House Plants/rebloom orchids
QUESTION: Hi! Recently I bought some discounted orchids at my local hardware store. I bought two phalanopsis orchids, one oncidium , and one cattleya. They had very healthy leaves except they had finished blooming and all they had was an empty flower stalk. I was wondering what I could do to get my orchids to rebloom. Do I need to fertilize or change their growing conditions?
ANSWER: Hi Victor,
I need clarification on what Orchid species you have. Phalaenopsis are a species entirely different from Oncidium and Cattleyea and their requirements are very different.
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QUESTION: Oh sorry for wording my question unclearly. What I meant to say was in total I bought four orchids: 2 phalaenopsis, 1 oncidium, and 1 cattleya. I was wondering about general care for these plants and how do get them to rebloom. thanks
Most Orchid species are difficult to grow and re-bloom as house plants. Properly caring for them requires instructions that are more extensive than I can provide here. If you are really serious about pursuing an Orchid hobby, you should get in touch with the American Orchid Society for more detailed information. However, I do warn you, that with few exceptions most Orchids require carefully controlled environments (light, temperature, humidity) to bloom regularly and those environments are beyond what most folks can provide in their homes.
The Phalaenosis is an exception and is the most popular of the Orchids for that reason. Generally, it blooms once per year for about one month. It requires lots of very bright but indirect sunlight each day. A north or east windowsill is best. Oncidiums and Cattleyas require more light, but must be protected from late day direct sunlight and heat. An east window or off to the side of a west window is best for these two species. In winter, all three species benefit from 2-6 hours of supplemental artificial light after the sun sets. A combination of warm and cool fluorescent white tubes are best. This supplemental light is more of a requirement for Oncidiums and Cattleyas and optional for Phalaenopsis.
Different growers use different potting mixes, but most use bark and/or sphagnum moss. Your Orchids should be potted in pots that have drain holes at the bottom and also along the sides for best results. Many Orchids are sold in sealed glass or ceramic planters and that is not a recipe for success.
When properly potted, take your Orchids to the sink and flush lots of clear water through the potting mix weekly and allow it to drip dry. After a week, the top layer of the potting mix should feel dry enough to water again. If your tap water is hard, use filtered or distilled water. Apply a 30-10-10 Orchid fertilizer monthly. Prior to bloom, switch to a 10-30-10 fertilizer.
All of your Orchids benefit from a 5-10 degree F. drop in temperature at night. Cattleyas and Oncidiums need temps in the 50-55 degree F. range at night if you want them to re-bloom and that is difficult to achieve in most homes. Phalaenopsis do well in 60-65 degree night time temps and that is more manageable.
Whereas, Phalaenopsis do quite well in low humidity, your other Orchids will need higher humidity preferably from a humidifier or a pebble tray during the winter.
Most Orchids need to have their potting mix replaced about every two years. They usually don't need a large pot. However, the bark chips and sphagnum moss do tend to breakdown after two years. Gently remove the old potting media and replace it with a similar Orchid potting mix, using the same sized pot.
These are the bare-bones basics for Orchid care. As I indicated earlier, re-blooming Orchids other than Phalaenopsis in a typical home is quite difficult. That is why many folks either fail or simply choose to discard their Orchids after they have finished flowering.
I have written a detailed article on Phalaenopsis care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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