Most of the orchids we grow, personally as well as for sale, are in the Cattleya Alliance. They were once popular in making corsages and cut flowers, and are known for their large, showy blooms.
We find Cattleyas to be extremely easy to grow. They are fairly temperature tolerant and enjoy as bright of an environment as you can give them without direct harsh sunlight. Blooms generally last for 2 to 4 weeks and many are fragrant.
They grow very well in a semi-hydroponic system. We generally fill the reservoir once every week to ten days. They do best when allowed to dry thoroughly in between waterings. This might mean less frequency during the cooler months or when plants become mature and are in larger containers.
- Wikipedia: Cattleya
- American Orchid Society: Cattleya for Beginners
- American Orchid Society: The Showy Cattleya, Queen of the Orchids
We have grown several thousand oncidiums over the last fifteen years, and enjoy their long lasting and fascinating blooms. From long spider shapes to large butterflies, what they sometimes lack in size they make up for in quantity.
There is a lot of diversity among the oncidium orchids and their hybrids. They grow well in semi-hydroponics, and reward us with blooms sometimes several times per year. It is important to let them get very root bound before increasing their container size, and to take care not to overpot them. Generally, they prefer medium to bright light, with no direct sun. The rate of growth can be quite fast!
Perhaps the most well known are the Phalaenopsis, popular as a sales plant because of the longevity of their flowers. Bloom spikes can last for weeks to months.
Although we do not grow them for sale, we have several proud specimens in our personal collection that do very well grown this way. We have found that they tend to need less frequent watering, depending on your environment, and do best when the reservoir is not refilled until there is no sign of moisture in the container.
Like the Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium orchids can enjoy long lasting bloom spikes. They are the second largest genus of orchids, with great diversity in their flowers.
Dendrobiums grow wonderfully in this system. They have often grown severely out of their container before we got around to giving them a larger one, but they do best when rootbound. They need a very bright environment for the most impressive blooms.
These slippers could not be easier to grow if you keep to these rules:
- Keep them wet.
- Grow them bright.
In nature, Phragmipediums are often found growing on riverbanks. Unlike most orchids, they do not enjoy drying out between waterings. In our greenhouse, this means filling the reservoir every 2 to 3 days, depending on the weather.
Because these slippers like to be kept moist, keeping their mix fresh can be a daunting task. Some of the best growers I know replace their medium every 6 months. With semi-hydroponics, it has been easy to grow them without any repotting. Because the clay will never break down, there is no need to ever replace it. We keep moisture in the pots easily by filling the reservoir more often, and just give them a bigger container when they need it.
- Wikipedia: Phragmipedium
- American Orchid Society: Growing Paphiopedilums and Phragmipediums in your Home
These orchids generally grow on the forest floor and therefore do not need much brightness at all to bloom. Paphiopedilums are the other well-known slipper group, however their growth habits are far different.
We converted several hundred Paphs to the semi-hydroponic system when we first learned about it. After several years, we noticed that half were growing wonderfully, and the other half just sort of sat around doing not much of anything at all. Any that weren’t adapting well, we transferred to a free-draining container (no reservoir). Soon they were catching up for lost time! We have since learned that it is likely the influence of Paph. brachypetalum. For most Paphs now, we start off growing with the clay pebbles and without the reservoir, and water several times per week.
Our Vandas are very near to our hearts. Unlike most orchids, the more you pamper them, the more they reward you, with long lasting blooms that can appear sometimes 4-5 times per year!
Vandaceous orchids generally do not like to be potted at all. We start our seedlings in a small basket of pine bark. Whatever grows out after that, stays out. Used to living in the tops of rainforest trees, they like a lot of brightness. Generally grown bare root, they do best when watered daily. Skip too many days, and the plant may survive, but you won’t see those beautiful flowers for months of pampering again.
Other Orchid Groups