Tending to orchids

We are in the depths of winter with around 50 days or so left to “grin and bear it.” We are all hardy individuals but it is also nice to see some color in our house-something green and growing. If your amaryllis plants are done flowering, you can depend on orchids to fill their place. In fact, since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, this is a good time to think about giving or receiving these lovely plants.

There are two things that I like the most about any of the various varieties of orchids that are available for purchase. The first is when they do flower, they flower for a very long time. The second part of raising orchids that I like is that once you understand the rules of raising and keeping orchids, they are easy keepers.

The website, https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2019/01/be-smarter-gardener-in-2019-ice-cubes.html, will link you to how to take care of orchids including some very interesting information on the use of watering orchids with ice cubes. In the past, it was always toted that by using so many ice cubes to water an orchid would help to ensure that you would not overwater it. In my case, it is generally been the opposite, not watering enough. Orchids are not grown in typical houseplant soil. They are raised, instead, in a near soilless medium which consists mostly of bark material. The water will run right out of the bottom of the pot. It leaves you wondering if you have given the plant enough water. The purpose of using ice cubes was to ensure that any particular gardener was not overwatering the orchid. So, the University of Georgia tested this theory to see if what we thought about the system of watering with ice cubes would hold up in a scientific review. In a nutshell, using ice cubes worked fine but was not necessary and the plant did not see any real advantages to using ice cubes over regular water.

There are a couple of things to note, however, orchids are pretty picky. They don’t like cold or hot water-lukewarm water is best. They also do not like softened water or distilled water. At my house I have a small advantage for watering my household plants because I have a direct line from our well into our house. I use this water instead of going through the regular household water lines. If your water is softened and you have orchids or other houseplants where the edges of the leaves are always turning brown on you-you have a problem with using softened water. The only fix for this is to use bottled water or find a friend or neighbor who doesn’t have softened water. You can also collect rain water or snow (then melt it) and use this on your houseplants too.

I usually direct fellow gardeners to stick their finger into the soil in order to tell if the plant needs to be watered. However, with the growing medium that orchids are in, this is a little hard to do. The best way is to make yourself familiar with how the whole plant feels when you pick it up, pot and all, to teach yourself that light means needing water and heavy means don’t water. The flower pot that the orchid sits in must be able to drain. If your flower pot doesn’t give you this option and you cannot poke holes in the flower pot, take the liner out of the pot and water the orchid in the sink. Pour water over the soil for about 15-20 seconds and then let the pot sit in the sink for about 15 minutes in order to let it drain properly.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com