Orchid Tips for Beginners

Tips for Beginners

Growing orchids is not difficult once you have mastered some of the ground-rules. Here are a few tips and reminders.

  • Attend the annual Spring Orchid Fair at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin which is usually held in April (This is free and open to all).
  • Always water your orchids from the top of the pot and allow the water to drain through. Avoid splashing water on the leaves and never allow the plants to sit in water-filled trays. In general: water weekly during the summer and monthly from November to March.
  • When feeding your orchids try and obtain a fertiliser specifically for orchids. If you cannot obtain one then ordinary houseplant fertiliser will suffice but use at no more than a quarter of the manufacturers recommended concentration.
  • Always use good quality orchid bark in which to grow your plants. Some of the ones sold in supermarkets are unsuitable. Never use multipurpose house plant composts or John Innes types. The best source of bark is the Irish Orchid Society or from a specialist nursery which is usually for sale at the Spring Orchid Fair held at Glasnevin Botanical Gardens.
  • New growth on many tropical orchids may not begin until mid-July in Ireland, even in a greenhouse, so don’t panic. Once growth commences it should become rapid until the end of the season in October by which time the new pseudobulbs should have fully fattened.
  • Arguably orchids grow better in plastic pots. You may see them for sale growing in transparent plastic pots but these are unnecessary. In fact most do as well or better in standard brown opaque ones. Clay pots are satisfactory but they tend to dry out the bark too quickly which can stress the plant and because of their heavy weight it is also more difficult to gauge when watering is required.
  • Don’t be put off growing orchids because of their Latin names!
  • When faced with having to choose an orchid from a group offered for sale of the same type, always select the one with largest pseudobulbs even if it doesn’t have the most flowers. It is the strongest plant and will probably do better for you in the long term.
  • It is not advisable to buy orchids from outside the EU. Orchids for sale from the far-east are frequently advertised for sale on eBay. It is illegal to import any orchids from outside the EU without the completion of expensive CITES and phytosanitary certification.
  • Never buy orchids with yellow or black patterns on their leaves such as rings, diamonds, yellow streaks or mosaics as these may be symptoms of virus infection.
  • Surf the net. Start by looking at orchidwire.com Take notes of your favourites. You may find yourself wishing to focus on a particular orchid genera as many of our members already do.
  • Finally don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Achieving success will be all the sweeter in the end.

Everyone can grow at least some type of orchid. By joining the Irish Orchid Society you can discuss the growing environment you can provide with our experienced horticulturists who will advise you on which ones to consider. This will save you heartache and from making costly mistakes.