Friday, March 30, 2012

Dendrobium (Orchid)

Orchids are some of the most beautiful and intriguing plants with their unique form and spectacular flower displays, so it’s no wonder that many indoor gardeners are eager to add a few to their houseplant collection. One of the most popular Orchids is the Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid) because they are quite easy to grow. But they’re not alone in the spotlight. Dendrobium is another favorite amongst houseplant enthusiasts.

Dendrobium, a large genus widely spread in different regions of Asia and Oceania, consists of over 1000 species of Orchids. Most of them are epiphytic (grow on another plant), but there are several that are lithophytic (grow on rocks). In addition, these Orchids can be deciduous (a plant that sheds most or all of its leaves after the growing season) or evergreen (a plant that retains its leaves year-round).

Although a Dendrobium Orchid is not the easiest plant to grow, it’s not exactly the hardest either, as long as you provide proper care. One of the first things you will discover about these plants is that there are two major groups of hybrids: Dendrobium Nobile (extremely popular) and Dendrobium Phalaenopsis (flowers resemble the ones on the Moth Orchid). Because Dendrobiums have adapted to a variety of growing conditions in their native areas, it’s best to learn about their natural habitat so you can provide them with the care they need. When you purchase a Dendrobium, make sure you ask what type it is.

Here are some general care tips:

When growth begins at the end of winter, water a D. Nobile sparingly until flower buds are well developed, then water moderately but regularly. Reduce watering as the summer comes to an end and water very little in the winter, just enough to prevent the pseudobulbs from withering. D. Phalaenopsis should be kept evenly moist in spring and summer while the pseudobulbs are flowering and growing. Once they are well developed and the plant is not growing as rapidly, gradually reduce watering. Allow the medium to dry somewhat between thorough watering sessions. In the winter time, water moderately; do not allow the pseudobulbs to shrink.

(Pseudobulb: A thickened, bulblike, fleshy stem located above the ground, as in many orchids)

Grow Dendrobiums in an airy, fast-draining medium specific to Orchids. Use a pot that is just large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system; Dendrobiums enjoy feeling a little snug in their containers. If you are using a plastic pot, you may need to provide some type of support that will prevent the plant, which can get quite top heavy, from toppling over.

Ideal growing conditions include bright light with about 2 – 4 hours of direct sun. Plants may need protection against the hot midday sun (11 am – 3 pm) but they will flourish with the full morning sun of an eastern windowsill, the indirect sun of a southern location or the late afternoon sun of a western spot. When given proper amounts of light, the leaves of a Dendrobium are a medium to light green shade, and quite firm. If light levels are too low, the leaves will be long, floppy and dark green, and if they are too high, leaves may turn yellow.

During the winter rest period, it’s best to provide a D. Nobile with cooler temperatures: between 16°C - 18°C (61°F - 64°F) during the day and 10°C - 13°C (50°F - 55°F) at night. During the active growing season, average room temperatures are fine. D. Phalaenopsis enjoys warm temperatures throughout the year, and can even cope with levels as high as 30°C (86°F). Ideal levels for this Orchid are between 24°C - 29°C (75°F - 85°F) during the day and 16°C – 18°C (60°F – 65°F) at night. Do not expose to temperatures below 15°C (59°F) for prolonged periods.

These Orchids do best with humidity levels between 60 – 70 percent, but they will manage, and even bloom, in slightly lower levels. To add more moisture in the air, place the plant’s pot on a pebble tray filled with water, add a humidifier nearby or grow in a terrarium or heated greenhouse.

Information on feeding these plants is wide and extremely diverse. Depending on who’s telling the story, you will be advised to feed every week, every two weeks or every month. But there is no exact science to this. Feeding depends on where your plant is placed, and how vigorous the growth is. If your plant is not actively growing, feed it infrequently (about once a month) with diluted levels of fertilizer (1/8 – ¼ recommended strength). If it’s growing in leaps and bounds, feed more often (every week or every second week). Use fertilizer for Orchids.

A Dendrobium Orchid grows very well in hydroculture. Adaptation to the soilless system is quick and easy with little or no symptoms of stress. This is not surprising since most of these Orchids are epiphytic and prefer not to be grown in soil. From my own experience, it seems that the plant retains its flowers during the conversion period, which is fabulous, although I would recommend that you transplant after the flowering period ends – just in case.

Like all Orchids, Dendrobiums will live indefinitely under ideal conditions. And their flower displays last for several weeks, even months, making them that much more desirable as indoor plants.

10 comments:

  1. Martha you know so much about plants! I'm just a serial-killer when it comes to green things!

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    1. I love them, so I needed to learn how to keep them alive :)

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  2. Orchids are so beautiful. I see them for sale quite often, but have been afraid to buy one for obvious reasons!

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    1. They are beautiful. But they do need a little work.

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  3. You're not going to trick me into getting another orchid, Martha. I see what you're doing.

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  4. I've often looked longingly at orchids, but I've always been afraid to get into a relationship with one, lest I kill it with kindness. Maybe now I'll give it a try!!

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    1. Giving one a try is worth it. If it doesn't work out, you can always say that at least you gave it your best shot.

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  5. Hi Martha, I have a purple Dendrobium Orchid plant, flowers twice a year, last week I have noticed that 2 new plants are growing off two stems!
    what should I do ? is my orchid dying ? shall I try to plant the new shoots before cutting them of the parent plant ? Please help, I love my orchids and I hate to see any of them dying.
    Thank you

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    1. Hi Nada! That is wonderful that your plant flowers twice a year; it must be thriving under your care. I don't think your plant is dying, just making babies, which is great. Those babies can be removed from the mama plant and potted up on their own when they are ready.

      Here's an article that will help:

      When to Remove New Plants From the Side of Orchids

      Good luck!

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