What are some good books about growing orchids indoors?
September 21, 2004 4:34 PM   Subscribe

New orchid grower seeks advice as he hunkers down for yet another Canadian winter! Can any mefites recommend good books on growing orchids indoors? Actually, any advice about orchids, grow-lights and other tropicals that might grow well in my urban apartment would be very much appreciated.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think You Can Grow Phalaenopsis Orchids, by Mary Noble, and Orchids for Everyone, by Brian Williams, are very good. I've referred to both of them tons of times.

What kind of orchids are you planning on growing? Dendrobium? Phalaenopsis? Cymbidium? Phalaenopis is an excellent choice for someone just starting to grow orchids - it's not as delicate, it blooms from December to May (awesome for when you need a winter-blahs pick me up), and they're very rewarding - the flowers are gorgeous - I think they have a real wow factor that some other orchids don't. You need to look for clear, shiny leaves, and just general overall health. Don't buy any that have mold or spots or any "tumors' on them, or any that have mushy leaves, or young leaves that are really soft.

Hmmm lessee...you need to get yourself an orchid, and a good planting medium, which is usually fir bark, or a premixed orchid soil. Some people like clay pots, some like plastic. I always use clay for any kind of plant. Some orchids (most notably the Phalaenopsis) like to have some of their roots exposed to air, which always throws people for a loop when they see that the first time - the roots come right out of the pot like tendrils - really weird. Your instinct is to cover up the roots with soil, but they like to go barefootin' every once in a while, so it's no big deal.

The best kind of light is a filtered but bright one, and artificial light is just fine. You can put the orchids directly in a window (orchids strongly prefer an eastern or a southern exposure), as long as that window has a shade or curtains to filter the sun a bit when that's needed. The orchid will tell you if it's in a good place - you can tell if it needs more or less sun by examining the leaves - you'll know what to look for with a little practice. You want to try to keep them in one place, that is, not put them in a window for 2 hours and then move them to a table for a few more - you want to find that perfect place for them and then let them get used to it, and they're very adaptable. You might want to get a special window or table, or build shelves across a window. You'll see that there are whole chapters devoted to how much sunlight/artificial light to give them in those books that I mentioned, and what kind of grow lights work best. There are also entire chapters devoted to how much water to give them, and what day and night time temps they like (basically, they like it a little hotter than we do during the day, and a little cooler than we do at night, although they're a hell of a lot more resilient that their reputation would have you believe. I work for a flower company, and we have orchids in our greenhouse, and in the shop, and the orchids in the shop actually do a bit better than the ones in the supposedly ideal living conditions of the greenhouse. The orchids in the shop live at about 70-75 degrees during the day, and 65 at night.

You'll need to provide some humidity, too. You could fill a bowl or a dish with stones and then put some water in it, and put the clay pot right on that - that's what I did when I had orchids. Misting is good too, during the day. At night you want the leaves to be dry, but damp leaves during the day is ok.

Hey, while looking for the correct title of another book I wanted to recommend, I came across this excellent, free, and printable pdf file, which is 12 pages of very comprehensive, useful info. I would definitely recommend reading this. Good luck with the orchids - they're magnificent flowers.
posted by iconomy at 5:18 PM on September 21, 2004 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thanks iconomy. I found a good orchid shop, and they picked out a healthy Phalaenopsis for me. I'm pretty sure I am hooked-- everything in the store fascinated me. I will definitely look at the books, but you've given me a really good start.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:00 PM on September 21, 2004

Thanks, iconomy. Fantastic resources and advice. There's an intensely chocolate-scented red-yellow cymbidium that's going to have you as a god-parent.
posted by stonerose at 8:04 PM on September 21, 2004

Oh, you crazy kids ;) Get a vanilla-scented one to go with that chocolate cymbidium, and I want pictures!
posted by iconomy at 6:34 AM on September 22, 2004

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