Orchids are graceful, exotic plants that symbolise love, luxury, beauty and strength. In ancient Greece they were associated with virility and in modern times orchids are the 14th wedding anniversary flower. During the Victorian era orchids were seen as symbols of luxury. Nowadays orchids are freely available from nurseries, supermarkets and even hardware stores. Orchids are not difficult to cultivate, but many of them die when one of their few relatively straight forward growth requirements are not met or when you do not stick to the rules when repotting one.
Orchids require shady conditions and should be kept away from any direct sunlight, particularly sunlight entering a room through a window.
Orchids should preferably be grown indoors. They originate from tropical climates and outside temperatures in spring, autumn and winter can be too low, as they need a minimum of 18 ˚C.
Fertiliser Orchids need fertiliser to prosper, grow and flower. You should fertilise at least once a month during spring and summer to ensure they are strong and healthy.
Air movement If you place these plants in a room where there is adequate movement of air with no chilly winter drafts, they should grow much healthier and not be such an easy target for pests and diseases.
Growing mix and repotting Orchids require well-drained potting mixture with a lot of air spaces in between. Normal garden soil or potting soil will not work for orchids, as it does not drain well enough and may cause root rot and your plant will die.
Water and humidity
It is preferable to place orchids in a bathroom or kitchen once they have finished flowering, as the humidity level is usually higher than in the rest of the house. Never place orchids in an air-conditioned room.
Depending on the growing medium, an orchid may be watered two to three times a week in summer and once a week during winter. Orchids should never be left to stand in water. Take care that no water is left to stand in the plastic pot or in the ornamental container you are keeping the orchid in, as these usually do not have drainage holes. You can also spray the orchid from time to time to increase the humidity.
STEP BY STEP
STEP 1 Use bark chips for a Moth orchid’s potting mix (about the size of your baby fingernail and no bigger than your thumbnail). Slipper orchids prefer a mixture that is slightly more moisture retentive; add 25% peat or sphagnum moss to the mix. Soak the bark chips a day or two before you repot the plant to filter out a maximum of tannins in the bark chips.
STEP 2 Soak the plant in water for 20 minutes. This will make it easier to remove the old potting mix and will also make the roots more pliable, resulting in less root damage.
STEP 3 Hold the plant at its base and slowly remove the pot. The roots will sometimes stick to the pot. You can solve this by soaking the plant a bit longer and squeezing the pot in several spots; this should allow the roots to let go.
STEP 4 Use your fingers to slowly remove the old potting mix. Be careful not to damage the roots unnecessarily and try to remove most of the old growing medium.
STEP 5 Rinse the roots in a bucket of water. This will help remove any excess medium.
STEP 6 Use a pair of sharp, sterilised secateurs or scissors to remove all the old flower spikes as well as the dead roots. The dead roots will have a darker appearance and will not be firm to the touch. Seal the wounds with flowers of sulphur or with powdered cinnamon to prevent any fungal or bacterial infections.
STEP 7 Place a layer of potting mix in the base of the pot. Hold the plant at the base, just above the root level, and place it in the pot with the old root level at the same height as the rim of the pot.
STEP 8 Spread potting mix around the plant and firm it down with your fingers, but be careful not to damage the roots. Continue until the pot is filled and the plant sits firmly in place.
STEP 9 Remember to put a label on the plant pot. Write the plant’s name on this or if you do not know it, simply note the colour of the flowers. You can also write the date you repotted the plant on the label for future reference.