If you've already grown an orchid or two and are looking for the next challenge, Tom Krischan says you might want to give one of these three types a try.
- Phragmipedium. These plants, similar to the Asian lady slipper orchid, are native to South America. Hybrids produce flower colors of pink, orange, yellow and green. Healthy plants often have more than one flower spike. My favorite is Phragmipedium Don Wimber.
- Encyclia. This genus is one of the smaller flowering orchids. It produces fascinating star-shaped to octopus-like flowers. The strangest variety is Encyclia Green Hornet, the octopus flower.
- Miltoniopsis, commonly called pansy orchids. These are cool-growing orchids that produce a vividly colored flower that looks somewhat similar to a garden pansy. These are cheery flowers with distinctive markings. My favorite is Miltoniopsis Saint Helier Lavender Charm.
More Orchid Growing Tips
Here are a few more tips from Tom Krischan to help orchids thrive in your home.
Orchid Food. Don't be fooled with the notion that you need a special fertilizer for orchids. You don't. Orchid fertilizer, rose fertilizer and garden flower fertilizer all contain the same ingredients.
Rather, pay attention to the numbers listed on the fertilizer container. 19-6-12 is the formula for fertilizing pretty foliage houseplants like philodendrons. The high nitrogen number promotes leaf growth. But the low phosphorus number may adversely reduce flowering. The importance of flowering may not be a big deal for philodendrons, but flowers are the essence of orchids.
A 20-20-20 blended fertilizer is a good choice for overall orchid use. Some orchid growers recommend using a high-potassium formula like 10-30-20, but I find this unnecessary.
Reverse Osmosis Water. Many orchid growers use ultra-clean sources of water such as reverse osmosis, distilled or rain water. Tap water, especially well water, often contains a distasteful amount of mineral hardness that is not appreciated by many houseplants.
If your house water is exceptionally hard, you may wish to consider water from another source. However, be cautious of softened water that may contain an amount of salt that could be toxic to these freshwater plants. Have your water tested if you notice that your orchids are declining.
What's in a Name? Orchid names are usually composed of three parts. The first part is the genus—Miltoniopsis for example. The second part is the grex name, like Saint Helier. The third part is the clonal, or cultivar, name, like Lavender Charm.
These three parts identify the exact kind of orchid you are growing, making it easier to locate tips on best growing practices for your type.