BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ORCHIDS
Orchids are the most complex, advanced and successful family of flowers on the planet. There are approximately 25,000 species that occur naturally throughout the world, mostly located in tropical and sub-tropical regions. These fascinating plants have captivated amateurs and professionals alike. The Smithsonian Institution has over 8,000 live specimens in its orchid collection and carefully selects new specimens each year based on their display quality, educational value, beauty, and rarity. FTD.com and Smithsonian have chosen Phalaenopsis orchids for their intrinsic beauty and elegant shapes for recipients to grow and enjoy.
HOW ORCHIDS GROW
When an orchid is found growing on a tree branch way up in the canopy, it is said to be epiphytic in growth habit. While these orchids may look like they are living off the tree, they are not parasites. Epiphytic orchids have aerial roots that are used to anchor the plants but do not harm it in any way. These orchids obtain their nutrients from decaying organic matter that accumulates around their root zone and on their leaves. They are more commonly found in tropical areas where there is not enough sunlight on the ground to support their growth. Terrestrial orchids grow on the ground and are more common in the temperate regions of the world. Many of these orchids can be found growing in filtered sunlight on patches of rich soil. They receive nutrients and moisture through their underground roots and can survive in adverse weather conditions.
ORCHID CARE & HANDLING
Smithsonian Orchid Plants are from the Genus: Phalaenopsis (or Moth orchids), selected for compactness, a long blooming season and relative ease of care. To enjoy the longest display of flowers and success with your orchid, please closely follow these care instructions.
LIGHT AND TEMPERATURE
Place indoors in an area receiving very bright light. Bright indirect light is fine for your orchid after you receive it, but in order to rebloom, it is necessary to provide morning sunlight, such as near an east-facing window, or filtered sunlight. Protection from hot direct sunlight is necessary. Temperatures between 60°F and 80°F are best from spring through fall when the orchid is actively growing, but temperatures as low as 50°F and as high as 95°F are tolerated for brief periods. During winter months, lower night temperatures of 50°F to 55°F and day temperatures of 60°F to 65°F are adequate. When air inside the home is dry and temperatures exceed 70°F, mist the plant daily to increase the humidity, especially during the flowering season. Extra humidity can also be provided by standing the plant on a tray of moistened pebbles.
Orchids need to dry out nearly completely before they are watered again. While individual conditions vary from home to home, during the warmer growing season, watering two to three times per week should be sufficient. During the cooler winter season, less water is required; once every two weeks is often adequate, but plants should be checked for dryness weekly. Pour copious water evenly over the substrate to thoroughly moisten the bark medium and allow it to drain well. It is vital that the pot does not sit in water so be sure to completely empty out any drainage water from the decorative container. If your tap water is high in mineral content, as evidenced by a white deposit building up on the substrate, use distilled water if available.
During the active growing period, spring through early fall, fertilize your orchid every fourth watering. Before applying fertilizer, water the plant thoroughly since fertilizing a dry plant can damage the roots. You may use a water soluble houseplant fertilizer or a fertilizer specific for orchids if available.
The succulent leaves and developing flower spikes of Phalaenopsis orchids have a natural resistance to many pests but will occasionally fall prey to mealy bugs. These soft-bodied insects leave behind an unsightly cottony chaff, or residue, and decrease plant vigor. They generally appear on the undersides of leaves and around flower buds and are easily controlled by spraying affected areas of the plant with an insecticidal soap or household plant insecticide. A weekly wiping of upper and lower leaf surfaces with a dampened sponge will help to prevent infestations.
Repot every two years in the springtime, removing any dead, flaccid or broken roots (viable roots are plump, turgid and have a whitish or greenish coating). Place in a new pot that comfortably holds the root system.
Plant material, such as this product, should not be eaten. While most plants are harmless, some contain toxins.
The Horticultural Services Division manages the grounds of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, and develops horticulture displays and exhibitions in exterior and interior museum spaces. Its research and education programs promote horticulture and the ongoing development of collections of living plants and horticultural artifacts as well as a photographic garden archive.