FLOWERS Balanced watering helps orchids thrive



Give it the right light for the best chance of blooming.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Proper watering is the biggest trick to getting an orchid to survive long enough to bloom again. Most casualties are because of overwatering rather than underwatering, says Peter Lin of Big Leaf Orchids, a specialist in phalaenopsis orchids.
"Overwatering causes its roots to rot. If you can get the watering technique down, chances are the orchid will bloom again," he says.
Most orchids are sold in plastic pots. Lin says it's fine to leave the orchid in plastic. If you like, plop the plastic in a decorative cachepot.
As a general rule, most orchids can be watered once a week. But you cannot water by the calendar. Poke a finger down into the center of the planting medium to see if you can detect moisture. Or notice the heft of a just-watered orchid compared with its lightness a few days later. Thoroughly drench the whole pot with tepid water, but take care not to get water in the orchid's crown. Allow the pot to thoroughly drain before returning it to its decorative pot.
Adding humidity
Orchids love high humidity, but houses generally are dry. The best way to add moisture to the orchid's microclimate is to set the pot on a bed of wet pebbles. The water level should be maintained to wet the stones but not the bottom of the pot. Misting the plant does little to improve the humidity around the plant.
Lin says a potting mix packaged for orchids will have enough nutrients in it to feed the plant for a couple of years. Then, after its blooming period, the plant should be repotted in fresh mix.Light, he says, is critical to flowering. If the orchid's leaves become dark green, the plant is not getting enough light to bloom. If leaves develop a reddish cast, the sunlight it receives is too intense, while spots on the leaves are the equivalent of a sunburn.
As a general rule, orchids like placement with a west or south exposure in fall and winter and an east or south (but filtered) exposure in spring and summer.
"If you touch a leaf and it is not warm to the touch," Lin advises, "it is OK. The plant will adapt to your environment. If you are comfortable, the plant will be comfortable."

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