Gardening & More: Want flowers inside during winter? Try orchids
People think these flowers are difficult to grow, but modern orchid hybridizing has created a wide variety of orchids that you can grow easily inside your home, according to Joseph A. DiDomenico Jr. of Elma, president of the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society.
The Niagara Frontier Orchid Society will hold its annual show from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 and from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo.
Each day, educational programs will be held on growing orchids and other aspects of indoor gardening. Vendors will be present to sell orchids and supplies.
What sets orchids apart from other houseplants is that they are epiphytic: They grow above the dirt and use other plants or objects for support. In their natural habitats, you will find them growing on trees, rocks and the surface of the ground rather than tunneling into the dirt.
“The hardest part is to get people to understand that you’re not putting them in dirt,” DiDomenico said.
In order to convince an orchid to grow in a pot, you must use a potting mixture that does two things. First, the mixture must allow air in and second, it must retain the proper amount of moisture without staying too wet.
“The one negative in our houses is the humidity,” DiDomenico said. “Otherwise, the environment is like the tropics, and most orchids are tropical in origin.”
Having a “tropical” plant does not demand that you have to turn up the thermostat for orchids. Normal room temperature is fine. In fact, DiDomenico keeps orchids in his sun room, which is cool; the lower temperatures may prolong blooming.
A south-facing window with a light shade, east or west windows should provide sufficient light for orchids.
Because our homes are often dry in the winter, pay close attention to watering. Generally, water once a week and adjust as needed. If the medium dries quickly, water the plant more often. If it dries slowly, water it less frequently.
If the leaves get limp, you probably have a watering problem, although limp leaves can be a symptom of either under- or over-watering. Look at the roots. If the roots look wet and rotted, that is a sign of over-watering. If they are dry, you are under-watering.
If the pot is clear, you can view the roots right through the pot. If your pot is opaque, take the plant out to check. “Don’t be afraid; you won’t hurt a thing,” DiDomenico said.
To fertilize, prepare one gallon of water mixed with one-fourth strength orchid fertilizer. After watering your plant and draining it, pour a cup of the fertilizer solution onto the plant mix and allow it to drain through, as well.
If you have a problem with your orchid or if you need an orchid re-potted, you can get help from the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society from 9 a.m. - noon on Wednesdays at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The society also cares for the orchids at the Botanical Gardens.
Meetings of the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society are held at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday (following the first Sunday) of each month in greenhouse No. 10 at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The next meeting will be held March 6. Guests are welcome.
Do not be afraid to try growing orchids. They’re relatively inexpensive, so there is no pressure to maintain them for years. Think of poinsettias: Most people enjoy them over the holidays and buy a new plant the next year.
There is nothing wrong with simply enjoying the orchid blooms while they last – which can be weeks or months.
That means you should have blooms around until the crocuses come up.
Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of http://Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.