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Growing Orchids

Growing Orchids

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

The Utah Orchid Society will hold a show at Red Butte Garden Visitor Center May 11-12. Members of the Society will discuss the care and growing of orchids and will be offering plants for sale. Regular Garden Admission / Members free.

The Utah Orchid Society meets the second Monday of every month at the Garden Club Building in Sugarhouse Park. Meetings begin at 7:30 and the public is welcome.

For more information on orchid plant care and disease control, contact the American Orchid Society at or at 6000 South Olive Ave, West Palm Beach, Fl. 33405-9974.

Orchids – Exotic and expensive. Rare and unusual. Fussy and impossible to grow. These are just a few of the orchid growing myths that members of the Utah Orchid society try to dispel with their orchid collections, shows and educational offerings.

Orchids grow under all kinds of conditions. Everyone thinks of them as exotic jungle plants but we have several that grow here in Utah including some along the Jordan River and others that thrive in our mountains.

Orchids are also among the most adaptable plant groups on earth. Some Australian orchids grow entirely underground, and many tropical jungle orchids grow in the upper branches of trees. Tundra, rainforest, mountain, grassy plain, deserts and swamp environments may all have orchids growing in them. Some from Mexico are well adapted to drought and will die if watered too frequently. Orchids are the most diverse family of plants known to man. There are over 880 genera, 28,000 species and well over 300,000 registered cultivars currently documented. These numbers reflect the vast genetic diversity of modern-day orchids. Genetically, orchids are the most rapidly changing group of plants on earth and more new species have been discovered than any other plant group known.

In spite of their exotic beauty, orchids and orchid growing have given rise to many myths. One of the most persistent is that orchids are parasites and attack plants they grow on. Orchids are mostly epiphytes. That means they grow on the plant or tree trunks and use it for support but they do not attack the plant they are growing on.

Another category are the lithophytes. They do not grow on other plants but grow on rocks. Other orchids are saprophytes which means they grow on dead, decaying organic matter.

Most orchids do not need a lot of soil around the root system. Their growth habit allows them to grow on many kinds of media. This includes fir barks, perlite, sphagnum moss, shredded tires, slabs of bark and many other materials.

Growing them in ordinary soil can kill orchids. The thick, fleshy roots that the epiphytes use to attach themselves to trees or bark and to absorb water and nutrients will not tolerate being buried in a growing medium that does not have good drainage. Commercial orchid potting mixes are available. Different mixture or recipes include chopped tree fern fiber, volcanic stone, charcoal, peat moss, fir bark or combinations of many other materials.

One of the fastest ways to kill an orchid is to let it sit in a waterlogged pot. In general, water once per week in the winter and allow them to dry slightly before the next watering. In the summer, most will need water twice a week.

Phalaenopsis orchids are the easiest for beginners to grow. They tolerate the conditions in most homes and they produce a number of flowers on an individual spike. These open over a long period of time and the individual flowers last well so they are attractive for an extended period.”

Growing these beautiful and interesting flowers may not be quite as difficult as you once thought. A little sunshine, the right growing medium and some tender loving care might let you add their charm and beauty to your own indoor garden.

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