. The flowers are generally insignificant and the plants are cultivated as primarily as ornamentals.
Ludiscia discolor is the most popular Jewel orchid with dark green velvety leaves and reddish veins. The flowers are small and white, open in sequence on a tall stem, occur in the winter, but only last a few weeks. Propagation is quickly accomplished by cutting off new leaf runners and planting them in sphagnum moss.
The culture for Jewel orchids bears some resemblance to Phalaenopsis - constantly moist potting medium, low light, and warm temperatures, with the additional preference of high humidity and without the need for air circulation. All of this can be achieved with ease in a terrarium.

Do orchids prefer clay or plastic pots? Margaret B.
Grocery shoppers continually hear the question, ‘Paper or Plastic?’, which asks their preference of bag material for their food items. Horticulturalists must ask themselves a different question, ‘Clay or Plastic?’ and the answer dictates both the watering schedule and the potting technique.
It is generally a good idea to keep all orchids in the collection potted the same way – either all in clay or all in plastic. The reason for this is so that the watering schedule can be simplified to once or twice a week for everything. Clay inherently dries the potting medium while plastic keeps the moisture intact. A mixture of pot types will result in some plants being dry and others wet and will require the time consuming job of spot watering. In addition, the selection of pot type affects the choice of what medium (fir bark, cypress mulch, etc) goes inside the pot since a balance of water retention and drainage is desired.
Most commercial growers use only plastic pots which are inexpensive and light weight (for transport). However, clay is often preferred by hobbyists for three reasons: (1) It is widely known that over-watering is one of the fastest ways to kill orchids and clay greatly reduces this chance. (2) Tall or over-arching plants are less likely to flip over if they are grown in clay which is quite bottom heavy. The pots can be nestled inside one another for added weight. (3) Clay or terracotta provides a ‘simple elegance’ and does not require a decorative pot for formal display.
Besides, orchids usually don’t come in contact with plastic in their native rainforest but, ultimately, the choice is personal.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - 18:00