Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > December 2015 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--A Few Tidbits about Orchids

BONNIE'S GARDEN--A Few Tidbits about Orchids

Besides poinsettias, holiday cactus, amaryllis and paperwhites, one of the most popular flowers to give as a Christmas gift is the orchid.  I’ve got a special interest in orchids so I thought I’d share a few interesting facts.

Orchids are the single largest family of blooming plants in the world with nearly 28,000 naturally occurring species and well over a hundred thousand man-made hybrids.  Orchids are also the most highly evolved family of blooming plants.  And orchids are native to every continent in the world with the exception of Antarctica. 

Orchids first became popular in Europe when a young horticulturist named William Cattley was intrigued by strange bulbous stems he found used as packing material in a shipment of tropical plants from Brazil.  He potted the stems up and in the fall of that year the plant bloomed with beautiful large purple flowers.  This orchid was named Cattleya after William Cattleya, Labiata after the ruffled labellum or “lip” of the flower, Autumnalis after the season in which it bloomed.  Unfortunately, this started a mania for orchid collecting from which some tropical forested areas have never recovered.  You see, the favorite method for collected these tree-dwelling plants was to cut the tree down just to pluck the plants from it.

This brings up a myth.  Some people believe that orchids are parasitic—like mistletoe is.  Orchids are NOT parasites—most are epiphytes—“epi” from the Greek word for upon and “phyton” from the Greek word for plant.  Epiphytes are plants that live on other plants, but do not send roots down into the plant and take nutrients away, as does a true parasite.  Instead they let their roots “hold” onto a tree branch like fingers, so the orchids can live up in the treetops where the light and air circulation is better.

Another myth about orchids is that some species are carnivorous.  At the International Orchid Exposition in London in the 1930’s it’s said a woman marched up to an exhibitor and demanded to see the man-eating orchid.  The quick-thinking exhibitor replied, “I’m sorry, Madam, he’s gone to lunch.”
And yet another myth says that orchids are picky, finicky or hard-to-grow.  Growing orchids is just like growing any other plant successfully—it’s a matter of finding out the requirements and meeting them. 

Some orchids may have light and/or temperature requirements that may be difficult for you to meet, but then a citrus tree or ficus tree may be difficult for you if you don’t have that sunny spot they crave.
A reputable garden center should be able to help you select an orchid that will happily live and bloom in your location. 

A Phalaenopsis or “Moth” orchid is one of the most commonly available orchids—this is the one you’ll find at the grocery store with a tag telling you to add two or three ice-cubes a week (considering orchids are native to the tropical rainforest, how often do you think they ever come in contact with melting frozen water?  NEVER!).  Phalaenopsis need about three to three hours of early morning or late afternoon sun to bloom.  Water with tepid water—being sure the water can run out of the pot—never ice-cubes!
Posted: 12/21/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 1 comment(s)
Filed under: Bonnie's, Garden, Orchids
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Orchids are one of my favcorite flowers and knowing anythign about them will really help me growt them better! I ma really thankful to you for being so helpful and kind with all this information. I will be sure to make use of these tips when I am growing orchids, which is real soon!
12/7/2016 7:02:32 AM

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