People have different motivations for growing and caring for orchids. Some like to compete in prestigious contests. Others raise orchids for profit, and still others grow them in the hopes of creating a more beautiful flower via crossbreeding. Whatever the reasons, orchid enthusiasts can agree on common issues — like ensuring these blooms survive the winter.
We offer the following tips on how to help your precious orchids make it through the colder time of year.
As available sunlight becomes scarcer during the winter months, move your orchids to a sunnier spot. A good location to make the most of sunlight when days are shortest this season is at an east-west position. Add a grow light if the orchid is a type that needs a higher light intensity, such as the cattleya, dendrobium or vanda.
You can see if the amount of light is too much for the orchid by observing the leaves; it’s too much light if they turn yellowish-green or red. If the leaves turn dark green, it’s exposed to too little. Also, feel the leaves. If they’re warmer to the touch than the ambient air, it’s overexposed to sunlight and should be moved to a darker spot.
You can also control the amount of sunlight your orchids receive without constantly moving them by using greenhouse window shades. Using shades to limit or maximize sunlight exposure for your orchids can more easily be done with the industry leading automated versions we install.
Watch the Temperature
Common types of orchids require a temperature of between 55° and 80° F to thrive. Should the temperature average 60° to 65° F, you must resort to artificial means of raising the ambient temperature. Adjust the thermostat, or you can augment it with the use of cheaper portable heaters. Never expose the orchids to higher temperatures by placing them near fireplaces or heating vents. The heat needed by orchids must be humid, not dry.
Water them Right
Regardless of the weather or season, it’s common practice to water orchids early in the day, so they dry out by evening. To prevent your orchids suffering from cold burn, water your orchids less often in the winter. Your orchid container’s size likewise dictates how often you need to water them. A 6-inch pot requires water every seven days, while a 4-inch pot, five to six days.
The potting medium used by the orchid is also important; an orchid set on bark needs more water than an orchid set in sphagnum moss. Note that bark tends to dry out faster than sphagnum moss, but a bark-mounted orchid’s roots may be sufficiently moist.
Poke the pot with your finger about an inch into the pot; if you feel moisture, don’t add any more water. Your orchid’s potting medium should be damp, not soggy, and never bone-dry.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better for orchids to be slightly under-watered in winter as less water means less moisture in the plant cells, as excess moisture could crystallize and kill the orchid.
Should something go wrong and your orchid or orchids appear to have perished, don’t assume they’re dead and send them to the compost heap– they may have life left in them and can be revived.
When this happens, let the orchid medium dry, and keep it in a humid area (you can use humidifiers), away from direct heat and sunlight.
Don’t water the orchid and wait for new sprouts to grow. Once there are new sprouts, water the orchid with plain water, then follow up with a small dose of fertilizer and elements as new roots grow. You may even notice that this winter shock your orchid experiences may trigger new buds and flowering.
Ensuring your orchids survive the winter is a delicate balance. Apply the right amount of water, light, and temperature. If the worst happens and it appears that your orchid or orchids have died, don’t give up on them and treat them as if they were newly re-potted.
Reduce the light exposure, apply some fertilizer and nutrients, space watering by 10 to 12 days, and your orchid could come back from the brink and make it through the winter.
And if you’d like to tilt the odds in favor of your orchids surviving the cold, choose the more acclimated species like cymbidiums, masdevallias, miltonias, odontoglossums, oncidiums, plain-leaved paphiopedilums or sophronitis orchids.
If you found this information on orchid care during winter interesting, we have other resources you can read.
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