Posted by: marinvit | August, 2010

Orchid Care-Water

Orchid care is more like an art than a science. Of course, you can easily get general directions on how to care for a particular orchid genus. For example, Cattleya needs medium bright light, or Miltonia likes intermediate temperature.

However, there are many “fudge” factors to create the perfect condition for your very own growing environment. All elements need to complement one other for your orchid to thrive. You will also need to observe your plants to gauge their happiness with the current treatments.

Six elements are essential to your orchid care program. These elements are the ones that you provide your orchids on a daily/weekly/monthly basis—water, temperature, light, air movement, humidity and fertilizer. They all work together to ensure the health of your orchids.

Water is essential to the lives of every living thing. That, of course, includes the lives of your orchids. But like all wonderful things, more is not necessarily better. Many orchid plants are killed by their owners because too much “tender loving care” is provided. They suffocate and die. (The orchids, that is, not the owners.) How often should you water? I’m afraid it’s not an easy answer. It will depend on your growing conditions.

“That’s not very helpful,” you say to yourself?

Okay, just to give you some idea, I water my plants about once a week, because I am too lazy to get up earlier in the weekday mornings, and the weekend mornings are pretty much the only time I have. However, I adjust the frequency based on humidity, temperature, light, wind and season. I might do it only once a month in the winter, but twice a week if the humidity is extra low.

You need to have a basic understanding of your orchid’s need. Knowing the type of orchid you have is a good starting point. If your plant is originally from the cloud forest of Costa Rica, where it receives a rain shower everyday, then you know you should keep your plant constantly moist. Here are some general guidelines:

Phalaenopsis (Moth orchids)            Evenly moist all year

Paphiopedilum (Slipper orchids)    Evenly moist but allow to almost dry before watering again

Brassia (Spider orchids)                         Moist during spring and summer (active growth); less so while resting

Cattleya (Corsage orchids)                  Irrigate plenty during active growth, but still let it dry out a bit        between waterings. Less when resting

Cymbidium (Boat orchids)               Evenly moist; less after growth is complete

Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis type        Let dry between waterings

Dendrobium, Nobile type                     Let dry between waterings; withhold in the winter (2, 3 months or so)

Masdevallia Evenly moist all year

Miltoniopsis Evenly moist all year

The appearance of an orchid can also tell you how much H2O it needs. Orchids that have big pseudobulbs (thick base of stem that stores water and nutrients), such as Cattleyas, usually require drying out and do not like to be moist all the time. On the other hand, orchids with no pseudobulbs, such as Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis, require a moist condition. So even if you don’t know which type of orchids you have, you can still make an educated guess.

You can also water only when the potting material becomes reasonably dry. How can you tell it’s dry? Even when the surface is dry, the inside might not be. Some people put a bamboo stick or a wooden stick in the potting mix to gauge how wet the inside is. Also, some people just lift the pot up to see how heavy it is. Water only if the pot is light. This will require some experience to tell, but after a couple of weeks, you should be able to tell.

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