Orchid Care

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Orchid Care
Orchid Care
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phalaenopsis
phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis is a natural species of Phalaenopsis equestris. Photo by Anastasia Fiomicheva (Yamira).

Temperature requirements

Before deciding how to care for orchids, you need to understand how they grow in nature, what they need for happiness. And the living conditions of orchids are very different in different habitats. Scientists biologists give different classifications of orchids depending on temperature and humidity. The most common division of orchids into three classes, depending on the temperature of the environment. This, for example, is described by Frank Relke in his book "This is how they grow best" (Lik press, 1998).

The author gives the following characteristics:

Orchids in warm habitats should be in conditions where the temperature does not drop below 16 ° C, and daily fluctuations are no more than 4 ° C.

Orchids of the temperate zones of habitation make up the largest group and for them the lower temperature limit is 12 ° C, at any time of the year, and daily fluctuations are not more than 6 ° C.

Orchids of cold habitat zones can withstand and even need a drop in temperature, the lower temperature limit is 8 ° C, and daily fluctuations are mandatory and should be at least 6 ° C. How much the author does not give optimally.

And such a classification is very arbitrary, such an extensive family, numbering dozens of species, and growing in all corners of the globe, cannot be limited to three zones.

However, Frank Roelke points out that many orchids do not need to strictly adhere to the temperature limits indicated by him. Indeed, the orchid culture is known for its plasticity, the ability to adapt to environmental conditions, of course, within reasonable limits. Unfortunately, I was unable to establish who Frank Relke is, the author of the book “Orchids. This is how they grow best. " Who is he? Where can you see his collection of orchids, or find out what formed the basis of his book. But one way or another, I turn to another classification, in my opinion, more broadly describing the habitat of orchids.

Author Gustav Schoser, director of the Palmengarten botanical garden in Frankfurt am Main, an orchid collector, he wrote the book Orchids, about growing them at home, breeding and caring for them.

According to Chauser, four types of orchid habitat can be distinguished:

Areas with a constantly warm, humid climate

Areas characterized by a change of rainy and dry seasons, the duration of which is not the same in different parts of the Earth Orchids in areas with warm, dry weather during the day and cool, wet nights Orchids in mountainous areas of the tropics with a constantly humid and cool climate
North and south of the equatorial belt, the border of which runs along 10 ° north and south latitude, for example, the region of Southeast Asia Adjacent to the tropical belt with a warm seasonal climate are areas characterized by a warm, dry climate with cool, humid nights. In the mountainous regions of the tropics in the altitude zone from 1000 to 2300 m above sea level. These are the high-altitude belts of Colombia, Venezuela and Peru, the mountain forests of the Andes, the Colombian and Venezuelan Andes.
The average daily temperature is about 21 ° C. The difference in temperature between day and night is 8-11 ° C. Daily temperature drops during the dry season are up to 12 ° C. The average daytime temperature is about 24 ° C, night temperature is about 16 ° C. In the forest zone, daily fluctuations are about 3-4 ° С. Daytime soil temperature up to 22-23 ° С.
Precipitation in varying degrees from spring to autumn, most of the rain in summer is a wet period. The drought period occurs in the winter months November - January (3 months). The seasonality of the climate is much more pronounced than in the previous climatic zone, and the period of drought lasts up to six months. During the year, at least 2000 mm of precipitation falls here. At an altitude of 2000-3000m above sea level, moisture condensation, large clouds are formed. At an altitude of 800-1500m above sea level, the forest zone and forests are called cloudy.
Typical of these orchids is the presence of fleshy bulbs and roots that store water. Typical for these orchids is the presence of fleshy bulbs or thickened fusiform pseudobulbs. Among this group of orchids, sympodial orchids with pronounced pseudobulbs, or reduced ones, are more common.
Cymbidium Cymbidium, Ansell Ansellia, breaststroke Brassia, brassavola Brassavola, Vanda Vanda, Renantera Renanthera, some types of Phalaenopsis Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum pafiopedilyuma, Spatoglottis Spathoglottis, Ludiziya Ludisia, Anektohilyus Anoectochilus, Cattleya Cattleya, Lelia Laelia, Oncidium Oncidium, Odontoglossum odontoglossum Cycnoches Cycnoches, many laelias, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums. Masdevallia Masdevalli, Epidendrum Epidendrum, most species of odontoglossum Oncidium of the genus Ada Ada.
masdevallia
masdevallia

Masdevallia Falcata Ignea Urosalpinx Constricta. Photo by Lyudmila Popova

Not everything in this table is literal, I tried to summarize the main thing, for clarity. Many amateurs operate with just such a zoning of the natural habitats of these plants. Now let's think, what does it give us?

Only a rough idea of ​​what kind of different parts of the planet are inhabited by orchids. To keep orchids at home, it is important for us to know the temperature at which the plant will feel good, and the humidity. Here you still need to think about how to correctly say - the moisture content of the substrate or air, it is probably more correct to say the need for moisture (and in what way to moisturize, this is secondary).

As for the temperature, at home in the spring-summer period it practically corresponds to the required for many types of orchids during the growth period (if not higher than 25-28 ° C). The decisive factor is the daily temperature fluctuations, which for some orchids are necessary for successful flowering. And also the rest period necessary for certain orchids. But basically, the exact and clear boundaries of temperature norms relate to specific orchids, and at home, there are often hybrids for which all boundaries are somewhat smoothed out.

By the way, the fourth category - the mountainous regions of the tropics with a constantly humid and cool climate - gives a very extensive idea of ​​the realities of life in the mountains. The fact is that temperature and humidity vary greatly at different altitudes. Take, for example, Masdevallia - a vast genus, whose representatives grow precisely in the mountains, but it is also customary to divide them into 4 groups:

Living in cold conditions: during the day 10-15 ° С, at night 4-7 ° С

Living in cool conditions: during the day the same 10-15 ° С, but daily fluctuations are less pronounced: at night 7-12 ° С

Living in the temperate zone: during the day 13-20 ° С, at night 10-13 ° С

Living in a warm zone: during the day 20-27 ° С, at night 16-18 ° С

I cite these numbers not as a guide to growing Masdevalles, but to illustrate how the climate is changing in the mountains. Moreover, the authors citing the description of historical places, as a result, give recommendations like the following: “Masdewallias need cold or moderate maintenance. The plant needs winter temperatures: 15 ° С at night, no more than 18-19 ° С during the day, i.e. very averaged and smoothed out the boundaries between all four groups. But for a reason, orchids have survived in such a huge species diversity over millions of years, all thanks to their incredible plasticity, vitality and the ability to adapt to environmental conditions. Therefore, general recommendations about the moderate temperature regime of Masdevalley are justified.

This averaging leads us again to three groups (conventionally, of course) that often appear in the language of orchid lovers: thermophilic (phalaenopsis), moderately thermophilic orchids (cymbidium) and chilli (dracula, odontoglossum). Again, I am citing these three groups, not as a correct classification and guidance for growing, but because these concepts are very widely used in orchid lovers forums and in some literature.

Dendrobium
Dendrobium

Dendrobium Nobile lived for several years in a pot of soil, which is completely unsuitable for this orchid and many others. But, nevertheless, it grew normally in the ground, until the mistress transplanted it into an even larger pot. Surprisingly, but very tenacious, forms new growth and grows roots, mind you - above the ground, and not in a pot!

In fact, many orchids grow at home in the summer and at higher temperatures, on our windowsills they have to bend under the weather conditions. When the summer is hot and it is + 40 ° C outside for several days, maybe a couple of weeks, and orchids and people have to adapt. And by the way, cold orchids also survive in such conditions. It is important here not to allow the plant to overheat, not to allow it to rot. If there is no air conditioner, then this is achieved primarily by shading, as well as by good air ventilation, i.e. not just open the window, but the fan. Creation of finely dispersed dust, i.e. fog or spraying. The movement of air at high humidity does not allow the massive development of infections (fungal and bacterial) for which dampness and heat are the best conditions for progression on orchids.

How to water orchids

As for watering and a moisture-consuming substrate at high temperatures, this is a very dangerous moment. I do not know what is dictated by this, but it is precisely the increase in watering that is characteristic of lovers of indoor flowers when the weather is hot, or during the heating season in winter. In fact, sorting through the topics on diseases and mistakes in growing any plants, you come to the conclusion that the problem of decay from diligent watering is in the first place. And all other troubles are far behind in frequency of cases.

But water only compensates for the heat up to a certain point! A person suffering from heat can drink a liter of water, but not a bucket! The same is with flowers, the plant is able to assimilate, to pass through its root system only a certain amount of moisture. Everything else is not digestible, but the moss absorbed by the water is a nutrient medium, like agar-agar in a petri dish, for any unnecessary infection.

If someone makes an argument in favor of excess watering, about the humid tropics, where it rains constantly, then this is also not correct. Many orchids are epiphytes and grow on any surfaces, their roots are not in the substrate, as such, and therefore all the water that falls on them drains off and evaporates very quickly. If you compare them with other ancient neighboring fern plants, then this is who the real hygrophyte is. It is ferns, selaginella, arrowroot and madder that are hygrophytes and form the lower grass layer of the tropical forest.

Orchids, firstly, are the non-tier vegetation of the rainforest, they grow at different heights and are not tied to a specific tier. Here is an excerpt from the diary of Andrey Kuznetsov, a botanist and scientist who worked in the mountains of northern Vietnam, at an altitude of 1800-2300 m above sea level: “In the tropical forest, we found lichen and mosses' beards. They hung from the upper branches, and tropical orchids and … lingonberries hung from the lower ones. Obviously, the existence of "our" plants here is associated with a sharp drop in air temperature in the winter months (October - February) to -5 ° at an average air temperature of + 5 °”. ("Around the World", No. 3 1994)

Sofronitis
Sofronitis

Brazilian forest, elevation 700-1000m above sea level, high in the trees among lichen ripsalidopsis (cactus on the left) and miniature orchid Sophronitis cocinea Sophronitis coccinea (right), belonging to the genus Cattley, coexist.

Secondly, orchids are succulents! Namely, like cacti or fat women, orchids have developed a way to survive periods of drought, store moisture in the roots, leaves, bulbs, and even the absence of pseudobulbs is not at all an indicator of hygrophilia. The fact that orchids belong to succulents is also confirmed by the presence of the CAM-type of photosynthesis in them.

In addition to orchids, we know of other epiphytes, for example, bromeliads (many of them are also succulents). We know that they have a different structure of the root system and leaves from orchids. They have adapted to collect water in leaves located in a rosette or funnel, and assimilate nutrients from it. For example, in Tillandsia Tillandsia, the leaves are equipped with hair-like scales - trichromes. They absorb moisture and minerals from precipitation and dust directly from the air.

Then what are the adaptations of orchids? Their adaptations are roots. They have a special structure that allows them to absorb water: the roots are usually covered with a thick, protective layer of dead cells called velamen. Velamen functions like a sponge, absorbing moisture and nutrients. When it gets wet, the roots become translucent and look green, because under the layer of velamen there is a living green epidermis. When the velamen dries up, the roots become white if the velamen layer is thick enough, or only gray, whitish-green, if the velamen layer is thin. The thickness of the velamen layer directly depends on how moist the environment around the roots is.

orchid vanda
orchid vanda

Wanda Vanda, photo by Lyudmila Popova (Buttercup). Adjacent in the orchidarium with tillandsia. The root system is open

If the orchid grows on a block and its roots are open, and periods of moistening are alternated with quick drying (drying in 3-4 hours), then the velamen layer is very thick, the roots are almost white and only at the tip remain green.

If the orchid grows in a layer of constantly moist substrate (for example, sphagnum moss), then the velamen on the roots is very thin, or almost completely absent. Why is that bad? The fact that such roots are not adapted to dry maintenance, velamen does not protect them, as soon as the moss dries up, the roots begin to dry out. In addition, they are very fragile, scratches and cracks are easily formed on them, where infection gets and decay occurs. The rhizome also rots easily in the orchid, if it is not above the ground surface.

In natural conditions, most orchids are epiphytes, with an open root system. The roots, like other organs of orchids, breathe; when they breathe, they absorb oxygen and emit carbon dioxide. At home, the requirements of orchids do not change - for normal growth and development of the plant, it is necessary that fresh air constantly flows to the roots. If the orchid finds itself in a constantly humid environment, or completely in water, the roots stop breathing.

How are plants grown hydroponically, including orchids? Indeed, there is such an experience, but you cannot just put the plant in a closed pot with water and expanded clay, and wait for prosperity. When growing on hydroponic crops, there are rules and subtleties, for example, the solution is saturated with oxygen using ordinary aquarium pumps, and air bubbles enter the roots along with water. In addition, in hydroponics it is very important not to exceed a certain water level, and usually, the inner pot is lowered into the nutrient solution no more than 1/3 of the height, and there are special water level marks for control.

But back to the care of epiphytes, the issue of watering. What should be guided by? First, the moisture capacity of the substrate. Not all lovers of orchids grow on blocks, many grow them in pots, using a different ratio of components as a substrate: bark, coconut fiber and moss. The more sphagnum moss in the substrate, the longer it will remain moist. Sphagnum moss is very hygroscopic, so you have to be very careful with it, it is not a natural neighbor of orchids in nature! Under natural conditions, sphagnum moss does not grow on trees. Lichens grow on the trunks next to orchids, these are completely different plants. And sphagnum moss was invented by amateur flower growers, apparently just like in any other plants.

gastrochilus
gastrochilus

Japanese gastrochilus Gastrochilus japonicus on the block. Photo by Vitaly Alenkin. Growing on such a block is closest to natural conditions.

Can be added to orchids on a block or cover the bark in pots with moss from trees (its leathery and hard twigs do not absorb water well). It dries very quickly and allows air to pass through well, while sphagnum sticks together into damp lumps.

The most non-moisture-absorbing substrate is pure coconut fiber. It does not absorb water, does not stick to the roots, does not stick together and does not cake for a very long time. But it shades the roots from the sun's rays, protects against overheating. Therefore, it is used on blocks, and in baskets and pots. But if the orchid is planted or wrapped with only coconut fiber, it should be moistened more often than if it was sitting in the bark.

How often to moisturize … I still can't reach specific numbers. In fact, it depends again on the temperature. Moisture should be for most epiphytic orchids so that the roots dry out and remain dry for at least a few hours, 1-2 days during the growth period, and several weeks or months during the flowering period (different types vary).

I must say that in nature, the distribution of precipitation within different areas of the rainforest is uneven. There is an alternation of periods of short drought and rains. Dry periods in the tropical rainforest do not last long, but this is not a complete lack of rainfall, but simply more rare rains - on average, once every three to four days. During the rainy season, there are showers every day, they can be short-lived or last several hours. But at the same time, the roots are constantly in the fresh air, they breathe! If you have a potted plant, this is a different microclimate. There is no air movement in the pot, especially if the pot is filled with bark or something else.

Orchids of tropical rainforests with a uniform warm environment throughout the year are moistened differently in different periods of development. For the rainy season, these orchids, for example, phalaenopsis, have a growing season, growing leaves. Moisturizing occurs every two to three days so that the roots have time to dry out well. If they do not dry out, then either revise the composition of the substrate, or water even less often.

With the end of the growing season, the frequency of watering is reduced, i.e. as soon as there is a pause in the appearance of a new leaf, watering can be reduced. In the dry season, according to the laws of nature, this same phalaenopsis should be watered or soaked less often, so that the roots are dry for at least 4-6 days.

Orchids are moderately thermophilic, from places with a pronounced dormant period, should also dry out during the growing season, and remain dry for 4-5 days. Moreover, it is important that the substrate in the orchid pots dries out very quickly. About a day after watering. We must constantly remember about the succulent nature of orchids, they are not related to arrowroot and cyperus.

At the end of the growing season, they are placed in cooler conditions, and the frequency of watering (soaking) is first reduced, to about once every two weeks. And then they stop altogether. Moreover, many of them have pseudobulbs. Cymbidiums, Wandas, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, Cattleya, Laelias, etc. should have a dry period of at least 3 months, but many are capable of surviving longer periods of rest.

By the way, during the dry period of dormancy, it is also not necessary to spray orchids, because at the time of spraying, the roots quickly absorb moisture and, in fact, this is the same watering. If the temperature cannot be lowered to that recommended for a particular species, then you can humidify the air without spraying the plant, but creating a nebula around it.

Oncidium
Oncidium

Oncidium Oncidium altissimum 'Dancing ladies'

Cold orchids need moderate moisture, i.e. they must be watered in the same way, after the substrate has dried. During the growing season in summer, spray, if it's hot, then 2-3 times a day, the air should be humid, not the soil in the pot.

Cold orchids grow in high humidity conditions all year round. Their root system is mostly open. In addition, there is a constant movement of air in nature. For example, bulbophillums are found in loaches (mountain peaks), which, as a rule, rise above the upper border of the forest, i.e. these are open blown areas, where growing conditions are almost xerophytic (arid), in the same place, on trees and rocks, cellogyns live, where there is even greater air movement. And the highest humidity, fogs and streams between rocky ledges, in gullies, there grow ferns, aralia, saxifrage, sedge, balsam.

Another cold orchid: some types of masdevallia and odontoglossum also grow in mountainous regions, like epiphytes or lithophytes. They also need high air humidity all the time, with very good ventilation (constant supply of fresh air). During the growth period, the temperature is moderate, about 15-20 ° C during the day, during the dormant period from November to February or longer, the temperature is 10-15 ° C, depending on the species, and obligatory daily changes throughout the year.

Watering orchids should be done very carefully at such low temperatures, because evaporation of moisture is very slow. If the soil does not dry out, but remains moist for several days, then the orchids easily rot, even very non-capricious species. Therefore, watering can be absent as such at all, and be completely replaced by spraying. Water-retaining components cannot be added to the substrate for chillers, although this, at first glance, would seem to contradict their moisture-loving nature. In fact, in practice, it is very difficult to find a balance between high air humidity and a moderately moist substrate, therefore sphagnum moss, vermiculite, a large amount of bark must be replaced with stones, coconut fiber or other neutral components (for example, pieces of foam plastic).

velamen
velamen

Velamen on phalaenopsis roots, the root lies on the surface of the substrate (bark and coconut fiber)

Most orchids come from seasonal climates where the rainy and wet seasons change two or more times a year. Therefore, different types of orchids have a pronounced or almost imperceptible dormant period, during which flower buds are laid.

Heat-loving orchids need a slight decrease in temperature, up to 15-16 ° С, moderately thermophilic - slightly lower than 13-15 ° С, cold-loving ones - up to 10 ° С. But it depends on the specific needs, for example, Oncidium brilliant Oncidium splendidum grows on rocky slopes, in Mexico and Honduras, at an altitude of about 825-850 m above sea level, adjacent to thickets of cacti and agaves, it is more thermophilic (dormancy at 16-18 ° C), compared to Oncidium flexuosum (12-15 ° C), which grows epiphytically on trees, along streams and marshes, at an altitude of up to 1200 m above sea level in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina. But this applies mainly to natural species, they are usually grown by professional orchid collectors. The main part of orchid hobbyists grows hybrids, and they are less demanding on rigid temperature limits.

And yet, returning to the biological cycles of orchids: vegetation, leaf growth occurs in the wet period, flowering - in the dry period. Therefore, along with a decrease in temperature, an increase or decrease in watering becomes a signal for a change in season for orchids (abundant rain spraying is also equated with watering). If with the beginning of the growing season everything is simple - the growth of new leaves is immediately noticeable, then the beginning of flowering is more difficult to “catch”. After all, flower buds are laid at the end of the growing season, and are not noticeable at the beginning of growth. Therefore, to reduce watering, for successful flowering it is necessary in advance, while the leaves are still unfolding. From about the middle of the growing season, watering begins to decrease, so that by the end of the growth period and the beginning of flowering, the orchid is moistened to a minimum. Those. only humidification of the air to prevent excessive shrinkage of the pseudobulbs.

Another thing to add to the issue of watering is that orchids with different root conditions should also be moistened in different ways. The indicator is the presence of velamen on the roots. If the velamen layer is good - this is noticeable at the very tip, the transition from light green to white is clearly visible, which means that the plant is ready to calmly endure the drying of the substrate. If the velamen is thin, almost invisible, then it must be gradually accustomed to drying. Gradually increasing the time the roots remain dry.

Often, it is the wrong, abrupt transition from one growing regime to another that causes the plant's painful state.

In preparing the article, the following materials were used

Natalia Rusinova

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