Orchid growing can be one of the most rewarding hobbies for a plant lover. Many people do not realize however, that there are many, many more orchids available than the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, that can be commonly found at garden centres, grocery stores, and hardware stores. For our Intermediate Orchids class, we will be discussing some of the unique types of orchids that are generally only available from the best garden centres and specialty orchid growers. We will also have a limited selection of these fascinating plants available for sale starting this weekend! A few of these are noted below; for more detailed information be sure to register for our Intermediate Orchids class on Saturday, October 15th by calling 780-467-7557.
Cattleya orchids are sometimes used in corsages and most have very large, vibrantly coloured flowers which are most often perfumed. There are also compact and miniature types available which have smaller blooms on plants that are a little more manageable for smaller spaces. Cattleyas require very bright light in order to flower. Plants that are not blooming are often not receiving enough light. A west or south window, shaded with a blind or sheer curtain in the summer, is ideal. These plants also appreciate copious amounts of water and fertilizer in the summer while actively growing, with a “rest period” during the winter marked by lower temperatures, less water, and no fertilizer.
Cymbidiums have become very popular in recent years as a cut flower and are also used in corsages frequently. These tend to have medium to large sized flowers which, like Cattleyas, can be vibrantly coloured. The blooms are held on tall spikes and are accented by the graceful, sword-shaped foliage. Cymbidiums are easy to grow, but sometimes difficult to rebloom. The plants require very bright light and as they come from warm-temperate regions of Asia, they like cooler temperatures than most other orchids. They are best grown in a partially shaded area outdoors for the summer, and left outdoors until the fall, to be brought in before there is a risk of frost. The cooler temperatures in late summer and fall will help to initiate flowers.
Dendrobium (Nobile Type Hybrids)
Dendrobium is a huge and highly varied genus of orchids; the nobile type hybrids are a group that have become very popular with hobbyists in recent years. These plants produce bamboo-like “canes” (pseudobulbs) which initiate flower buds from the leaf axils, all the way up the cane. Derived from deciduous species that drop their leaves in the fall, these hybrids have been bred into semi-evergreen plants which can be expected to drop their foliage on 3 year old canes, which will continue to flower even after they have done so. As new canes are produced every year, the plant will always have foliage. Well-grown plants will produce dozens of gorgeous flowers in a kaleidoscope of colours. They require very bright light and copious amounts of water and fertilizer in the summer growing season, coupled with a drier, cooler fall and winter with no fertilizer.
Sometimes called “kite orchids”, Masdevallia are not commonly seen outside of specialty orchid nurseries and orchid shows. These are generally miniature to small plants which have a somewhat tubular flower with long tails. The blooms are usually very brightly coloured. These plants grow in the cloud forests of South America and thus prefer cooler temperatures and high humidity. They are ideal subjects for terrarium culture, and don’t always adapt well to growing as a regular houseplant. Consistently moist conditions and high humidity in a terrarium, in an east facing window or under fluorescent grow lights are recommended. These plants also do best with pure (rain, distilled, or reverse osmosis) water. They make fantastic companions for carnivorous plants!
Paphiopedilum (Maudiae Type Hybrids)
Often called “slipper orchids” but more commonly referred to simply as “Paphs”, these guys are another varied group. The Maudiae type hybrids make an excellent beginners plant as they are not demanding and grow well with Phalaenopsis. The mottled leaves look great all year, but the long-lasting, slipper-shaped flowers which can vary from green and white to deep plum, almost black tones, are sure to delight. Grow in bright, indirect light such as an east or north facing window, or near a west or south window, and keep evenly moist but do not overwater.