Berkshire Orchids

I’ve been growing orchids in my home and greenhouses for thirty-five years; additionally, installing and maintaining them commercially in Manhattan and its environs.
     Orchids are tough. They have been thriving and evolving on our planet for more than 120 million years. Their secret? Adaptation.
     Here are some basics:

WHAT TO DO
Light: Order of preference is filtered South, then East, West, and North windows.

Fertilizer: Usually, once a month, 20-20-20 balanced orchid fertilizer. Flush pot out thoroughly with warm water first to avoid salt/chemical build up.

• Once the bloom is finished, take it out of the cachepot to allow more air circulation. 4–6 weeks rest period with less watering, no fertilizing. Then move to brighter window, step up water, add fertilizer monthly.

Repotting: usually after blooming or new growth and roots emerge, or if the plant becomes too top heavy [normally every 2–3 years]. Orchids prefer to be snug in their pots.

• Be sure to use orchid medium, not potting soil.

When your orchids are in full bloom, move them away from bright light which speeds up their development, shortening their 2–4 months blooming time.

Know the name of your orchid. “Google” it. Keep in mind most of the advice comes from growers with greenhouses—not the conditions we have at home.

WHAT TO AVOID
• Temps below 50F and above 90F.

• Placing plants directly against the glass of a window.

• Placing plants directly over—or in front of—heaters, A.C. units, or in drafts.

• Overwatering. If in doubt, wait another day or two. Most orchids like to dry out a bit; it allows their roots to breathe, and encourages them to seek out sources of water within the pot.

• Check potting medium with your fingers for dampness. Remember, moss potting medium holds water almost twice as long as bark potting medium. If dry, take to sink, thoroughly soak with warm water. After watering, check weight of the pot. Now you know what it feels like when watered—a good reference point.

• Getting water in the crown of the foliage.

• Water collecting in the saucer or decorative pot? Drain it.

Orchids needing Average Light and Fertilizer
Phalaenopsis [“moth”] orchids come in myriad color combinations, shapes, and sizes. They are capable of lasting for months and months, are easy to re-bloom. Great indoor plants like African Violets and other houseplants. Don’t over water.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: depending on the size of the pot, every 5–10 days. Allow a few days of drying out.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula lightly once a month.

When bloom is finished: cut the spike a couple of inches above a node; a secondary spike may be induced to pop out there.

Paphiopedilums [a.k.a. “lady’s slipper”] are available in hundreds of shapes, diverse sizes, and colors. Good indoor plants, tolerating the same conditions African Violets and other houseplants. Some can bloom twice a year.

“Paphs” should be allowed to dry out moderately before they are watered. It gives their roots some air, and encourages them to seek out sources of water within the pot.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: depending on the size of the pot, every 5–10 days. Allow to dry slightly between watering. Don’t allow water to sit in the crown of the plant.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula once a month.

When bloom is finished: cut the spike down to the bottom.

Phragmipediums are also “lady’s slippers” and are sequential bloomers. If mature, they can bloom for more than six months. They are good indoor plants, tolerating the same conditions as African Violets and other houseplants.

Unlike Paphs, they enjoy “wet feet”—you can leave a bit of water in their saucers.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: depending on the size of the pot, every 5–10 days. Don’t allow to dry out completely [they are tough and forgiving, too].

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula lightly every two months; repeat: light feeders.

When bloom is finished: cut stem down to the bottom.

Miltonia’s have lush velvety flowers, looking a bit like pansies. They release a scent reminiscent of a Casablanca lily in the early mornings and evenings. These are good houseplants, disliking high heat in summer. They last 4–8 weeks in a cool room [70-75F]. They get floppy if allowed to dry out too often, or if it’s too hot.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: depending on the size of the pot, every 5–10 days. Leave a bit of water in the saucer.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula once a month.

When bloom is finished: cut the spike down to the bottom.

Orchids needing More Light
Dendrobiums have fascinating color combinations: from acid green with red lips to pure white. They come in short and standard heights; I can special order 6 to 7 foot tall ones. Once flowers are spent, they need bright light to re-bloom.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: depending on the size of the pot, every 6–12 days. Allow a few days to dry out.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula once a month.

When bloom is finished: cut the spike down to the bottom.

Oncidiums & Intergenerics are a huge group of orchids, stunning in their variety. These are also good and long lasting houseplants, many capable of blooming twice a year. Once flowers are spent, they need bright light to re-bloom.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: depending on the size of the pot, every 6–12 days. Allow a few days to dry out.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula once a month.

When bloom is finished: cut the spike down to the bottom.

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Orchids needing More Light and Fertilizer
Vanda’s strap-like symmetrical foliage and brilliant blooms are striking and exotic. They need more light and a bit more fertilizer to carry their color, will bloom twice a year if happy. Keep evenly moist and well fed; suggestion: fill a spray bottle and give them a couple of spritzs daily.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: twice a week and spritz daily.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula every 2 weeks.

When bloom is finished: cut the spike down to the bottom. Move to filtered South or full East window, if possible.

Cymbidiums start to show up in October in miniature, medium, and standard sizes—great plants for the winter holidays. They, too, will bloom for many months like the Phalaenopsis, Dendrobiums, lady’s slippers, and other houseplants. They are tight in their pots, so leave a bit of water in their saucers. Remember—they’re big plants, with big foliage—they get thirsty in our overheated homes. They don’t like to dry out.

Light: South [filtered], East windows; full West and North.

Water: twice a week, leaving some water in their saucers. Keep away from drafts, heaters, fireplaces. Some air circulation helps.

Fertilize: 20-20-20 orchid formula every two weeks.

When bloom is finished: cut spikes back to the bottom.

To re-bloom: repot in one size larger pot; when weather warms up, put outdoors under a tree or on a porch to rest without fertilizer. Toward the beginning of September, step up watering and begin fertilizing; bring indoors when temperature starts dipping down into the 50s; switch to 10-30-20 “bloom booster” fertilizer.

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