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Orchid Advice

Cuyahoga Heights, OH(Zone 5a)

I am very new when it comes to orchids and I went a bit orchid crazy. I was just wondering if I could get some advice on proper care for these. I just want to make sure I don't kill them.

I bought:
1. Unknown Orchid, on clearance from a Valentine's sale at Walmart for $4 because of the heart wrapping on the pot. (Looking through your forum here I have found one where the leaves look identical to mine, Phalanopsis. So I believe that is what it is.)
2. Epicattleya 'Siam Jade', bought a very small one off of Ebay from Larry's Orchids
3. SLC Rajah's Ruby 'Sweetheart', once again Larry's Orchids
4. Maxillaria tenuifolia 'Coconut Orchid', this one doesn't appear to be doing too well, the bulbs on the bottom of the leaves are now wrinkle-lyish. It is hard to describe.

I bought clay orchid pots for them and picked up a bag of Miracle Gro Orchid potting mix. Repotted all of them from their plastic containers. I water them once a week really well and mist them daily with a spray bottle. I have not been giving them orchid fertilizer because it is supposed to be in the soil already. Some of the leaves on the Siam Jade are turning brown at the tips.

I know when you are inexperienced at plants, you should probably start off with just one. But I honestly couldn't help myself. I just love orchids and thought they should be easy to take care of if walmart hasn't killed them yet (You have to understand, almost everything at my walmart is dead or near dying when we go to buy plants. I got a 5 ft tall White Birds Of Paradise for $6 because it was half dead)

Please help! I am trying to look over the different websites in this forum and I am just honestly trying to learn as much as I can! Thanks!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Welcome to DG and the Orchid forum, Hollysmamma. I'd suggest you look at the Stickies at the top for advice. Unfortunately, some are dead links 'cause they need to be cleaned up. Hopefully that will be taken care of one of these days. Also, Google and go to the American Orchid Society site. To the left side there is a listing of several videos on various orchid genera and their specific needs. If I recall, there is an instructional on Phalaenopsis and I know there is one on Cattleyas. The second two you list are Cattleya family hybrids.

I don't know Miracle Grow orchid mix, but anything that would be slow release would not win my vote for use on orchids.

Maxillaria genera like water. I grow some in open baskets, in sphagnum, and never let them dry out completely. My mounted ones are watered daily. If you have shriveled pseudobulbs it is either because the plant is not watered enough or because the medium has broken down and the roots are rotten. Your judgment is best used here.

Phalaenopsis must get barely dry, but not completely, and then be watered again. Cattleyas in new mix, that are putting out growth in spring, need to be watered several times a week. Two times a week is probably sufficient. Maybe even three if your humidity is low but temperatures are warm. Try not to get water down the center of new growths. Once the mix starts breaking down, or the weather cools, you can reduce the watering schedule to weekly. They should be barely dry and then have a good soak.

Orchids constitute a large group of plants that I like to compare to vegetables. That's because I also grow vegetables. So, just like tomatoes are nothing like spinach or beans and don't have the same culture requirements, Phalaenopsis do not grow like Cattleyas or Maxillarias. This is something frequently misunderstood when people look for one size fits all orchid

Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

Well put, Laurel! I would like to add to that, that before you buy from e-bay, do some research on the type of orchid you are interested in, because they don't give you any growing tips there. Also, buy from "trusted vendors" only, and check the size of the plant they're selling. Depending on the type of orchid, it could be years away from being bloom size.
As Laurel said there is no one size fits all info for orchids, so check out the 'stickies' and do a bit of research to see what you can grow in the environment you can provide, before you waste a bunch of money buying a plant that won't survive in your home/area without a climate controlled greenhouse. Most will appreciate an outdoor summer, depending on humidity, if you can provide the right amount of light.

Cuyahoga Heights, OH(Zone 5a)

Thanks so much for the advice! I am going to head over and start researching more!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

You are very welcome. If you have a specific question or problem with culture just ask. Any number of people here will come to your rescue. Photos are most helpful. If you need help with learning to load photos people here can help with that too.

Cuyahoga Heights, OH(Zone 5a)

Well I realized I am severely under-watering them and the soil was too compacted for the Phalaenopsis. I will also start the weakly weekly fertilizer for them. I gave them a good soaking today, and used warm water not cold. I also removed the brown roots on the Phalaenopsis. I am hoping to become much better at taking care of them now that I know what I am doing wrong. I believe I am also going to move them into the room I keep the humidifier in.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

This sounds like a good orchid plan. Hope the room with the humidifier is sizable. Orchids are very bad about following people home.

Cuyahoga Heights, OH(Zone 5a)

LOL! So are tropical hibiscus, ask my husband. I only make him carry out 12 pots every summer, and bring them back every fall. Generally there are more to carry in the fall.....strange how that works lol. I started off with just the Phalaenopsis, then 4 more appeared while he was on vacation. Then my cats decided they didn't like one, and ripped it out of its pot..I found it in the morning with the roots dried and teethmarks throughout all of the leaves. Sadly it was a young in and only stood about 4 inches tall. It was more abuse than it could take.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Hi, this has been an interesting thread. I've been gardening forever, but am fairly new to orchids, too.

I think the most important thing I've learned so far is that most orchids' roots need to breathe i.e. the potting mix needs to be very porous and drain fast. Even most of the terrestrial ones grow in very loose, friable medium. I noticed you're referring to the planting medium as "soil". What most of your orchids (except the Maxillaria) need is a chunky mix that looks nothing like soil - a mix of bark pieces, perlite, charcoal, and other materials. Hope that's what you've got?

Also orchids are funny plants in that they will put up aerial roots that look like they're wanting to grasp onto something (because, well, they are!). As a 'normal' gardener my instinct is to tuck roots down into the soil, but orchids really do well with their roots waving around in the air. In fact, once you start seeing orchids everywhere you go, and seeking out orchid growers, you'll see orchids hanging in baskets with no potting mix at all, just bare roots hanging down. That's why it's good to mist them with very weak fertilizer solution fairly often. You'll even see that some of those roots change color when they get wet.

In this pic of my Phalaenopsis, the big greyish shiny things going up to the right corner are aerial roots. The little wimpy green thing is the beginning of a flower spike. There's another big fat aerial root with a pointy brown tip that looks like a big shiny worm, too.

This message was edited Apr 17, 2012 9:50 PM

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
Cuyahoga Heights, OH(Zone 5a)

I'm sorry, its not actually soil. However I did buy the Miracle grow orchid mix, but I am thinking of buying better quality mix. Has anyone used Miracle grow orchid fertilizer? Or should I invest in something else?

I love the leaves on your orchid!

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I have not but I have used the Better Grow version. As long as it says "non-urea" you are okay. I use regular Miracle grow on Cymbidiums and orchids that can be planted in actual soil mixes. I mainly use MSU fertilizer. It can be mail ordered.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

My first package of fert was Miracle-Gro for Orchids. It works fine. It took me nearly 2 years to use up that little box, as I only had 3 orchids, but now (suddenly!) I have a lot more orchids and the fert gets used up a lot faster. Don't forget to use it at about 1/4 the rate they recommend on the box, in the mister as well as when you pour water.

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

I use the Better grow urea free also. On my cymbidiums, I use Osmocote, time release as they are heavy feeders.

Odessa, FL(Zone 9b)

I use exactly the same fertilizer as Carol but I apply it via hand pump sprayer at a rate of 1/4 tsp per gallon every day. I put a drop of Superthrive in the mix as well. A gallon will do about 100 orchids. Once a week I use a hose to drench the plants, mainly to wash the salt buildup out of the pots.


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