From a very early age I have enjoyed planting and growing vegetables and flowers, thanks to encouragement from my parents. Little did I know the that Orchids would come to be a big part of my life.
It all started when Ann was given a large Cymbidium as a birthday present about 20 years ago. I had the job of looking after said Orchid( naturally!)
I soon began to take notice of various types in garden centres and would buy one of two. Plants soon crowded window sills and anywhere else suitable. As time went on there were too many to cope with indoors. Fortunately our eldest son moved out and took his cacti collection with him.
I quickly prepared the empty greenhouse to accommodate my orchids. Result! Empty window sills.... Well for awhile anyway.
I now have a full greenhouse with a mixes collection– Coelogynes, Cattleyas, Encyclia, and Epidendrums.
The temperature never goes lower than 12oC, plenty of fans for air movement and I never have a window or door open, this keeps my humidity high.
Knowledge of Cymbidiums in the early days was sparse, sadly the birthday present went to the Orchid house in the sky!
Lot of our members grow Cattleyas, some better than others. So How can you get yours to grow like the ones you might see on the show table some months. Well there are some basic rules for growing Cattleyas.
Temperature should range from 15-20 degrees C during the day but at night it should be slightly lower, if temperature goes below 2degrees it may blast any flower buds that have formed.
Orchids like all the sunlight they can get especially in our climate, this means the direct sun from about the beginning of November through to middle of February, after that they still require light but need some shade from the direct sun.
Most orchids are potted up in bark and need watering heavily every five to seven days according to your conditions. You can dunk them but let them drain before placing on saucers etc. Rain water is the best to use for all your orchids, as other like tap water contain a lot of chemicals which eventually kill the plant. The roots of the orchids do not like to be sitting with their roots in water. There are some orchids that do like this, the Cattleya is not one of them.
Orchids like humidity, so during the winter months if your orchids are indoors place them on pebbles in a saucer with water at the bottom making sure that the pots are not in the water. This will give them some humidity. You can also lightly spray the leaves with a fine mist on a bright sunny day but not on dull dark days.
As orchids are potted in bark they need nutrients, so they can produce new growths. Feed them every two weeks in the summer months, and in the winter only feed for one of the regular watering every three weeks.
Orchids in their natural environment grow high up in the trees where they can get a lot of air movement. So as you grow in greenhouses and indoors they still like to have air movement. This is where you invest in a fan. They do not mind being in a draft as long as it not to the extreme otherwise it will harm the plant.
Whilst your orchid is in bud keep it out of direct rays of the sun, once the flowers have faded and died back cut off the flower stem and sheath to the bottom of the leaf without cutting the leaf. Plant will not flower again until next year around about the same time. For it to flower it must develop new growths, (stem or pseudo bulb and leaf) from which the flowers will appear. Each growth flowers only once then sends out new growths or pseudo bulb to flower the following year. The old growths which remain green help to produce food for the plant up to four or six years, then it will eventually die.
Roots of the orchid must be able to breathe so do not pot up in decorative containers, they will need re-potting every two to three years. Preferably in the spring after new growths have reached 2-3cm in length, the pot should be large enough to hold about two years growth (approx 3-5cm) between new growth and the edge of the pot. Place broken crock in the bottom of the pot and partially fill with bark or orchid compost of your choice. Trim back roots to fit the pot and cut off any old brown or brittle roots. Place rhizome so it rests just below the pot rim, then press bark or orchid compost firmly into pot and around roots. When potted, water heavily once, then use water sparingly until new root tips appear. Misting can help at this time, when new roots appear water as normal.
Bud blast. When your orchid looks as if to flower but then bud withers and dies. Under or over watering can cause this, if the plant gets to dry it then takes moisture from the bud. Over watering can cause the buds to blacken and die in their sheath. Also water that is allowed to sit on buds or in the sheaths provide a perfect environment for fungi and bacterial growth, that will rot and blast the buds. Cold water can cause shock to the plant and the buds will drop off.
Temperature extremes or rapid temperature changes can cause bud drop, even taking in a plant from the car to indoors during cold or hot weather as do running of heaters or air conditioning for only part of the day.
Buds are very sensitive to different types of chemicals, paint fumes gas and fumes from all different sources. Light is another problem, too little it will not flower properly, too much it will overheat and cause them to bud blast. Not enough humidity can cause bud blast. as so can chemicals, along with aphids and thrips. A genetic mutation can be responsible for
producing blooms in which case you have to discard the plant. A plant may not flower from the sheath it has produced to start with, but some times you have to leave it because at a later date it just could flower from that dried out sheath. Depending on what Cattleya you have it could flower more than once a year. There are two types of Cattleya Specie, the Unifoliates and the Bifoliates. One leaf per pseudo bulbs called Unifoliates and the two leaf is called Bifoliate.