National Orchid Day, April 16


By: Jonathan Milbrodt

The eye-catching flowers of Orchids have made them one of our nation’s favorite potted plants, especially tropical Orchids which gained in popularity centuries ago from early European explorers. The Orchid Family (Orchidaceae) is actually one of the largest plant families with thousands of different species from all around the world, and over 100 of those species native to North America. 

Orchids vary greatly in where and how they grow as well as their requirements for optimal growth. The two main types of Orchids include Terrestrial Orchids which grow on the ground, and Epiphytic Orchids which are accustomed to grow above ground in trees in mostly tropical climates and have sponge-like roots to absorb water and nutrients. Examples of Terrestrial Orchids include the many species of Lady’s Slipper Orchids (Paphiopedilum & Cypripedium) which get their common names from the unique shoe-like shape of the flower. An example of an Epiphytic Orchid would be Corsage Orchids (Cattleya) which can be quite large and hard to grow indoors, but there are many miniature hybrids available that are easy to care for. Within Terrestrial and Epiphytic Orchids, some are monopodial which form new leaves at the top of stems while the lower leaves eventual die. Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) are monopodial species and can be the most easy to grow as a houseplant and has thick, waxy flowers that can last over a month. Other Orchids are sympodial which spread horizontally in multi-stemmed clumps with new growth emerging from a rhizome including the species of terrestrial Lady’s Slipper Orchids.

With so many species of Orchids, they can be diverse in their light and water requirements. Corsage Orchids should be watered when they are dried out and Moth Orchids should be watered only when the soil is almost dried out, where Lady’s Slipper Orchids should stay just slightly on the moist side continuously. Growing tropical Orchids indoors can be challenging as most need plenty of light for re-flowering to occur, so usually a south facing window is the best option, otherwise supplemental light from growing lamps may be needed. Some Orchids, like many of the Epiphytic Orchids, may need some protection from the peak sun during the heat of the day and might do better in an east facing window. Also, to help trigger optimum flowering, slightly fluctuating temperatures between day and night of just 10-15F degrees is ideal. Most indoor Orchids will eventually need to be re-potted, so be sure to do that only after the flowering cycle has completed.

Next time you are hiking in the Metroparks, be sure to keep an eye out for any rare native Orchids in bloom such as the Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium parviflorum) while enjoying the other spring wildflowers from the trail such as White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) or Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

Pictured: Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium parviflorum)

#foryouforusforever #getoutsideyourself #publicgardens #nationalorchidday

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