Good Advice for Beginners
1. Buy only healthy plants with good roots. If you can’t see the roots, don’t
buy it. Buying struggling orchids and nursing them back to health will only
cause frustration. It can be done, but you need to learn the basics first. "You
will learn, grasshopper"
2. Stick to one type of orchid until you learn the culture requirements of
that particular type. Pick something that others in your area find easy to grow.
For example, the Cattleya alliance does very well in South Florida and has a lot
3. When you read advice don’t assume it applies to every orchid. For example:
advice on a Cattleya could be totally different than a Phalenopsis.
Additionally, all growing conditions are not created equal. Some hobbyists grow
their orchids outside hanging in trees where there is no protection from rain.
This must be taken into consideration when establishing a watering schedule.
Another opportunity for error is following advice on watering without taking
into consideration how the plant is potted or mounted and what materials are
4. When it comes to fertilizer, supplements, pesticides, fungicides, etc.
"Don’t overdo it". There are some proponents of fertilizing "weekly, weakly"
rather than full strength once a month. It is easy to burn delicate roots. Make
sure to follow labeling instructions. The label will also instruct when to avoid
mixing certain products together (called a tank mix).
5. More orchids are killed from overwatering than under watering. Orchids
with psuedobulbs (such as cattleyas) need to dry completely in between watering.
Psuedobulbs are water storage tanks, they hold water for your orchid to use
during dry periods. These type orchids are usually potted in a mix that allows
good drainage, pots must have large holes. They can also be grown without any
medium such as in an open basket or mounted. If there is no medium they will
need to be watered more of-ten. In the hot summer months daily watering may be
6. In nature, most orchids grow on trees, not in pots with media. Roots need
air. If growing your or-chids in pots, as opposed to mounting them, finer grade
media should be used on orchids that have fine roots, coarser medium for orchids
with thicker roots. (Again, there are exceptions, such as terres-trial orchids
that grow in the ground, but most orchids are epiphytes and grow on trees or
lithophytes and grow on rocks. )
7. Orchids without psuedobulbs to store water (such as Phals, Paphs and
Phrags) should not dry out too much between watering, which is why they are
usually potted in sphagnum or a mix that holds more moisture. They do not have
the ability to store water during dry periods.
8. If you are not getting blooms, most likely your orchids need more light.
If this is the case, you will need to adjust them gradually to so that the
leaves don’t sunburn. An easy way to accomplish this is to drape Spanish moss
over them and remove it a little at a time until adjusted.
9. Good air movement plays an important role in maintaining orchid health.
Bacterial rot and fungus are easier to avoid if plants are not too crowded
together . A fan can be very effective in moving air.
10. Cleanliness is extremely important to prevent spreading disease. When
buying plants, look at them carefully for any sign of pests or disease. Do not
use the same cutting tool from plant to plant without sterilizing after each
plant to prevent spreading disease. Single use razor blades are very
inexpensive, and can be purchased at Home Depot, 100 blades cost about $7.00.
Link to St. Augustine Orchid Society, Orchid Pests and Diseases: staugorchidsociety.org/PDF/OrchidPestsand DiseasesbySueBottom.pdf