If you’ve ever ventured down the orchid aisle at the nursery, you might be reminded of that Sesame Street song “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.” What are all of these mysterious potions, elixirs, and gadgets? Can orchids really be that different from other flowers? If you’ve picked orchid growing as a new hobby, you will be able to tell that these six things are not like the others, by the time I finish my song.
Orchid pots, with all of their fancy cutouts created to look like flowers and geometric designs, actually serve a very important purpose. The cutouts provide necessary air circulation to epiphytic plants that often grow on tree branches, free of any soil. While ceramic pots are attractive and durable, many orchid growers prefer clear plastic orchid pots. The transparency allows growers to monitor orchid root health, and the pots can be cut away from the plant at repotting time, which causes minimal disturbance to root systems.
Orchid Potting Mix
When you buy your orchid, you’ll notice that it’s planted in something other than soil. Bark, rocks, moss, and vermiculite are a few of the common planting mixes used for orchids. While you probably won’t need to purchase a special orchid potting mix right away, you’ll need this if your current orchid media starts to break down, or at repotting time.
Orchids benefit from a special fertilizer type that provides the right nutrients even in the absence of the normal soil microorganisms that help to break the fertilizer down. A urea-free balanced fertilizer that provides an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is ideal. Nitrogen in the form of urea takes too long to break down in the orchid growing environment, making this nutrient unavailable to the plant when it is needed.
A humidity tray consists of a grid or other elevating device atop a tray that you keep filled with fresh water. The slow evaporation helps boost the humidity level for orchids that are growing in a typically dry home environment. The simplest trays are made from inexpensive plastic, but you can also invest in a wood or copper framed tray. If you need a large tray for several orchids, consider buying one with a drain so you won’t have to pick it up and risk dumping water all over the floor.
A grow light is only necessary for some indoor growing situations where the light from a north-facing window is inadequate, or when you are growing a high light orchid like a vanda that refuses to bloom in your home. Look for a full spectrum light that provides at least 20 watts per square foot of growing space.
If you purchased an orchid in bloom, chances are the blooming inflorescence was already staked. Some orchids are very top heavy in bloom, especially those planted in plastic pots with lightweight media like cork, moss, or Styrofoam. Although staking won’t prevent an unsecured pot from toppling over, it may prevent the inflorescence from snapping off, denying you the blooms you worked so hard to achieve.