Thursday, January 27, 2022

Orchid Care: Tips from the Experts

Linda with “Brother Lancer,” a Phalaenopsis she received as a gift 18 years ago. It has produced many keikis over the years and is still going strong. Brother Lancer is the “Phal” with huge green leaves.

The Calusa Garden Club (CGC) reached out to two orchid experts for a presentation on orchid care. Linda Shockley and Charlette Roman have been growing orchids for 18 years with over 300 orchids in their collection. Both are founding members of the Gulf Coast Orchid Alliance in Naples and recipients of orchid and cultural awards.

When Charlette first started growing orchids she attended an orchid culture class once a week for eight weeks and came away with the knowledge. She told attendees, “This presentation is just to put your toe in the water and feel comfortable and confident in growing orchids.”

Linda’s first orchid was the Phalaenopsis (fayl-eh-NOP-sis), with a beautiful arching spray of big white flowers, like a moth in flight. She ended up killing it by doing two things wrong, “giving it too much water and giving it too much sun.”

Myths About Growing Orchids

Orchids are hard to grow. Linda remarked that orchids are not hard to grow as long as you know how to water them, give them lots of air, and the proper amount of sun.

Just add ice cubes. Most orchids are designed for warm and humid weather. Adding ice cubes will shock the plant.

Just leave them alone and they will be fine. If you put orchids in your landscape and leave them alone, ultimately snails, insects or fungus are going to get to them. Some regimen of fertilizer and pest treatment is suggested.

Tips on Orchid Care

Orchids in the Landscape: For Phalaenopsis, mount them so the crown is facing down so water does not collect in its crown. Be sure roots are secured so it can grab onto the tree using old pantyhose, knee highs, fishing line or zip ties. Snip them off once roots are fully anchored.

Pest Control: Linda uses Dual Action Baer Advance Rose and Flower Insect Killer, and sprays all parts of the orchids. This prevents insects such as thrips from chewing on the flower spikes and laying their eggs.

Fertilizer: Water mixed with fertilizer “weakly weekly.” Charlette recommends using fertilizer with the nitrogen coming from two sources: nitrates and ammonia compound. Avoid using fertilizer with urea which is meant for plants planted in soil.

Watering: Let the roots dry in between watering. Water only when the potting material has completely dried out.

The American Orchid Society website ( has a wealth of information about orchids.

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