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Orchid FAQs

As an aid to the many new orchid enthusiasts & to experienced growers as well, I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about orchids & orchid growing. If you do not find your question here, feel free to email me and I will be glad to include it.

I grow houseplants very well, why can't I grow orchids?

There are many things that you have to unlearn as well as learn in order to successfully grow orchids & it is always best to study up on a subject before jumping in head first. The first term necessary to know in order to grow orchids is "microclimate". One must consider where the specific orchid you want grows natively, & try to duplicate those conditions as closely as possible. Several things that most orchids have in common is:

How do I increase the humidity?

Depending on your growing situation there are several ways to increase your humidity & you may want to choose a combination of 2 or more.

What's the best potting medium to use?

Unfortunately there is no best media, each has it's advantages & it's disadvantages. So it is really best to experiment & see which works right for you. Personally, I like a bark, perlite, charcoal mix because it suits my conditions and watering habits best. But it's best to stay with one type of media because each will have slightly different watering requirements.

What's the best fertilizer to use?

Again to each his own, but for beginners one half strength(1/2 tsp.) of a balanced liquid fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Peters 20-20-20 can work just fine. After a while you may want to alternate fertilizers & fine tune your formula depending on your water quality & the potting media you use. It's best to fertilize about once a week during the Spring & Summer & reduce it to once a month when it turns cooler. It is also a good idea to flush out the excess salts from your pots once a month with pure water.

How much light do I give my orchid?

This depends on the species you choose to grow. For Vandas, most dendrobiums & certain others, you will need very bright conditions from 30% shade up to full sun. For Cattleyas & Oncidiums from 50-70% shade. And for Phals & Paphs from 70-90% shade. If you are still not sure you can always check your available light with a light meter to see what would grow best in your situation. The various foot-candle requirements are readily available from the AOS Website & other sources.

What does BS or NBS mean when I go to buy orchids?

BS or FS means blooming size or flowering size & indicates that the plant should bloom within a years time under optimal conditions. NBS means the plant is near blooming size but may take up to 2-3 years to produce a bloom.

What is the difference between a mericlone and a hybrid orchid?

A mericlone is an exact clone of an outstanding hybrid which in most cases is an exact duplicate of the original plant. A hybrid seedling may show many variations from it's siblings. One may take more of certain traits from one parent, another from the other, & some may possess more of a blending of parental traits. One breeder has said that the ratio of flower color in Phal offspring is as follows: 20% will be the same as one parent, 20% will be the same as the other, & 60% will be a combination of the two. So although mericlones are a little more expensive, they are the best way of assuring that you get the flower color you want. Alternatively, some seek the unbloomed hybrids for the purpose of finding a flower which has never been seen before & which could perhaps be awardable.