Watering Orchids

Watering Orchids
by Charles Hood

Most orchids have a growing season followed by a resting period. This rest can last for a few weeks or several months. Those orchids that have the longest resting periods are generally those with pseudobulbs. Paphiopedilums and phalaenopsis do not rest in the same way, but slow their rate of growth during the winter period.

The majority of orchids rest during the winter months, which coincides with the dry season in the natural habitats of the species. To ensure the plant’s survival, it stops growing and reduces its need for water. Lycastes, pleiones and some dendrobiums are among those that have a deciduous rest, dramatically dropping their foliage at the end of the growing season.

Dry compost will vary in colour, or you may notice other subtle differences that will only come with experience. If you are still not sure, slip a plant out of its pot, without breaking up the compost ball, and take a quick look underneath to see how wet it is. Take a look also at the plant itself. This will tell you what has been happening over the past weeks.

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Many orchids flower while they are resting. In the wild, this would probably ensure a ready supply of pollinating insects on the wing, and it would prevent blooms from being damaged by torrential rain and winds. Odontoglossums complete their season’s pseudobulb and produce their flower spikes at the same time. Only after flowering does the new growth appear, which may be at any time from the early winter onwards.

The complex hybrids in this genus often conform to a nine-month cycle, so that new growth is often started at a different time of the year. This can result in plants growing during the winter and resting and flowering during the summer. Stanhopeas often prefer to grow during the winter, flowering in midsummer while at rest. The paphiopedilums and phalaenopsis do not grow and flower at the same time.

A large, root-bound plant its a small pot will need far more water to ensure that some of it at least gets iris the pot and penetrates to the roots.

Orchids that are resting need far less water and very little feeding. Provided that the pseudobulbs remain plump, the plants can be left on the dry side. In some species of Coelogyne, it is normal for the pseudobulbs to shrivel slightly; this occurs naturally, but by the time the new growths are starting and normal watering is resumed, they will plump up again. Orchids that are flowering during their resting period do not necessarily need more water. The flower spike will inevitably take energy from the pseudobulbs for its development, but this has been allowed for by the plant.

This system is less necessary with indoor growing, and where just a few plants are grown they can be moved individually to the kitchen foe watering and allowed to drain before being returned to their growing area. so surplus water is not a problem.

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