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A Gift of an Orchid

by Malachy - Horticulturist CountryLife Dungarvan | Dec 22, 2015
Orchids are always a popular present to give people
It has been a busy few days in CountryLife as we countdown to Christmas. And judging by what customers have been buying I expect a lot of people will have gotten or be getting gifts of beautiful orchids this festive season.

Orchids are always a popular present to give people for any occasion but in the past few weeks they seem to be more popular than ever with customers buying them for friends and family. And even a few who bought them as an early Christmas present for themselves! With a new order of them in, I thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at orchids and how to care for them.

Orchids are part of one of the largest families of flowering plants with over 28,000 different species in it. To put that in context there are twice as many different recorded species of flowering plants in this family than there are species of birds on earth.

Orchids in particular have grown in popularity since the 19th century when horticulturalists started to collect them and cross breed different types together. This has resulted in an explosion of different types and hybrids being introduced. This means that there is a great deal of choice when it comes to orchids.

Three of the main species of orchids that you will find in people's homes are phalaenopsis orchids, dendrobium orchids and oncidium orchids. Of these types phalaenopsis orchids, or Moth orchids as they are more frequently called, are the most common and in my opinion the easiest to care for at home. 

This orchid is also the longest flowering with a spike of flowers often staying in bloom for up to four months. And thanks to the introduction of hybrids you can now get Moth orchids in every shade of colour imaginable from white, pink, red, green, yellow, orange to shades of purple.

When it comes to caring for orchids at home it is important to remember where the plants originally came from. They originate in warm humid jungles and thus should be kept in a warm shaded spot in a house. They do not like direct sunlight so I find a north facing window is a great spot to place them on.

It is also important to realise that orchid roots are slightly different to those of normal flowering plantsIt is also important to realise that orchid roots are slightly different to those of normal flowering plants. Orchid roots can photosynthesise and because of this need light falling on them. This goes against everything gardeners are thought about protecting roots and covering them in soil. It is important allow the roots to hang outside the pot so they can get light and help feed the plant.While orchids often come in clear pots they do not have to stay in clear pots and coloured pots work perfectly too.

It is important however when you are repotting them (normally every two to three years) that you use orchid compost which is specially designed for orchids to grow in. It often contains a lot of bark and is very loose to allow air in. Normally compost is too dense and will suffocate the roots. 

Orchid-are-very-popular-this-ChristmasI bought my wife an orchid a few years ago and it is doing better now than ever before and I feel that this is down to its weekly showers. Now this may sound strange but stay with me for a moment. 

Each week my wife places the orchid in the shower and runs cold water over it. This waters the plant and also knocks any dust off the plant. She then leaves it in the bathroom for the day to drain off and as the bathroom is a warm humid room it seems to thrive thanks to these weekly spa visits!

Every two weeks or so we also give it a feed using shop bought mist orchid feed to give it an extra boost and feeds the leaves and roots.  

Written by Malachy

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Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

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