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09.04.2006

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orchid you not easy growing tips for orchid newbies
by Yee-Fan Sun
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1 2 3 4
continued from page 3

feed me!
And hereís more good news for the lazy houseplant tender: while the occasional feeding does do your orchids good, too much fertilizer is actually worse than too little. As with watering, easy does it with the feeding. When the plant is in bloom or when itís sending out new leaves, fertilize every 3-4 weeks. A few tiny drops of Miracle-Gro in your watering can should do it, though special orchid fertilizers are also available; the main thing to remember is that the fertilizer should be weak. Once the blooms have died back and the plant doesnít seem to be doing much of anything in the leaf department either, hold off on fertilizing altogether to give the plant a rest. Resume the fertilizing once you see new growth.

going to pot
When you first bring your pretty little plant home, donít bother repotting. Repotting can be traumatic to little plantlings, and moreover, a lot of orchids (Dendrobiums, for instance) actually like to be a bit snug in their pots. To hide the ugly plastic of the original pot, just pop it into a bigger decorative pot. Easy-peasy, no?

If all goes well with your orchid rearing though, your lovely little plant actually will outgrow its original pot eventually. After a couple of years, youíll start to find that a lot of the roots are growing up and out of the pot (a few wayward roots are normal and fine) and the plant itself is pushing at the edges. The bark/potting mix will start to look like itís breaking down, crumbling up, getting soft and smushy. At this point, youíll need to do some repotting.

When you first get your orchid, youíll probably notice that orchids live in a different sort of potting material than your regular houseplant soil. Orchid potting mix comes in all sorts of formulations, containing everything from charcoal to wood chips to rocks to tree fern fibre and more. What these mixes share in common is that theyíre designed to keep orchid roots just the right balance of hydrated and aerated. Donít stress too much about the brand. For the most part, skip the cheap store-brand version and pay a little more for the name-brands, go with a medium- to large-grade formula (the finer ones are meant more for seedlings and small plants; use a coarser grade for plants with fatter roots, medium for ones with smaller roots) and youíll be just fine. Alternatively, my momís orchid potting trick involves placing a layer of packing peanuts or rocks on the bottom the pot. Pop in the plant. Fill in with sphagnum moss -- nice because you can easily tell how dry it is by touching it.

Whatever potting mixture you use, itís best to use clear plastic pots if you can find them. Theyíll allow you to see how the roots are doing -- if theyíre looking too wet or too dried out -- and adjust your watering appropriately.

o o o

Armed with just a few tips and tricks, youíll be well on your way to keeping those orchids alive and well Ö and enjoying pretty healthy blooms in your windowsills for years to come.

o

check out these related articles:
banish the balcony blues | houseplants for black thumbs | flower power | blooms away

 

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