Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This article is taken from his book, More Beautiful Plants with Artificial Lighting, never published.
Since the fashion for growing orchids emerged in the last century, misinformation about them has spread so widely that most people firmly believe it. Here are a few of them.
1. Orchids Require a Warm Temperature All Year Round.
Most orchids, in fact, prefer cooler temperatures. Even “warm weather” orchids have difficulty tolerating temperatures above 27°C and will accept cooler temperatures on occasion. The majority of cultivated orchids can easily thrive in the temperatures that exist in our homes.
2. Orchids Only Flowers Every 3 to 5 Years
In fact, the vast majority of species flower annually, while many hybrids have two, or even three blooms per year. In some cases, a single plant can bloom for a total of 10 months per year. This myth comes from the fact that orchids take 3 to 7 years or more to bloom for the first time from seedlings, but since we mostly grow them from divisions, or buy plants already close to blooming, this shouldn’t be an issue. Also, orchids can take up to a year to get used to new conditions, which can compromise the next flowering in plants bought with flowers or buds. Also, hobbyists too often give orchids poor care, including too little light or humidity, which doesn’t encourage flowering and can easily delay it.
3. Orchids Need 100% Humidity to Flower
Orchids do require high humidity, but no more than most other houseplants. A relative humidity of 50% is usually sufficient and 60 to 70% is ideal.
Both are easily tolerated by humans. Extremely high humidity, such as 100%, is way too much for orchids. Try to achieve, at the very least, a humidity of 50% to ensure success.
4. Orchids Only Flower in Greenhouses.
Some orchids are indeed difficult to grow outside of a greenhouse, but there are thousands of varieties that are perfectly suited to indoor environments. The advent of artificial lighting has done much to facilitate their cultivation outside of greenhouses, as most suffer greatly from the decrease in light duration and intensity that occurs during our winters. Many orchid hobbyists have hundreds of species at home, without the need for a greenhouse. Even many professional orchid growers use only artificial lighting.
5. Orchids Are Expensive
If some orchids are so expensive, it is an exception rather than the rule. Orchids are indeed more expensive than many other plants, as their cultivation and especially their slow multiplication make them rarer, but, for a fairly modest sum (about $25.00), one has no difficulty finding a plant in bud or in bloom that will give you great satisfaction for years to come. If you are more patient, vials of seedlings can be purchased for less than $0.25 each or over $5.00 each. It should be noted that growing orchids from seed is out of reach for most non-specialists for technical reasons.
My great Aunt husband used to sell orchids and even developed some new varieties. he passed away but she still has a large greenhouse full of orchids attached to her house. She has it fully automated so she has very little to do.
I don’t have a lot of sunny windows so moth orchids (Phalinopsis) do well for me in a east facing window. They do require a cool period in order for them to set their buds and are also quite tolerant of less than perfect care. They reliably start to bloom in late February and keep going well into the warmer summer months.
Oh my! Even for climates with cooler winters, these myths are inaccurate! I suspect that orchids need protection from frost in some climates, and perhaps most climates in America, but that is only for part of the year.
1 – Common cymbidium orchids actually appreciate a bit of a chill during winter to stay on schedule. In this particular climate, they stay in sheltered situations outside throughout the year. In the coastal climates of the Los Angeles region, the primary reason that they are not more popular in landscaping is that their foliage is not so appealing without bloom.
2 – Even seasonal cymbidiums bloom at least once annually. Some modern types can generate a few random floral spikes a bit later. I sort of get the origin of this myth though, since I sometimes hear it about avocado trees. They are grafted with adult scions, which can bloom and produce fruit as soon as they can support the weight. However, trees that grow from seed take about seven years to mature and bloom.
3 – Most common cymbidiums get more than adequate humidity just by being within generously irrigated landscapes. They generally live down near the damp ground, and are quite happy there. They require no other enhancement to humidity. Cattleyas are less popular but seem to be about as happy in home gardens.
4 – Gads! Cymbidiums do not even want to be in greenhouses. They would rather be out in the weather. They can be brought into the home while blooming, but want to go back to the weather when finished.
5 – I never purchased an orchid. Cymbidiums can be quite vigorous. Mine were either left behind by someone who moved away, or were divided from overgrown colonies in neighbor’s gardens. Cattleyas are generally purchased while blooming, and then discarded afterward, like poinsettias or potted chrysanthemums, so there is no shortage of those.
A neighbor gave us an orchid recently. It was and is continuing to be in full bloom. I don’t know how long the blooms last but I was sure glad it came with an instruction/care sheet because I had never cared for one before.