Growing the exotic plants like the Orchids, or the Bird of Paradise, are a bit of a challenge. You can grow them too with a few basic instructions. Let me help you with the basics for growing these tropical exotic beauties.
The photo at the top is a Phalaenopsis, or "moth orchid". Most of the orchid plants have names. This one is called "Candy".
Lets talk about the orchid family. There are many varieties of orchids, but there are some that are easier to grow than others. I have many orchids varieties. The Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidiums, and the Cymbidium are just a few to name.
I would suggest that you start with the Phalaenopsis, also known as the Moth Orchid. It is perhaps the easiest of the orchid family to grow. The warm growing Dendrobium is also an easy orchid plant to grow. They can produce many long lasting blooms for you. You could have up to up to 30 blooms on each plant. There are also many colors to chose from. Bright lavender, pinks, yellows, whites, and many other colors. It is hard to chose the colors sometimes, because they are all so beautiful.
The potting mixture is composed of wood bark. The wood bark is packed around the roots loosely, so that air can still get to the root system. It is also used to allow the water to dampen the roots, without keeping the root system constantly wet.
Watering of your orchids should be done only in the mornings. This allows time for the roots to dry a bit before dark. During the daylight hours, the plant is active, so the water is being used only during that time. At night the plants are not, so the wet roots are not good for your plant. Try not to use water directly from the tap. No plant likes water from the tap. So, I suggest that you put water into a container, like a gallon milk jug. Then let that water set for at least 24 hours before using. It is great to use rainwater, but that isn't always possible. Well water is good to use also. For those who can not get rainwater just remember to let the tap water set for a while and then it is safe to use. Distilled water is not beneficial to your plant. So, I would not use distilled water.
A good way to know if your orchid needs water is to place your finger down into the wood bark. Go down past your first knuckle. If it feels dry then it needs watering. Also the weight of the pot is a clue. When you water notice how much the pot weighs. When the pot feels light, then it probably needs water. Watering is probably the most important part of growing your orchids. Too much water will rot the root system. Too little water will cause the roots to dry out and then the plant will not survive.
Fertilizing your orchids is another important thing to know. I use an orchid fertilizer of 30-10-10, which is a standard orchid fertilizer. I mix one tablespoon of fertilizer to one gallon of water. I fertilize my orchids once a month. Also, fertilizing should be done only in the morning hours, and only on sunny days. Do not fertilize on cloudy days. The plant is not as active on cloudy days, so you want to fertilize on days when the plant is most active. You could also use fish emulsion to fertilize your orchid plants, but I found it to be very smelly. So, unless you want that fishy smell around, I would stick with the regular orchid fertilizer.
Light is another important part of growing nice orchids. The light for orchids differs from variety of orchids. The phalaenopsis, dendrobium, and the cattleya all require about the same light. They all need bright light in order to bloom, but not direct sunlight. The sunlight is too hot and would burn the leaves. I would suggest that you place them in a southern window, with a sheer curtain to protect them from the hot sun. Once the sun has passed over, you could pull back the sheer to allow more light to come in. Light is important for the plant to grow and produce new leaves and roots. It is also important for the blooming process.
During the fall of the year, the days grow shorter. As this happens, it will trigger the blooming time. The plants will put on flower spikes, which is where the buds for flowers will be. When your plants begin to bloom, the blooms can last up to two months. This is really rewarding, because of the long blooming. As the last bloom starts to fade, cut the spike back to the half-way point. It could possibly set on another flower spike for you. Then your plant would once again be blooming soon.
Providing humidity is another essential part of growing your orchid plants. When inside the home, you could spray mist them a couple times a day. You could also set them on a tray of pebbles filling the tray up to the bottom of the pot. Do not let the pot set in the water, because it may get the root system too wet. As the water evaporates, it will rise around the pot. This will help provide humidity for the plant. During the winter, you could also run a humidifier. This helps with the humidity during this dry time of the year. It also helps in the home as well.
The temperature for your orchids should be around 70 to 80 degrees, but they can tolerate higher temperatures. The temperature that they like is about the same as you would be comfortable with. During the winter months they will be happy with the temperature that you keep your home. During the hot summer time, do not let your plant set in the draft of the air conditioning. They do not like cold drafts and this could cause your blooms to fall or not bloom at all. It would be the same during the cold winter months. You would not want to place your plants by a door where it could get a cold draft.
Again you must watch out for those dreaded spider mites. Yes, the spider mites do love the tender leaves of the orchids. If they do get on your plants the leaves will become pitted. You will be able to see them on the underneath sides of the leaves. Use the Insecticidal Soap on the orchids as well. It will not harm your orchid plants, and will rid your plants of the spider mites. To get rid of the spider mites, you must spray the first time. Then one week later spray again. You may have to spray one more time to make sure that you got rid of them. The eggs that they laid may have left more of those pesky critters. This should rid your plants of them. During the dry winter time it is important to watch for the spider mites on all plants.
I have grown orchids since 1980, and I have had many trials and errors. I want to help you grow your orchids also. I have a collection of around 400 orchids of different varieties. There are many, but I will name a few of them for you. The Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Dendrobium, Cymbidium, Oncidium, and that is just a few. The Planfolia is also an orchid. It is also known as the Vanilla Plant. Bet you didn't know that your vanilla comes from an orchid.
These are the basics on growing orchid plants. I know that it seems scarey, but you can grow orchids. I have grown them indoors too. Some use grow lights, and some use windows. As long as they have enough light, and water correctly they will grow for you. To have an orchid bloom is such a great delight. To have orchids in the home adds a touch of elegance to your room. Give it a try. If you have questions about a specific orchid that you have, feel free to ask me. I will help you in any way that I can.
I know that this just touches the surface of growing orchids. There are a lot of books on growing them. They are not as hard to grow as you may think. So, give it a try. Let me know if you have any questions.
The Bird of Paradise is another beautiful exotic to grow. You can grow them from seed, or purchase already established plants. I started mine from seed and it took several years to get to the blooming size. It takes around seven years for the Bird of Paradise to reach blooming size. It does require a lot of sunshine. That could be a problem during the winter months. I keep mine in a south window, but even then it is hard to get adequate sunlight during the winter. Once the weather has warmed up, I move it to the outdoors. I set it in direct sunlight. Provide lots of water for this exotic. As the plant matures it will put on several new starts. It will produce beautiful flowers during the summer months.
The Bird of Paradise grows to be a very large plant. Repotting of your plant should be done every few years. It depends on how fast it grows. For me, the flowering season is short due to the low sunlight during the winter months. I keep my Bird of Paradise at my south window to get as much sun as possible though. The plant does continue to grow even through the winter, adding new leaves.
Growing exotic plants is really rewarding when the blooms appear for you. I know that you will be proud to tell of your plants and others will envy you for having such treasures in your home.
UPDATE ON BIRD OF PARADISE