Are Orchids hard to grow?

For the past few years, we’ve been hearing the same few phrases:

“Orchids are so hard to grow!”

“They’re so beautiful! But I just kill them.”

“I get them in bloom and then they never rebloom again.”

It’s true that there are a few things about orchids that make them different than other houseplants.  In the wild, they usually grow as epiphytes or lithophytes, which simply means they grow on trees or on rocks.  Their roots need oxygen and absorb moisture and nutrients from their environment.

In order to bring the beauty of their blooming spikes into our homes, we need to understand what makes them different and help them adjust to a potted environment.

The key to raising orchids lies in their roots.

Traditionally, they have been potted primarily in a coarse bark mix.  This was intended to retain some moisture for them to draw from but still give their roots air flow.  Over time, when watered thoroughly, the media will start to break down and essentially suffocate the roots, causing rotting.  Annual replacement of traditional media helps to eliminate this problem.

The downside to repotting your orchid annually is that it shocks the plant which can set back the growth cycle for up to two months.

When we discovered semi-hydroponics, we were experiencing all of the difficulties many face when using traditional potting methods.  With even a small collection, it can take a substantial amount of time each week to water each orchid thoroughly, making sure the roots are fully saturated.  With even a small collection, monthly fertilizing and annual repotting can be tedious.

Roots of an Oncidium orchid six months after conversion to semi-hydroponics

It didn’t take long to see the benefits of this growing method.  Each watering provides consistent moisture and fertilizer.  Instead of disturbing the plant each year, I watch as the new growths mature quickly.  Pseudobulb growths are plump and healthy.

Instead of minutes spent at a sink, watering now takes seconds.

Instead of struggling portions of roots, I find them filling the containers with healthy growth.

Orchids grow new roots for this new environment, and once established they can use their energy toward growth and bloom cycles without the setbacks caused by traditional growing methods.

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