Orchid Not Blooming: Buds Not Opening

Hey guys,

Today’s question comes all the way from Scotland:

Dear Danny,

I am very happy I found your website, and could email as well.  I have a problem with my orchids here.  It was blooming ery nicely for two years, and this year, it even had more buds than last year.

But the trouble is – for two months already, the flowers were just buds and don’t seem to bloom, full bloom, I mean.  I thought I must have over-watered it, which I think I did because when I took it out of my pot, some of the roots were rotten.

And so I tried to remove those rotten ones, and put new mix of wood and broken clay which I found in our garden, plus some kind of moss.  But even with this, the buds do not seem to open up.  What shall I do?

Thank you very much for any advise you can give.  I am just a beginner and got so much satisfaction with my three pots of orchids.  Imagine, they kept on blooming from April to October last year.  And even this year, the two pots of orchids have still their flowers until now.

They have been there since April, and I think the flowers will last until October again.  Except, of course, for that other pot.  But you know, that pot of orchids buds were there since June, some have withered (three of them) but the other buds are still hanging around.  I just hope they will also open up.

God bless you, dear Danny.

Sister Mary

And here’s my answer:

Hi Sister Mary,

You’re spot-on with thinking that over-watering may have stopped the buds opening as this is the top cause of this particular problem.

Both cutting off the rotten roots and re-potting, as you have done, will usually help solve the problem. Ensure that the mix isn’t packed to tightly in the pot as orchids require good air circulation around the roots (in the wild, most orchids attach themselves to trees or rocks rather than growing in the ground like other types of flowers). A loose potting mix will also allow water to drain from the pot easily reducing the chance of root-rot.

A good fertilizer can also aid flower growth (check out my article on fertilizers here: http://blog.care-of-orchids.info/2011/08/22/orchid-fertilizers-how-to-fertilize-orchids/). I’ve heard that potash (ash from burned wood) can help with flowering because it contains potassium, which promotes flower growth but i haven’t tested it myself – if you try using potash, do please let me know how successful it is.

Other causes of buds that don’t flower can include insufficient light, low humidity or low temperatures, however as you have other orchids in the same locality that are doing fine, I would surmise that these factors would not be the cause.

On a side-note, the maintenance of the surrounding area when taking care of orchids is crucial to their success.  If you are in need of space or of quick maintenance, consider Raleigh tree removal as a great way to make this process an easy one.

Danny

If you have anything you’d like to share on this topic,please leave a comment below :)

Orchid Fertilizers: How To Fertilize Orchids

Hey Guys,

I’ve had quite a few emails just lately about orchid fertilizers and how to fertilize orchids (such as the one below), so I thought I’d try to answer them all in one go by posting an article all about orchid fertilizers.

Here’s an typical example of the sort of emails I receive:

Dear Danny,

I have just got together the ingredients for my orchid fertilizer. What I need to know is how to apply it. Does it need diluting? And should I use it every time I water or more sparingly? A quick answer would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Dinah

Why the need for orchid fertilizer?

As well as light and water, orchids also require additional chemicals that provide them with nutrition.

In the wild, an orchid will scavenge these nutrients from decaying matter that they obtain from the forest floor or that has been collected by rainwater as it flows by.

Domestic orchids require these nutrients to be supplied to them in the form of fertilizers or orchid food.

What’s nutrients do orchids get from fertilizers?

There are three main nutrients that an orchid needs to grow healthily; Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). The letters in brackets refer to their chemical symbols. In lesser amounts, Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulfur (S) are also required.

These six chemicals are referred to as Macronutrients. There are also a number of Micronutrients; Boron (B), Chlorine (Cl), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo) and Zinc (Zn) that provide nutrition, however an orchid will need much smaller amounts of these chemicals.


Manufactured orchid fertilizers

Most manufactured orchid fertilizers will have an NPK ratio printed on their containers, which refers to the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium they contain. For example, a fertilizer with an NPK of 30-10-10 will be made up of 30% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorous and 10% Potassium. The remaining 50% will be made up of other macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as other chemicals.

Some good manufactured orchid fertilizers are this general purpose (20-20-20) fertilizer (which can be used for most orchids) and this high-nitrogen (30-1-10) fertilizer (which is good for orchids grown in tree bark).


Home-made orchid fertilizers

If you have a penchant for chemistry, you may consider creating your own organic orchid fertilizers at home. For those that do not have the scientific foundation, you can obtain homemade orchid fertilizer recipes here (if you try them, please let me know how well they work for you).

A breakdown of the pros and cons of manufactured and home-made orchid fertilizers can be found here.

How to fertilize orchids

So, we’ve learned that orchids need fertilizer to provide them with essential nutrition to keep them healthy and that the main decision to make when using an orchid fertilizer is whether to use a manufactured or home-made solution.

Next, we will look at exactly how to feed the fertilizer to the orchids.

Many orchid enthusiasts use what is known as the ‘Weakly, Weekly‘ approach to fertilizing their orchids. This simply means that an orchid is fed a weak or highly diluted fertilizer every week.

In my own opinion, orchids should be fed at the same time you water them, which may not always be weekly. Again a weak solution of water and fertilizer should be used.

The best way I know of to water an orchid (and, of course, feed it at the same time) is to add a little fertilizer to a watering can (or similar container) of water, then pour the solution into the pot ensuring all the potting mix is well drenched. Then, wait for almost all the liquid to drain out of the bottom of the pot before watering and draining again.

This video about watering a phalaenopsis orchid shows how to water an orchid properly.


Orchid fertilizer for orchids planted in fir bark

A little earlier, I recommended an orchid fertilizer with high nitrogen content for orchids growing in tree bark.

This is because bacteria in the bark mix contains micro-organisms that consume large quantities of Nitrogen and can potentially starve an orchid of their Nitrogen nutrition.

For this reason, if you grow an orchid in a bark potting mix it is recommended that you use a fertilizer with a higher Nitrogen content.

Orchid fertilizer for orchids planted in sphagnum moss

If you have an orchid that is growing in sphagnum moss, I recommend using an even weaker fertilizer/water solution.

This is because sphagnum moss holds on to or absorbs salts much better than other potting mediums so the nutrients have a lot more chance of staying within the pot rather than draining out of the bottom with the water.


Summary

In this post, I’ve explained why orchids need fertilizer and that your main choice when deciding on a fertilizer is whether to buy a manufactured version or create your own.

I’ve also explained that orchids should be fed whenever they are watered and that a low concentration of fertilizer should be used.

Finally, I explained how different potting mediums may affect your orchid feeding technique.

I hope you’ve found this useful and if you have any further questions or require any more clarity, please drop me an email at info@care-of-orchids.info or leave a comment below (I can’t promise to answer all questions individually but I do try and answer as many as I can).

Danny

How To Take Care of Orchids

Hey Guys,

In this post, I want to provide you with some general information on how to take care of orchids.

How you take care of your orchids will vary depending on the genus and species of orchid you are growing (check out some of the most popular types of orchid here) and your geographical location as well as smaller factors such as the type of mix your orchid is potted in.

Despite these differences, there are also many similarities in the field of orchid care and in this post I will be discussing general advice that can be applied to almost all orchids in almost all situations.

I’ve split the post into five categories that are perhaps the most important factors to successfully taking care of orchids; Light, Water, Fertilizer, Temperature and Humidity.

It is these environmental factors that decide whether or not an orchid will survive when growing in the wild – domestic orchids have the added advantage that their carer (you) can manipulate their surroundings to create the optimum environment for them to thrive.

Get these right and you will have beautiful blooming orchids that you can be proud of :)


Light

Sunlight is a requirement for all life in the Plant Kingdom.

The process of photosynthesis means orchids can convert carbon dioxide into sugars, using energy from sunlight.

Orchid leaves act like solar panels that collect the sun’s energy, so it is important tho make sure your orchid is situated somewhere where it is exposed to plenty of daylight or it will die.

Conversely, if an orchid is placed in direct sunlight, the sun’s rays can damage the leaves, so maintaining the optimum balance is vital.

Most indoor orchids should ideally be placed close to a window but not in direct sunlight. If you choose to place your orchid on a windowsill, ensure that it is not exposed to direct sunlight by using shades or blinds.

The color of your orchids foliage is a great indication of whether it is getting too much or too little light. If your orchid has vibrant bright green leaves, it is getting an optimum amount of sunlight.

Cool, dark green leaves indicate that your orchid is getting insufficient light, whilst warm yellow or red foliage indicates too much light.

Black spots or white areas with a black rim are signs that your orchid has been sunburned.

Water

The next factor vital to an orchid’s survival (and all terrestrial life) is water.

Water is required for many of the biochemical reactions that occur within the plant as well as performing many other essential functions for life.

The frequency of watering will depend on your geographical location and the temperature and the humidity of your orchid’s environment so advising to water it once a week or once every ten days would not be very good advice.

Therefore, orchids should be watered as soon as the medium they are potted in is almost dry to the touch. A useful technique is to poke your pinky finger into the potting media to see how moist it is. If it feels dry or nearly dry, it is time to water your orchid. If it is moist, your orchid doesn’t need watering.

Most orchids should be watered by thoroughly rinsing the potting media with collected rainwater at room temperature (and a little fertilizer – see below) and then allowing the excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot. This process should be performed twice.

The video below is a great tutorial on how you should water your orchid.



Allowing excess water to drain is very important as most orchids require a good circulation of air around the roots, which pockets of water can prevent. If this happens the roots will become soft, squidgy and pungent and start to rot (learn more about root rot here).

Fertilizer

Fertilizer provides your orchid with needed nutrients that help it to grow and remain healthy.

In the wild, orchids will get their nutrients from surrounding debris such as rotting leaves. Domestic orchids will receive traces of nutrition from rainwater you give to them (see above).

You should also supply your orchids with nutrients every time you water them by diluting a little fertilizer in the water.

Three of the most important nutrients an orchid needs are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium and many orchid fertilizers are labelled using what is known as the NPK ratio; N for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorous and K for Potassium.

A good balanced orchid fertilizer, such as this one, has an NPK of 20-20-20, which basically means that the fertilizer contains 20% Nitrogen, 20% Phosphorous and 20% Potassium. The other 40% is made up of other elements, molecules and minerals.

A balanced fertilizer is ideal for most orchids, however a notable exception are orchids growing in fir bark potting media. These orchids will need a higher concentration of Nitrogen because the Nitrogen is also used by the bacteria that is decaying the bark. Therefore a 30-10-10 fertilizer is a better choice in this situation.

Only a very small amount of fertilizer needs to added to your water, so don’t go overboard – orchids have adapted to scavenging for whatever nutrients come their way.


Temperature

Most orchids will be live happily in normal household temperatures that are comfortable for humans, so don’t assume that you need to provide your orchids with the sub-tropical temperature it may have in the wild.

The only problems you might experience is if your orchid gets too cold during the winter nights (when the heating has been turned off). If you notice your orchid weakening at this time of year, you may have to increase the temperature of your home by leaving the heating on a little in the evening.

Temperatures that are too high can also damage your orchid although this is really only a problem if you live in a region with a particularly high climate. An average temperature of between 60 degees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit will cater for the needs of almost all orchids.

Humidity

The final factor to consider is humidity of the environment around your orchid.

Orchids take in water from the air through their leaves for the same reasons that water is needed to be sucked up through the roots.

Similar to the advice given above in the ‘Temperature’ section, most orchids will be fine in the average household, without the need for any additional humidity. Your orchid should be getting enough water from their roots.

Saying that, some orchid growers have had success by increasing the humidity levels around their orchid.

Humidity can be increased artificially by misting your orchid with a spray bottle or using a humidity tray.

Misting should be performed early in the day so that the majority of the water will have evaporated by night time. Droplets that remain on the orchid’s foliage for extended periods can result in rotting.

A humidity tray is simply a tray of water that sits below your orchid pot, increasing the humidity around your orchid as the water evaporates and rises. You can buy them from Amazon or other retailers or check out this page to learn how to construct your own humidity tray.

Orchid Q&A: The roots are pungent and the stems are shriveling badly…

Hey guys,

Today’s question comes from Bob Billbrough. Bob asked us:

Hi, I am at a loss for ideas when it comes to my orchids. The roots are pungent and the stems are shriveling badly. Do you have any suggestions as to how to help me get my orchids back on their feet? Thank you in advance, Bob

And here’s my reply:

Hi Bob,

It sounds like your orchid is suffering from root rot caused by over-watering. Too much water around the roots stops them getting the air they need and causes them to rot and become dysfunctional. Because the roots aren’t working properly, they’re unable provide water to the leaves, which is why the leaves have become shriveled.
If your orchid is in the later stages of root rot, it will be very difficult to save, however I’m hoping that this is only a recent occurance.
To save it, you’ll need to remove your orchid from it’s pot and check the roots out. Any bad roots should be snipped off with a pair of sterilized scissors or cutters. Bad roots can be recognised as they will be soft, mushy and perhapsoff-colour (not the healthy white colour of normal roots).
After removing the rotting roots, repot your orchid in a new pot with fresh potting mix.
Ensure there is adequate drainage and take a look at this video to see how orchids should be watered to prevent a similar mishap in the future:
http://www.care-of-orchids.info/how-to-water-phalaenopsis-orchids
Only water your orchid when the mix has become dry and ensure most of the water drains straight through the mix and out of the holes in the bottom of the pot leaving the mix moist but wet.

Five Popular Types of Orchid (With Pictures)

Hey guys,

I thought I’d kick off this blog with a post about some of the different types of orchids that you can grow.

With over 20’000 currently recognized species spread over 880 genera, the Orchidacae is one of the largest families of flowering plants (and that doesn’t include hybrids or cultivars), so listing every single one of them would be a mammoth task!

Instead, I’ve chosen five of the most popular types of orchid; Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Dendrobium, Cattleya and Cymbidium.


Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis (often called Moth Orchids or shortened to simply Phals) are perhaps the most common orchid available. Many florists and other outlets such as supermarkets and grocery stores will stock moth orchids, so you won’t need to visit a specialist supplier to purchase one (although there is the risk that they may not have been looked after properly).

They are mostly epiphytic (which means they grow on trees or other objects) although a few species are lithophytes (which means they grow on rocks).

A single stem will grow one or two large leaves each year from the top, whilst older leaves (lower down the stem) will drop off.

They are dubbed moth orchids because their flowers closely resemble a moth with it’s wings spread (see picture). Flowers appear from spikes that grow from the stem between the leaves once a year and can last anywhere between a few weeks and a few months. The number of flowers on a single plant can vary.

Phals are one of the easiest orchids to grow and are recommended for beginners.

Paphiopedilum Orchid

Paphiopedilum Orchid

Paphiopedilum

Paphiopedilum (also called Slipper Orchids, Lady Slipper Orchids or simply Paphs) are another very common type of orchid.

They are mostly terrestrial orchids because they live on land, usually in the bark and humus of the forest floor although a few are epiphytes and lithophytes.

They are identifiable by the slipper-shaped, which “pouch” they have on the lower part of their blooms (other rarer genera also have this characteristic and are called similarly slipper orchids, but if you see an orchid with a pouch, 9 times out of 10 it will be a Paph).

Paphs are sequential bloomers, which means each spike will only produce one flower at a time, but as the bloom wilts, another will grow to replace it.

Paphs are fairly easy to care for and another good choice for beginner orchid growers.


Dendrobium Orchid

Dendrobium Orchid

Dendrobium

Dendrobiums is one of the largest genus of orchids, being made up of over a thousand species.

They are mostly epiphytic although a few are lythophytic.

Unlike the monopodial growth habit of phals and paphs, dendrobiums grow pseudobulbs on leaf stems, which are basically a form of food and water storage.

They grow rapidly during the summer months but slow down during the winter and it may appear they have become dormant.

Flowers grow in clusters of between 1 and 100 at the end of the stems making them one of the most beautiful orchids to look at,however they can be more difficult to grow and get to bloom than phals and paphs.


Cattleya Orchid

Cattleya Orchid

Cattleya

Cattleya orchids originated from Central and South America and is perhaps the most recognized of all orchids – an image of the Cattleya’s flowers is what would appear in many people’s mind when thinking of orchids.

They are epiphytic and, like dendrobiums, produce pseudobulbs to store food and water.

They have wonderful large, showy flowers but sadly only bloom for a few weeks each year. The flowers usually consist of three narrow sepals and three larger petals (see picture). Each flower stalk will grow from the pseudobulb and the number of flowers can vary, although in the majority of cases they are in single figures.


Cymbidium Orchid

Cymbidium Orchid

Cymbidium

Cymbidiums (also known as Boat Orchids) are a genus that produce some of the most beautiful orchid flowers in the World, consisting of a wide range of colors including white, green, yellow, brown, pink, red,orange and various shades in between.

They are sympodial and, like Dendrobiums and Cattleya, make use of pseudobulbs for moisture and nutrient storage. They grow in the wild as terrestrial, lithophytic and epiphytic orchids.

Cymbidiums bloom in the winter or early spring and are a lot more robust when contending with colder temperatures than orchids in other genera. Their beauty combined with their toughness make them an ideal choice for the beginner orchid grower.

 

 

Welcome!

Hey guys,

Welcome to my brand new blog, ‘How To Take Care of Orchids’.

I’ll be using this website to discuss growing and caring for orchids – you can read a little about why I set up this blog on the About page.

Over time, I hope to build up a comprehensive and useful resource for orchid enthusiasts and I’d also like to encourage reader participation by publishing articles, photos, orchid diaries etc that are submitted by the community.

If you’d like to get your stuff published here, drop me an email at info@care-of-orchids.info.

This blog will be a lot more informal than my main Care of Orchids website and I’m hoping this will allow me to inject a lot more personality and character into my orchid writing – and maybe make one or two new friends :)

Danny