Warm weather has arrived and with it the greenhouse at our Vermont bed and breakfast is filled with many orchids in spike and bloom. Soon they will be taken out to the deck and gazebo where they will enhance the outdoor dining experience here at The Inn at Weston. We are often asked by guests about proper orchid care, so here are a few tips:
1) Feed your orchids with fertilizer particularly during the warm growing season. A weak solution weekly (“weakly,weekly”) of a balanced (20-20-20) fertilizer like Peter’s or Miracle Grow works well.
2) Take your orchids outside for the summer. They respond well to the natural light cycles, air movement, and summer humidity. Wait until all threat of frost has passed as orchids will not survive that, but cool evenings (50’s) are fine and are even a stimulus for flowering. Be careful of pests and particularly slugs. Do not allow exposure to direct mid-day sun, as the leaves will burn. Filtered sunlight is best, though some orchid species like more light than others. Many books on the topic are available, or we are happy to provide advice.
3) Most showy orchids live in the rain forests and tropical regions of Southeast Asia, South America, warm, moist southern regions of the US, and Africa. These orchids are epiphytes, which mean they grow on other things such as trees to which their roots attach. This means that orchid roots are exposed to the air, a condition which terrestrial plants could not survive. By inspection, orchid roots can be seen to be much thicker than ordinary terrestrial plants. This is because in orchids the true root is covered by a substance called velamen, which is why the root looks so thick. Velamen is a defining feature of orchids and is not seen in any other group of plants. Velamen is a spongy tissue which holds water, always available in the rain forests, and protects the enclosed true root from drying. Growing orchids in bark or moss filled pots is not natural, but is necessary because our homes do not provide the humidity that the plant’s natural habitat does. That bark, after repeated watering, begins to break down, particularly at the bottom of the pot where you can’t see it. When it does, it remains perpetually wet, and the roots rot, eventually killing the plant. To prevent this, repotting orchids into new bark is essential, about once per year, and spring is a great time to do it. Simply remove the plant from it’s pot and carefully remove the old bark. I like to use a hose with gentle stream to help accomplish this. Once the old bark is removed, hold the plant in position in a new pot, with the roots down in the pot, and carefully place the new bark filling the pot. Tamp the new bark down as you do so to remove air pockets. Plants often respond very favorably to repotting with new growth and flowering.
Good luck! If you have any questions, or need assistance with repotting, we are always happy to help here at The Inn at Weston.