Hi everybody and welcome! When you visit your local nursery if you are like most people, you are always trying to find plants that are colorful and different. One plant you should consider is a colorful gem known as the Orchid.

Orchids are truly amazing plants. Many people think that Orchids are difficult to grow but actually the opposite is true. Orchids are no more difficult to grow then many flowering annuals. Orchids simply need the basic plant essentials: Light, water, fertilizer and air. The flowering cycle of the Orchid will vary from variety to variety but in general, they will bloom from one to four weeks. Under ideal conditions, up to six weeks is not out of the question.

Orchids are unique plants in the fact that they do not grow in soil. In fact, if you try to plant an Orchid in soil, it will mean most certain death. Orchids need to be planted in special bark mixes that are specially made for your plants. If you place your Orchids outside under a tree, they do not need any planting medium at all. The plants will attach themselves to the tree and obtain all of their nutrients from natural rainwater and air. This is how Orchids grow in the wild. If you want to grow a prize Orchid, this is the way to go.

For many people, growing Orchids outside is out of the question but you can still grow Orchids inside or on a porch with excellent results. If you choose to raise your plants inside, find a bright windowsill or an area that is as close to a natural light source as possible. Usually when you purchase your plant, it will already be planted in a container with the appropriate planting medium. However, you may want to transplant your flower in a more decorative pot or it just might need to be put into a larger container. In this case, you can use either an appropriate bark mix or decorative stones. Either of these materials will allow the roots to stay aerated enough so they will be able to breathe. The roots will also need good drainage. One of an Orchids worst enemies is too much water. You should water your plants completely about once a week or so. Always allow them to dry before watering again. Do not over water.

Once your Orchid has bloomed out, the next step is to try to get your plant to re-bloom at a later time. In order for Orchids to bloom again, they need a 10 degree temperature difference between the day and night temperature. You can either do this by your air conditioning system or placing the plant on a porch where the temperature difference will happen naturally. This trick can mean the difference between a plant that has just green leaves and a plant that will again treat you to a rainbow of color.

Orchids are not heavy feeders but when you do feed them, they will require a special Orchid food. Find a mix that is specially made for your plants. A fertilizer with the numbers 20-10-20 will do an excellent job. Feed your plants once a week with a weak solution of the fertilizer.

Orchids need an ample amount of humidity in order to thrive. If the humidity is below 50 percent in your home, your plants will not do well. You can alleviate this problem by running a humidifier near the plant during the normally dry winter months.

That’s all for this week’s column and I hope you enjoyed it. I will see you again next week with more great gardening tips and information.

Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to hometowngarden@gmail.com or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.

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