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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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Planting with Pierson: Demystifying the beautiful orchid
Oct. 28, 2022 4:52 am
Orchids are beautiful flowers but can prove challenging.
One of the most frequent questions I get on orchids is: “Why won’t my orchid bloom again?”
This is because orchids need a drop of 15 to 20 degrees between day and night temps to do this. There are many ways to achieve this. The best way to do this is in the fall, leave your orchid plants near an open window at night where the temperature will fall. You could leave them outside on a three season’s porch to get the drop in temperature.
In our greenhouses, we separate the greenhouse with orchids from the other flowers, turn the temperature down and leave the vents open. In South Florida growers air-condition the houses at night. In Northern California, the sea breezes cool them enough at night.
Orchids need three to four weeks of a drop in night temperatures before they will initiate a bloom spike, which will mature and bloom in three to four months.
Orchids also need constant fertilization. Fertilize your orchid every time you water. Orchids are usually grown in bark and the bark does not bond with the minerals so the only time they take up fertilizer is when it is running through.
How to water orchids is another frequent question I get. Orchids need to dry out between watering and then get thoroughly watered till the water comes out the bottom. But do not let them sit in water. Special orchid pots with holes in the side help them drain and allow the roots to get air. Do not add ice. This is a lazy man’s way to not over water your orchids. But this method does not get the roots watered that are hanging over the edge of the pot. Also, unless you are putting fertilizer in your ice cube trays, they will not get fertilized.
Orchids are one the largest floriculture crops produced in the United States. About 37 million potted orchids were produced in 2019. California and Florida produce 59 percent of the orchids in the United States.
There are thousands of different orchid varieties. Here are the most popular ones.
Phalaenopsis or moth orchid is by far the most common. These orchids come in many colors and are the easiest ones to grow. They are low to medium light and easy to rebloom from the same plant. When the bloom stem is done blooming, cut it back to the first node.
Paphiopedilum, or Lady slipper, is also an easy one to grow. It comes in greens, yellows and purples and are also grow well in low to medium light. This orchid re-blooms from new plantlets so it will not rebloom until it has a mature new plantlet.
Miltonia, or pansy orchid, is another easy orchid to grow. These plants like medium light and cooler temperatures, which are good for the home. They come in white, pink, purple and have markings like a pansy plant. This orchid also re-blooms from new plantlets so it will not rebloom until it has a mature new plantlet.
Cattleya, or Corsage orchid, are harder to grow because they need higher light levels. They are very fragrant and come in many different colors — white, purple, lavender, yellow, orange and many shades in between. This orchid also re-blooms from new plantlets, so it will not rebloom until it has a mature new plantlet.
Onicidium, or intergenetic hybrid orchids, also need higher light levels. They are called intergenetic because they are hybrids of different genus. The names are hard to pronounce as they combine both genus names. Miltonidium is a cross between miltonia and oncidium. Brassidium is a cross of Brassia and oncidium. There are many more crosses too numerous to name. These orchids are very fragrant, with one of my favorites smelling like chocolate. This orchid also re-blooms from new plantlets, so it will not rebloom until it has a mature new plantlet.
Al Pierson is owner of Pierson’s Flower Shop & Greenhouses Inc. in Cedar Rapids.