Orchid Mania !

Picture the summer heat. One of the first things that jumps to mind is a kid enjoying ice cream! Did you know that the vanilla bean comes from an orchid? Orchids are unique, in that most of them are epiphytes i.e. they take their nutrients from the air instead of the soil and do not require a potting medium at all. Their flowers stay fresh for 2-3 months (I am a lucky witness!) and people claim as much as 6-12 months! With a life span of upto 50 years and over 30,000 varieties in existence, the world of orchids is truly worth exploring!

Can ANYONE grow orchids?

Yes! Orchids are the easiest to grow and hardest to kill. While they typically grow in deserts, mountains or tropical rainforests, they can thrive in Delhi due to the hot and humid climate!
They require filtered sunlight, warmth, heat and humidity.

How to start? (being an Orchid-ner = its like a gardener but you know, orchid specific)

You will need the following items:

The only necessary condition is for the container to have holes. The holes are key because orchids hate soggy feet (just like we humans hate wet socks). Improper drainage could lead to root rot. Start with a clay pot or a simple wooden basket (diameter=5 inch).  Pack the container with coco chips/husk, brick pieces and charcoal (2 parts-1 part-1 part respectively). Charcoal absorbs extra water, fertilizer and bad odour, keeping your orchids feeling and smelling fresh! Dendrobiums and Cattelyas do particularly well in Delhi (see pictures below, clicked in my garden, courtesy: mom). Take the sapling and simply place it inside the pot. Ensure that the roots are ventilated and not placed too deep inside the pot. Water orchids only when the medium appears dry, as overwatering can kill them. The plants need indirect or “filtered” sunlight only, so place them beneath a tree or underneath a green net. To make them bloom frequently, orchids need to be fertilized “weakly weekly”! (a weak dose, once a week). NPK can be mixed with water (a pinch of NPK to a litre of water) and sprayed on the orchid.

This video provides more detail on how to fertilise your orchid: 

Seasonal care

During the winters, put orchids in the warmest corner of your terrace or balcony, or indoors. They are not fans of the cold, you see. During hot months of May and June characterised by low humidity, spray them twice a day and protect them from the harsh sunlight. You could also prepare humidity trays with pebbles and place the plant on top of those for a cooling effect. Simply arrange pebbles on a tray and add water until the pebbles are submerged. Alternatively, keep your orchids next to a small fountain.

Gauging the health of your orchid (become an Orchid-Doc)

How can you tell if your orchid is healthy? Its easier than you think. Light green leaves indicate that your orchid is getting just the right amount of sunlight, so good job! Dark green leaves, and your orchids are getting too little sun. Place it in a brighter patch! Yellow leaves, and its getting too much sun. And if the leaves have holes, the sun has begun to burn the leaves, so move your orchid ASAP.

Why invest your time in orchids?

While orchids require diligent care, they are extremely rewarding. Moreover, once you have successfully grown one, there is no looking back. You get bitten by what is called the orchid fever: a hunger to grow more of these exotic plants! The coconut orchid (1) for example is extremely fragrant, the lady slipper orchid (2) and dancing lady orchid (3) are enthralling and the pineapple orchid (5) is spectacular! Weird as they are, the monkey (6) and dove orchids (4) are bound to leave you speechless as they oddly appear to be extending into the animal kingdom (only visibly though)!

My mom introduced me to this incredible species and taught me all about how to care for them. This article is an attempt to welcome you to the delightful world of orchids. Feel free to explore, as many wonders await you, Happy Orchid-nering!

About the author

Nishka is a mythology buff and considers herself a food connoisseur. During her time off from her finance job, she can be found devouring truffle fries. Frequently visiting wildlife reserves has made her more sensitive towards the environment

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