Orchid Care – Tips on How to Care for Orchids
The following are general orchid care tips and guidelines with regard to keeping the orchid house ventilated, and for providing the right amount of light and shade. Learning how to care for orchids is essential for them to bloom and flourish.
Ventilation for Orchid Care
A great number of cultivated orchids need a good supply of fresh air which is essential for growth – at all times – especially in the cooler and intermediate areas of the orchid house. In addition to providing an ample flow of air around the plants, good ventilation can also help to regulate the temperature within the greenhouse or orchid house. In the warmer orchid houses, far less air is required as the temperature would drop too low if the house was over-ventilated. It is difficult to list definite rules, but one of the most important however, is that draughts should be avoided at all costs, as they can cause more damage than if the plants are under-ventilated.
The use of top ventilators in the green house roof should really depend upon the direction of the wind and how strong it is. The ventilators should be opened just a little at first and then the opening should be gradually increased if the temperature increases. If these top vents are left open for too long, then considerable amounts of moisture will be lost. In a small greenhouse which heats up very quickly, the air vents must be opened to their maximum and regular damping down will be necessary to counteract the loss of moisture.
The conservation of moisture or humidity is essential until the autumn season, when more air can be allowed in to ensure the plants will ripen. The lower ventilators on the bottom sides of the greenhouse or orchid house can be used more often, especially if your heating pipes are beneath the staging. The air admitted through these vents warms up as it passes over these pipes. In the cooler and intermediate areas of the orchid house, if it is not too cold, these vents can be left open at night, and with the cymbidiums a little ventilation can be used on all but the coldest days. If both the upper and lower ventilators are to be left open at the same time, they should be open on the side sheltered from the wind, which will reduce thus direct the air currents. It is usually best to open one set of vents only however, the bottom vents being open when the top is closed and vice versa. If the orchid house has ventilators in the glass sides, then these should not really be used, as too much moisture in the atmosphere would be removed and draughts too would be created.
In general, air should be allowed in whenever possible in both the summer and winter seasons, so long as extremes are avoided, ie. excessive moisture and temperature losses and also that draughts are prevented or better still, not allowed to develop in the first place.
Light and Shade for Orchid Care
Orchid care is not difficult, so long as you follow the basics. In general, orchids require plenty of light but not the direct rays of the sun, especially during late spring and summer. Some provision for shading is necessary. The application of a specialised shading paint ,such as ‘Summer Cloud’, can provide the right density of shading and is easy to apply, however it is more or less permanent until the time comes when it is removed and so it provides shade on the dull days when it is required less, as well as on bright days too. If this type of permanent shading is to be used, it should be set up and in position by the end of March or a little later if the weather conditions are dull. I would recommend that the only really efficient method for providing shade, is to fit removable blinds. These can be of the slatted-wood type or of one of the plastic types such as ‘Tygan’. Alternatively one of the following types of shading nets are most suitable:
It is important to provide an air space between the glass and blinds in order to keep a more equable temperature in the greenhouse. This allows a free circulation of air over the glass. Blinds other than the wood-slat type, if kept flat on the glass, can cause the glass to heat up quite considerably, and the air too within in the orchid house. Blinds are in fact most useful as they give some protection – they can be lowered in the winter on very cold nights and perhaps even on the very coldest days when an east wind is blowing around the orchid house.
Blinds too, have the great advantage of control; light from early morning and late evening can be allowed to reach the orchid plants, which benefits them greatly. On days which are expected to be sunny and bright, they can be lowered before you leave the house and raised again later in the evening. On bright days from about May onwards, blinds can be kept lowered from about 8 am to 6 pm GMT. Spring days demand the most caution for orchid care with the use of greenhouse blinds, as many tender young growths are present on the orchid plants and care is required to prevent them from getting scorched – this is all too easily done. As the late summer progresses into autumn, the plants should be allowed more light; a gradual increase helps the bulbs to ripen and generally makes the plants more firm.
Types of orchids such as the cattleyas, cymbidiums and especially dendrobiums require abundant amounts of light to encourage them to flower, while types of orchids such as paphiopedilums and masdevallias are definitely happier in the shade. Slat blinds, if used for the latter orchid types, do not provide the correct density of shade, and hence a very light application of shading such as ‘Summer Cloud’ to the glass should also be applied. The greenhouse blinds can be lowered on the brightest days. This extra shading is also useful as a precaution against damage, if the main blinds are overlooked. In larger towns, heavy fog can cause a dark deposit on the glass in winter. It is essential that this is washed off for correct orchid care, as orchid plants need all the available light during this season.
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