Dad’s Orchid Notes

In going through my late father’s papers I came across the notes that follow.  They are a bit dated, but the general advice is still accurate.  It needs to be said that I am the Orchid Man’s Son; he started me with orchids when I was two years old.  He loved orchids all of his life and shared that love with me.  Enough said; Dad’s notes follow…


The orchid is a plant that is no different from others, in that it requires water, light, warmth, and ventilation, though in somewhat different proportions than the average plant. Orchids are very hardy plants, and will take a great deal of mistreatment.

Some basic rules which will be of value in the culture of orchid plants follow:

A. Plants should be thoroughly drenched with a hose or placed in a bucket of water until bubbles no longer appear from the plant; this is done especially at times when the plant has become thoroughly dried out. Do not water on a dull or shadyday— pick a day when the sun is shining and they will have a chance to dry out very quickly.

B. Over watering will rot the roots of the orchid, since the osmunda fiber, in which they are potted, will retain some moisture from six to 10 days, under normally dry conditions. If no rain has occurred for a week and the plants are out of doors, it is safe to water the plants, provided the osmunda fiber feels dry to the touch, they should be watered about once a week in the house.

C. It is much better to keep plants too dry than to let than stay damp for an extended period; letting plants dry out too long will merely retard their growth and slow down their flowering period — keeping them too wet will kill them.

D. If plants are to be kept in the house, the leaves should be sprayed with a hand sprayer atomizer about two or three times a day during the summer on normal days; once on a dull day. In winter, spray the plants about twice a day on bright days and once, or not at all, depending upon the feel of the potting fiber, on dull days. In the house, it is wise to set the plants a few inches above a pan of water, which will raise the humidity of the air around the plant.

A. Winter time sun is not so strong as that in summer, thus plants may be subjected to almost unrestricted sun all day in a window, preferably on the south side of the house. A kitchen or bathroom window is desirable, since these are the most humid spots in the average home.

B. Sumner sun is quite strong and if unrestricted, may be injurious to foliage and blooms, in summer, plants do well when placed out- side under the sparse foliage of a small tree. Care should be taken to prevent squirrels from getting to the plants, since they may eat the tender shoots and buds — they are particularly fond of the blooms, as are some birds. A suggested plan is to hang plants on a clothesline under light shade of a tree where a great deal of light is available without the rays of the midday sun falling directly upon the plants. Morning and late afternoon sun are not too severe for the plants.

A. During the summer, adequate ventilation is assured in the yard, on a porch, under a tree, or in a slat house, thus no problem exists outside the house.

B. If plants are to be kept in the house, a window should be cracked very slightly in order to keep air from becoming stagnant. Do not open opposite windows to form a draft, since plants will suffer due to too much cooling; it may also create a problem in your personal comfort and in heat loss to the house. Pick a window where it is a little cooler than the rest of the house and normal flow of air currents will probably make it unnecessary to open a window at all.

Temperatures of 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit are good for the plants; they can stand temperatures down to, but not including freezing, and up to 100 degrees. It is safe to say that if you keep yourself comfortable and subject the orchids to the same temperature, you will provide a good growing environment.

Blooming period for a mature plant is fairly constant, thus you may expect it to bloom about the same time each year, provided it gets the same care from year to year. Plants should be watered thoroughly just as the blooms begin to break open, then no more root water should be given until the blooms fall off. Daily foliage spray may be applied while in bloom; however, avoid getting water on the bloom to prevent fading and water-spotting of the bloom. After blooms fall off or are out, normal watering and treatment may be resumed.

Potting is done in osmunda fiber and should be good for about two to three years. Plants are potted with the old growth near the edge of the pot and the new growth will progress toward the other edge. Repotting should be accomplished when the new growth touches the opposite edge. Someone familiar with the technique should be called upon to repot the plants and demonstrate the technique to you the first time. It may be advisable at time of repotting to split the plant into one or more additional plants, adding to your collection; the person who repots you plant should be able to advise you in this matter and make the division for you in the event it is advisable.

An excellent book on orchids is “Home Orchid Growing,” by Dorothy Northern, and is found, along with many other good books on the subject, at most public libraries.