Orchids, daughters of light

Orchid, like light on a tree

The orchid family is a surprising caste, seemingly bred from jewels of pure light. 750 different genuses, 20,000 species and thousands of hybrids!

Epiphyte orchids form the majority of the marvelous exotic beauties that enchant our homes with their curious shapes and delicate flowers.

Read also:

The orchid, a plant that stands out

Orchids on a tableEpiphyte orchids have a distinctive structure and growth pattern. As their name hints (from the Greek word epi meaning “above” and phyton meaning “plant”), they grow on trees. However, these aren’t parasite plants because they don’t derive nourishment from the tree itself. They collect dissolved nutrients that are present in rainwater as it flows along the trunk and through the debris that accumulates in their roots.

There are two types of growth patterns that orchids rely on. Some have a crawling rhizome from which swollen stems (pseudobulbs) emerge which bear flowers. Others grow new shoots and elongate themselves and bear flowers from elegant scapes. The latter of the two is probably the one from which the last orchid you got as a gift comes from!

Proper care for orchids

Given the way they operate, epiphyte orchids don’t cope well with having their roots trapped in soil mix, unless it is extremely light and airy. If possible, prefer using special orchid substrate, that drains extremely well. This is sold in gardening stores (peat, pine bark, polyurethane foam…).

And don’t choose a large pot for it where water might accumulate after watering: it won’t like it at all!

Actually, most often, these plants are sold in a clear plastic pot which is the best option for them as long as their roots don’t overrun them too much.

Orchid reaching for lightThey like exposing their feet to the air! Place this pot on a saucer layers with glass or plastic marbles which are kept moist. Set this away from drafts and near a window: it needs a lot of light but, curiously, not direct sunlight.

This is due to its natural habitat: alongside the trunks of trees, there’s always a cover of shade above it.

During the growth, fertilize with liquid potted plant fertilizer but water it down (with rainwater) to only half the recommended dose. Orchids aren’t very demanding in terms of nutrients.

During the rest phase, let it be, water only very little, don’t disturb it. Slowly start upping the amount of water it receives when the growing resumes. Be patient, keep it in a well-lit place, near a window. You’ll soon enjoy new blooms again.

by M.-C. D.

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
In the wild (also on social media) by Michelle Raponi under Pixabay license
White and pastel by an anonymous photographer under Pixabay license
White in a dark room by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work