Our May meeting was well attended, and our guest speaker, Mr. Saif Fidahussein’s, first quote was right on point regarding the world of orchids. “An orchid symbolizes all that is exotic and bizarre in this world, and has done so pretty much since the beginning of time or at least since we became obsessed with their sensuality and awesome weirdness. The boundary between stark madness and unblinded devotion in the orchid world is rather blurred, which makes life a bit more interesting.” He opened by stressing strongly the importance of correctly labeling the plants we have as this will help our knowing and learning more about their correct growing conditions.

Orchidaceae, commonly known as the Orchid family, is a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants with blooms that are often colourful and fragrant. The family, which includes the Vanilla plant, encompasses about 6-11% of all seed plants. They are perennial plants and lack any woody structure.

Geographically most orchids grow in a humid tropical environment, (most plants originate from South East Asia, the tropical regions of South America, some from Patagonia, and Australia). Tropical Orchids are usually perennial epiphytes (they attach themselves to tree trucks to absorb moisture from the humid air of the rainforests through their thick aerial roots). They thrive in warm humid conditions, sheltered from the sun by the thick overhead tree canopy.

Different types of orchids

Paphiopedilums

Also known as slipper orchids, (they have a “slipper” a pouch- shaped labellum in which their pollinating insects get stuck), Paphiopedilums grow in the jungles of Indonesia. They can grow in various habitats from humus rich areas nearer to the ground to rocky cliff crevices. They require high humidity and low light to thrive well; they are mostly terrestrial and lithophytic.

Phalaeopsis orchids

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The moth orchid is fairly easy to grow. They have large showy flowers that come in a wide variety of colours. They have the longest lasting flowers in the group and their ease to settle indoors make them a popular among collectors.

Vandas

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These are beautiful orchids that like a lot of light and warm temperatures. They tend to have large, round flowers. They are monododial plants consisting of single upright stem from which leaves are produced. Flower stems come from the side, usually from the axial between the leaves. These orchids are epiphytic in nature. The best way to plant them is hang them in a tree or wooden crate without compost, and they will rely on only water -fertilizer sprays will encourage them to bloom more. These orchids are the nearest we see to true air-plants

Cymbidium

This is referred to as “the beginner’s orchid” because it is easy to grow and difficult to kill, though the challenge comes when you want it “grow well”. It grows in a cool place, away from any direct source of heat or light. (NB. Not darkness!) Cool night temperatures are essential for flowering, as well as humidity all year around. Best grown in coarse open compost in which their thick rooting system will quickly penetrate. Annual repotting is not advisable.

When plants need help

Your greatest asset in handling plant problems will be a sharp eye for any appearance or performance that seems abnormal. Pests in your orchid collection can be identified by their damage. Chewed leaves may result from the activities of weevils, cattleya flies, sowbugs, springtails, snails and slugs. Mottled or disfigured foliage usually indicates the presence of a sucking pest; for example scale, thrips, mealybugs or spider mites.

Fungal and bacterial diseases are usually noticed as a collapse of the plant’s tissues, frequently with a water soaked appearance. To discourage disease organisms, water your orchids as early in the day as you can. By the time temperatures have reached their peak the plants will be dry, remaining so as the temperature falls for the night.

As for viral infections, unfortunately there is no cure, so the affected plant must be destroyed to save the others from the infection.

 Seedlings out of flask

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It’s important that you do not deflask the seedlings too quickly after you receive them. The flasks should be allowed to acclimatize first and the seedlings allowed to grow large enough for you to handle. This will also harden them to their new surroundings.

Remove the seedling from the bottle, either by washing them out or by breaking the bottle. Wash them in warm water, to remove the agar gel that they have been growing in. Before you break the flask, allow it to dry out a bit by keeping it a shaded area for a few days.

Let the little seedlings dry off on a clean sterile paper towel and then pot them up together in a community pot. (They like to be together and do better this way than when potted singly. It also creates more humidity.) Potting mixture can be fine bark, coconut chips mixed with fine charcoal or perlite to improve drainage.

Water the pot well and allow to drain– it will be great if you can create a humid micro-climate around them to prevent them from drying out.

Among the most notable houseplants, orchids are by far the most famous. They are undoubtedly an eye- candy for plant-lovers.