Orchids can be successfully grown in the western Carolina mountains
You can keep your Phalaenopsis orchids outdoors for most of the year. Keep them out of direct sunlight, as the leaves will burn. Under the eaves of a porch out of the sun or in a tree-shaded area is adequate, as they prefer low light. Water them weekly and mist them daily if possible.
When the temperature drops below 45-50 degrees at night, it’s time to bring them in for the winter. Keep them in a north or east window, or a south window if you have sheer curtains to keep the direct sunlight off of them. Water deeply every 7-10 days.
Mist the leaves (but not the blooms) daily to keep the humidity high or place them in a pan on a bed of rocks with water under the pots for humidity. Take them back outside once nighttime temperatures are above 45 degrees.
Now, how to get them to rebloom, this is the easy part. Nature does it for you. After being outdoors all summer, once there is a difference of 15 degrees from daytime to nighttime temperatures such as we have in late August and September, the plants will set blooms. That’s all there is to it. The Phalaenopsis blooms usually once a year, but the blooms will last for many weeks and may rebloom on the same spike, so don’t cut the spikes completely off until they turn brown.
Fertilize your orchids every six weeks to two months, withholding fertilizer when they’re in bloom. Use a weak solution of orchid fertilizer— Stultz or Peters are both good — ¼ teaspoon to a gallon. I mix it in a pail, then immerse pot and all, up to the bottom leaves, for about 5 minutes to allow the potting medium to soak in the fertilizer. Fish emulsion is another good fertilizer if you can stand the smell. My orchid-growing pal in Florida uses good old Osmacote, about ¼ teaspon per pot, sprinkled on the medium about once every six months. Phalaenopsis are not picky eaters.
Here’s a trick I learned years ago, since obtaining orchids can be expensive: While at the stores that sell orchids, ask the department manager if you can have a discount on the ones that are going out of bloom. I can usually buy them for $5 or $6 that way, a huge savings. Then you just wait until next bloom season and you’ll have gorgeous orchids for next to nothing.
The Clay County Extension Office is located at 25 Riverside Circle, Suite 2, Hayesville. Call 389-6305.