Exotic, romantic, beautifully long-lasting
February 08, 2015
By Linda Hartman/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTOS BY HENRY HARTMAN/CREATIVE IMAGES
The lower petal of an orchid like on this deep pink Carolina Splendor George's Jewel is identified as a lip or labellum. It is different from other petals on the bloom and is what differentiates this orchid from others andn makes the flowers recognizable.
This lovely and pristine Potinara Tapestry Peak Brenda Kay Brown AM/AOS orchid has a beautiful ruffled lip. A plant with AM/AOS (Award of Merit/American Orchid Society) after its cultivar name is a sure sign of distinguishable quality.
Brassocattleya Maikai 'Louise' is a hybrid orchid tolerant to heat, humidity and light, and is a compact plant usually at 12 inches in leaf height. It has showy, star-shaped flowers about 3 inches across with spotting that shows to the back of the petals. It is known to bloom in late fall to early winter, and sometimes, several times a year.
It has been said the orchid can be a long-lasting gift, and there is reason why. Memories of mothers proudly wearing their orchid corsages on Mother's Day, weddings and proms of long ago come to mind when hearing the word "orchid."
Those exotic blossoms from far away places, beautiful young girls with an orchid in their hair, and quite out of the realm of a gardener in Texas - not true. Some orchids may actually do better than foliage grown as houseplants.
Large family; various features
Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants in the world, and they are found in all countries except those covered in ice. Numerous colors and sizes can be found growing in both hot and dry areas.
During the Victorian era it became stylish for wealthy people to have orchids in their homes or conservatories. Orchid hunters searched the world for orchids, which would bring high prices from buyers.
There are more than 25,000 species and many more hybrid varieties with blooms from very small to very large. Florida has approximately 130 native species, North Carolina has 76, and Texas has 50, while Hawaii has only three native species.
There are three types of orchids: terrestrials, which grow on the ground; epiphytes and saprophytes, which live on living or fallen trees; and lithophytes, which grow on rocks. The inflorescence, which is the flowering part of orchids, may vary in length, but vegetation may grow up to 33 feet in their native environments.
Orchids are known to exist in numerous colors, sizes and shapes. Blossoms may appear as singles, clusters or as alternating flowers on a spike. With proper care and in good condition, blooms can last two to four weeks if already open and up to six to eight weeks with tight or slightly open buds.
Which one to buy?
Before purchasing an orchid, the buyer should do some homework. Research orchids in general to determine whether you want to spend the time and money on them. There are numerous books available that have been written by experts. Check the national magazine of orchid growers, "American Orchid Society." An encyclopedia of orchids will prove helpful as will Internet sites.
The beautiful cattleya orchid, often used for corsages, is difficult to grow in one's home. Look for phalaenopsis and dendrobium orchids that have been labeled with a name. Many hybrids produced for sale do not have a healthy heritage but are available for the mass market.
Favorable growing conditions
Before purchasing an orchid, remove it from its container to check for strong roots. Orchids should be grown in fir bark for good drainage in plastic pots with holes along the sides. The roots need air and will drown in too much water.
Your orchid should live in temperatures between 68 and 85 degrees during the day. The plant will do best in bright light, but not direct light such as an east window. Water with a low salt content is very important, and do not allow the plant to become dry as a bone.
Humidity is also important, and setting your plant on a tray filled with gravel and water will raise the humidity level. The pot must not sit in water. Feed your orchid with a 20-10-20 formula on a regular basis during the warm months interspersed with water. When cooler, drop your feeding to every other watering.
Potting your orchid
Repotting an orchid should be done after blooming using fir bark, peat moss, sphagnum moss, or a combination of these depending on the type of orchid. Do not use pine or mesquite bark.
Trim dead roots and spread the roots over a handful of medium in the new pot. Carefully spread the remaining medium through the roots. The medium should not cover the junction of the roots and the stem. Wait a few days before watering and keep the plant shaded and humid to promote root growth.
Repotting of orchids needs to be done between one to three years. The growing medium will begin to decompose after two years. Orchids are not immune to insect damage or viruses. Be proactive in preventing problems by removing dead parts of the plants and checking your plants on a regular basis.
If your orchid blooms for a second or third year, consider yourself successful. When you purchase or receive an orchid that may live up to four months, enjoy the fragrance, the exotic flowers and culturing the plant. Often, there can be a repeat bloom cycle, but if not, the long sentiment associated with it can last even longer.
Take a step from the traditional rose or mixed cut flowers and consider an orchid for Valentine's Day this year for long-lasting blooms and sentiment.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
• Thousands of plants at reasonable prices.
• WHERE: Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center
• COST: Free to the public
• Bring your lunch
• "Blackberries: The Other Black Gold for Gardeners," presented by Master Gardeners Pat Koenig and Emory Powitsky Jr.