What Are Orchids

Orchids have always fascinated people. There is an air of mystery surrounding them. Mention the word "Orchid" and terms such as exotic, rare, expensive, beautiful, colourful and unique arise. Every person could have a different perception, and all of these, no matter how diverse, will be correct.

The family of Orchids contain more species than any other family of plants. It is believed that many undiscovered Orchids exist (especially in the South American rainforest). These Orchids may be lost forever if the destruction of the rainforests continues unabated.

Over 75 percent of the world's known Orchid species occur in the tropics. This is a fact that doesn't surprise many. However, what may surprise everyone is that the majority of these tropical species (over 80 percent species) grow in cooler mountainous forests, at altitudes of over 1,000 meters above sea level. These montage forests are home for an amazing number of diverse and unique plant and animal species which are not found anywhere else in the world.

Over 30,000 different Orchid species are found on our planet, and well over 100,000 hybrid strains have been artificially propagated. Many of these hybrids are important commercial plants that are used as cut flowers and pot plants to satisfy the existing huge demand for them - both locally and internationally.
Orchids are among the most common plant groups in the world. At the same time, orchids produced in factories have become an important greenhouse crop. Orchids are given a high degree of importance in the Netherlands, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. People there value orchids as decorative plants and their flowers too.

Orchids come in all shapes, sizes, designs, colours and colour combinations. The flowers could be tiny or large. But most have some common characteristics. The sepals of an Orchid form the outside of the bud before the flower opens. Two regular petals also exist. The third petal is the lip. Orchids share this structure with Lilies and Irises.

Not all Orchids grow from the ground. Some are "air plants" that grow on trees. Unlike parasites, however, they do not rob the trees of nutrition. Some Orchids look like insects- such as butterflies, bees and spiders. Others look like stars, cups or lighted fireworks.

Their floral structure is different. Orchids have three petals and three sepals which may, or may not, be alike. However, the third petal, known as the lip or labellum, is almost highly modified and quite different from the other cements in size, shape and often colour. This structure often plays an important part in Orchid pollination. Another feature, which helps to define Orchids, is an appendage, known as a column, often located in the centre of the flower. It is the most important quality that identifies the Orchid family. The fleshy column combines the male (anther) and female (stigma) sexual parts on one structure. The anther and stigma are situated close together.

Two main growth structures are found in Orchid, which are monopodial and sympodial.

  1. Monopodial Orchids have stems that grow indefinitely. In this type of Orchid, leaves always grow from the end of a stem. Monopodial Orchids often produce aerial roots along their stems. The flower spikes (or inflorescence) in Monopodial Orchids grow from the side of the stem (not from the end). Popular cultivated Monopodial Orchids include the Vandas, the Spider or the Scorpion Orchids (Aracnis and related genera)
  2. Sympodial Orchids, such as Bulbophyllum and Dendrobium, have a succession of shoots or bulb like stems, referred to as pseudo-bulbs; each arising from the base of the one before it. Each pseudo-bulb has limited growth, which is produced annually and matures at the end of each growing season; often culminating with the flowering. During the next season, a new pseudo-bulb grows from the base of last season's growth. These pseudo-bulbs, which hold water and nutrients, are produced along a structure known as the rhizorne. The roots tend to grow at the base of pseudo-bulbs or along the rhizome (however the growth of roots may form higher up on the parental stem occasionally). The flower spike of Sympodial Orchids arise from the base of the pseudo-bulb, the end of the pseudo-bulb, some point along it, or even from a rhizome. The majority of tropical Orchids are Sympodial. Popular cultivated Sympodial Orchids include the Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums and Spathoglottis species.

World-over, people believe that Orchids are the most beautiful of all existing flowers. In order to beautify your home through the help of these flowers, you must know which ways are the best to arrange them so as to bring out the best effects

You could choose from many of the arrangement patterns for Orchid flowers when you want to decorate your home. The following are the three best known ways to display your Orchids.

  1. One stand flower vases : Compared to the other ways, this method is fairly new, but its acceptance is overwhelming, something which you will find across the globe. You need to picture in your mind the approximate height of the flower vase as you would like before you make the purchase. If your intention is to decorate the dining table with the flowers, you need to consider if the height of the flowers in the vase would not disturb the free flow of discussion with your guests.
  2. Potted plants : Not much water is required for the proper growth of Orchids but they can grow well when planted in large pots. It is thus possible to decorate your rooms with live Orchid flowers. The effect created will be both stunning and enduring.
  3. The traditional way of arranging/ mixing the flowers : It has been a common practice to arrange flowers by using their different types and plants. You can only achieve the sole aim of beautifying your room more quickly with constant practice and experience. You need to make plans for a good substratum to hold your pre-selected flower arrangement in place.

Some people prefer to keep it simple and choose unit flower vases or potted plants to display their flowers for the simple fact that Orchids are elegant in nature. This may have better appeal than the traditional way of the mixed/ different flower arrangement.

It is possible to maintain Orchids as long as you want, if you plant and display them in pots. You should however give consideration to your environment and make sure that it would support the growth of your Orchids before you buy them. Though Orchids can survive without much water, they however will need ample light to survive. Direct sunlight can leave your orchids scorched and dried, it is thus important to have a proper arrangement for them.

Know Your Orchid Flowers

  1. Gently remove the stems from the box and peel off the wrapper immediately.
  2. Remove the pouch and cotton from the base of the Orchid stem.
  3. Cut off 1 cm stem from the base of the Orchids using a sharp knife or scissors.
  4. Take fresh clean filtered water in a vase and put Orchid stems in it.
  5. Do not expose Orchids to direct sunlight. Change water every day.
  6. Cut away 1 cm of the stem from the base every 3 days.
  7. With proper care, Orchids have a vase life up to 21-days.

Orchids are like any other houseplant when it comes to care. They thrive when five basic needs are met, which are: food, water, light, temperature, and humidity.

  1. The best way to feed your new Orchid is to do this regularly with balanced liquid fertilizers (that dissolve better in water) and plant food. Feed it N: P: K, 19:19:19 @ 2gm/lit every week after you water, for blooming plants. N: P: K, 10:24:24 @ 2gm/lit once a week after watering, when the plant is not flowering.
  2. Water your Orchid every day. Continuous and religious water management is crucial for the survival and maintenance of a healthy plant at your house. Ensure that the media i.e. the coconut husk should not be soggy. Over- watering results in yellowing of leaves, wilting of plants and also causes root and crown diseases. Plants should be watered early in the day and that on the roots only. When you water them, soak them thoroughly and then drain the water well. Don’t ever let an Orchid sit in water for an extended period of time. The roots will rot and the plant will die. If you have a clear pot, keep an eye on the condensation inside the pot. When there is very little condensation, it is time to water your plant. Remember if in doubt, wait a day to water.
    • Summers : Twice a day
    • Winters/ Rains : Once a day
    Spray both water and fertilizers only on the root of the plant. Avoid water retention on the leaves or flowers for a longer healthy life of the plant.
  3. Orchid plants in general only like direct sunlight in the morning when the Sun is not so intense. Like humans, they can undergo sunburn. The leaves will discolour and may die. Phalaenopsis thrive in an eastern window, a protected southern window or an office with fluorescent lighting is perfect. Oncidiums like more light, like in a southern window with an eave. Others, like the Cattleya, seek even more light. If your plant doesn’t flower, it probably needs more light. Light Intensity between 45000 – 60000 lux is preferred. Windows, balconies, veranda’s, porch and more shady places are best locations where direct exposure to sunlight can be avoided.
  4. In general, if you’re comfortable, your Orchid is comfortable too. A temperature between 24 – 30 C (72-80 F) during the day and 15 – 18 C (58-65 F) at night is fine. Don’t place your Orchid near a heater vent or in an excessively drifty spot. Orchids hail from all types of climates and most of these adjust to moderate temperatures.
  5. Humidity is vital to an Orchid. However, such a condition is not present in homes and offices, but this can be easily fixed. Setting the plants on trays of gravel partially filled with water, in such a way that the pot never sits in water, gives better results. For this, place rocks, marbles, or wood chips in a plant tray or saucer that is one or two sizes larger than your Orchid pot. Fill the saucer with plain tap water to a level that is just below the top of the material in the saucer and then place the Orchid on the saucer. This method allows water to evaporate at a constant rate and create a humid “microclimate” for your plant without letting the roots get soggy.
  6. Other details:
    • Growing Media:
    • Coconut Husks are the most suitable as they are porous and well aerated.
    • Plant Containers:
    • Plastic pots with holes are used primarily. Ceramic and clay pots too can be used. Also wooden or wired baskets can be used.
    • Flowering:
    • Plants will continue to bloom if you take good care. Never cut the stem, just bend it on either side and give it a little pull, so that it comes out easily from the base. In Orchids, plants supplied at the unfolding flower stage will continue to bloom for the next 6- 10 weeks. Never cut the flowers.
      The reason why most Orchids are considered hard to grow is because people usually worry too much. The more you bother, the more unhappy, the process becomes. The best way to avoid this is by treating it like any other houseplant. A better option is to buy a whole bunch of Orchids, so you can then spread the joy!

Creating Unique Orchid Hybrids is the rage

Those who have grown Orchids know that this can turn into a deep habit. Many growers spend countless hours researching the pronunciation of their Latin names. You may now ask, why have such fascination with these flowers?

Orchid varieties come in a vast assortment. Over 25,000 species occur naturally, and artificial hybrids number over 100,000; a fact recognized by official botanical organizations. While referring to artificial hybrids, we don’t mean that scientists have created such new organisms from the soil, air and water. This is a term designated for plants created from a cross pollination process.

Both hybrids and naturally occurring Orchids come with an endless range of sizes. There are some varieties which are best seen with a magnifying glass, while some varieties look beautiful on a windowsill. A variety found in the Indonesian rain forests weighs in excess of 1,000 pounds and produces thousands of flowers once it matures.

The rainbow of colours and a variety of shapes form the signature of Orchids. Many will resemble a bird, a moth or a bee. There are some varieties with forms not seen before. This too appeals to breeders. While Orchids were once only available for the upper-class, it is not so today. Now almost anyone can own these gorgeous plants.

Orchids have been long admired, but over the years no one could effectively reproduce them. It wasn’t until 1856 that the first hybrid Orchid variety flowered. People admired the plants, but most found them too fussy to cultivate, as they were more tedious than pleasurable.

Orchid seeds are notoriously small, sometimes as fine as dust. Learning to handle these seeds has been challenging, as well as getting them to grow. In 1922, Dr. Lewis Knudsom made a discovery that helped make Orchids widely available. When seeds were placed in a mixture of water, sugar and agar, they germinated and grew. Since then, new hybrids appeared every year. Natural and man-made hybrids are often named by their discoverer / grower. Special Orchids too may bear the cultivators name.

It is interesting to look at some of the major groups of Orchids:

  1. Epidendrum group: This is a group of wild Orchids. It is the largest group and has about 1,000 species.
  2. Dendobrium group: This is the second largest genus containing 900 species. It is found in the Himalayas, southern Asia and Australia.
  3. Cattleya group is mostly hybrid variety. This group boasts of a variety of colours from bright violet, yellow to subtle-tinted cream coloured variety.
  4. Cymbidium group: This group contains about 40 species and is prized for its beauty. It is considered special as multiple blossoms occur on its single stem. Long lasting cut flowers and Orchids, valued as export commodity, come under this group.
  5. The Brassarola group has fragrant flowers; most of which are white coloured. Heavily fringed lips at the edge of the blossom are the specialty of this group.

Looking at the vastness of Orchid varieties, the breeders are very interested in creating new unique hybrids year after year, making research appealing.

Orchid wedding flowers have the capability of adding a sense of tropical beauty for any occasion. Orchids are mostly chosen for their wide variety in colour, form and fragrance. People who want to make a wedding party look colourful in nature, in addition to the charm, need to opt for the Orchid wedding flowers as an ‘arousing’ option. Thanks to the immense variety of the Orchid, a person can actually let her/his imagination loose at the time of working with them. Most of the Orchids stand for elegance and extraordinary beauty. The advantages of Orchid wedding flowers are that they are not at all delicate in nature and hence, do not wilt easily.

It is an age-old custom to decorate the wedding venues with Orchids. In different cultures, throughout the world, flowers have helped in symbolizing matrimony and love. And Orchids do just that!