Orchids are the most extraordinary plants. In the wild, they grow between rocks, up trees, hanging from cliffs and in virtually every kind of place you would think it impossible to live. The problem comes when people try growing them at home, and instead of mimicking this ‘hard knocks’ lifestyle, they pamper them. The result is a plant that gets over-watered, over-fed, over-loved and just plain over it!
For success with these stunningly beautiful plants, “treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen”. Mimic their poor natural habitat by planting them into nothing but bark, possibly mixed with sphagnum moss to help hold the water in, or even in broken up polystyrene boxes, which, to an orchid, is rather like growing in the crevice of a tree trunk. Feed and water them sparingly (you can buy slow-release orchid food, which you apply twice a year) and pot them into much too small a pot than you think, as they like a cramped spot.
Fill a small pot with orchid bark (which has been sterilised and can be bought at any nursery) and plant your specimen into it. Don’t bury the top of the orchids roots too deep – they love being exposed to the air.
Insert a small stake (you can also use an old knitting needle) to anchor your orchid and then clip the flowering stem to it to help hold laden blooms aloft. You can use small butterfly clips for this purpose.
Firm down the bark around the roots so your orchid is firmly in place. Tapping the sides of the pot will make sure there are no air pockets that sink after watering.
Mulch with pebbles to help hold the orchid in place. Let it dry out slightly between waterings, which usually means two to three times a week. Once the orchid has flowered, cut off the old flowering stem at the base then switch to the “growing” fertiliser instead of the “flowering” type.