Orchids: how to care for them and make them bloom



«We are Orchids - they say alone -, nothing can be opposed to us capable of hiding us; Nor need you spend much of your hard work, gentlemen floriculturists, for us to show our virtues, we do not need land, we do not need surface, your cares useless, leave us up here astride this hospitable piece of dead wood, let them our roots dangle in the air, leave us in peace, we desire nothing but water from your hands, since you have taken us from our homelands where the sky assisted us as it suited us; just taste us if you have eyes to see, nostrils to perceive, soul to hear. "Masera - Floriculture - Utet 1970

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: Angiosperms


: Monocotyledons








: there are about 775 and the most used for ornamental purposes are: Brassia, Cambria, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Dracula, Laelia, Lycaste, Miltonia and Miltoniopsis, Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, Phragmipedium, Pleionee Vanda


: there are about 19,500


Although belonging to a single botanical family, that of


, include a large number of species, genera and varieties. both spontaneous and cultivated, which makes their classification extremely complex.

They are widespread almost everywhere

but for the most part they originate from the humid zones of the intertropical belt. In Italy we have about 85 spontaneous species, distributed in wetlands both in the mountains and near the coasts, many of which are extremely rare and endangered and as such protected from indiscriminate collection.

Orchids have very different habitats

: most are epiphytes (they only have aerial roots) or semi-epiphytes, so they usually live on branches and trunks of other plants or on rocks covered by a thin layer of plant fragments, mosses and lichens; other species are terrestrial, such as those found in temperate climates, while still others are underground and semi-aquatic.

Orchid Dendrobium

Orchid Dracula

Read also the article «Classification of orchids».

The stem

it is generally erect, although in some cases, as in the Vanilla Planifolia, from whose fruits vanilla is obtained, is creeping or climbing. In various species there are particular tuberized steles, called pseudobulbs, which act as reserve organs for water and nutrients; for a good growth it is essential that the orchid has at least two. Read also the article: «Anatomy of orchids». Also

the roots

they have reserve organs, the root tubercles, from whose particular appearance the orchids take their name (in fact in Greek "orchis" means testicle); of the two normally present, one is white and turgid and serves to feed the bud of the following year, while the other, dark and wrinkled, has nourished the vegetation in progress.All orchids, at least in the juvenile stages, establish a symbiosis with specific fungi located in the roots, which they supply them with nitrogen and vitamins essential for their development (in nursery practice they are artificially administered).


they are mostly simple, elongated and without petiole and in the formeepiphytes they start from the pseudobulbs.

The flowers

they are of various shapes, colors and sizes, solitary or gathered in inflorescences, terminals or at the axil of the leaves.

Orchids are almost all allogams

(i.e. cross-pollinated), for which in nature they implement a series of tricks to favor the contact of pollen with pollinators (insects, hummingbirds, bats, snails), since the scarce production of nectar of their flowers does not allow them to be attracted in another way; for example, in many species they have an appearance reminiscent of females of certain insects, or others give off characteristic odors that recall males and have pollen covered with a sticky substance so that it adheres to their body. Orchids are cultivated for the spectacular beauty of their flowers; forgive the expression but it is now common to call them the viagra of plants. They are mainly marketed as cut flowers; however, different species and varieties overall have a considerable ornamental value and therefore, reared in special vases or suspended baskets, they can create a particularly suggestive green corner in our apartments.For more details on the cultivation techniques of the different orchid species go to: "Our orchid friends."

Orchid Odontoglossum


The climatic needs

of the different orchids vary considerably in relation to their different geographical origin and for the same individual, depending on the phase of the biological cycle; in Italy their cultivation takes place exclusively in protected and carefully climate-controlled environments.

In any case, orchids love the light

but not direct exposure to sunlight and the temperatures of our apartments in winter are generally satisfactory for their needs.However, temperatures that are too different from the optimal ones can cause disfigurement in the leaves and flowers.

ambient humidity

, which if it is excessive it causes the appearance of spots on the flowers, while if it is too low it causes yellowing and wrinkling of the vegetation. Especially for epiphytes it is better to humidify the environment than directly wet the substrate. Read also the article: "Light for orchids »And the article:« Temperature and ventilation of orchids ».

Orchid Oncidium

Orchid Paphiopedilum


In heated rooms and during the hot season, irrigation

it must happen 2 to 4 times a week, while

in the cold season

it can be reduced to once a week, especially for epiphytes, unless they are cultivated suspended so, being exposed to the air, they need more irrigation interventions. Pearls

species originating from areas with drought periods

, it is better to suspend watering in correspondence with these periods; moreover, the species with pseudobulbs can store water even for long periods. Very harmful are the water excesses that cause yellowing and degradation of the pseudobulbs, with the roots coming out of the pot. It is also very important to avoid water stagnating in the leaves or flowers, causing so with rots; it is advisable to use rainwater and not tap water, which contains chlorine to which orchids are particularly sensitive. Read also the article: «Watering and humidity of orchids».

Orchid Phalaenopsis


Generally orchids prefer


basically acidic, soft and well-balanced, poor in mineral elements; the materials tend to be used are made up of mixtures of peat, sphagnum (moss that grows in peat bogs), coniferous leaves and bark, fern roots, woodland. While for epiphytic species the substrate has mainly a supporting function, for terrestrial species it has a trophic (nutritional) function. Very often the epiphytic or semi-epiphytic species are cultivated suspended in bins of wood or wire, on "rafts" of bark mixed with spongy materials, which maintain optimal levels of humidity around the roots. article: «Type of soil and repotting of orchids».


Generally, orchids are not very demanding in nutritional elements

; the optimal nutrient solution must contain twice the nitrogen compared to phosphorus and potassium and is replaced with a frequency ranging from 7-15 days to 3-4 weeks, depending on the needs of the species and the seasonal period. Read also the article: " Fertilization of orchids ».

Orchid Vanda

Orchid Brassia


In floricultural practice

orchids are reproduced

by seed or vegetatively propagated by division of adult plants or by culture of meristematic apexes. Given the complexity of these operations and the need for them to take place in particular environments, it is not possible to carry out them in one's own home.


Since most of the orchids grown in greenhouses and sold as houseplants are native to tropical or subtropical areas, or are hybrids obtained in nurseries with particular cross-fertilization techniques between different species and genera,

they do not find their natural parasites in our environments

and vectors of specific diseases. For this reason they are therefore mostly subject to physiopathies, that is to alterations caused by conditions of temperature, light and humidity not favorable to their harmonious development.The light factorif not adequate, it manifests the following damage in plants:

a) symptoms of insufficient lighting, which can be remedied with artificial lighting. In the winter months, 12 hours of light should alternate with 12 hours of darkness

  • formation of weak and thin shoots;
  • lack of formation of the flower bud;
  • curling of the leaves.

b) vice versa are symptoms due to excessive lighting, accompanied by high temperatures and low ambient humidity:

  • yellowing and withering of leaves;
  • appearance of abnormal red color in the leaves;
  • discoloration and deformation of flowers.

Moisture factor:

  • yellowing of the leaves;
  • degradation of pseudobulbs;
  • roots come out of the pot.

they generally depend on excessive watering, even with water that is not at room temperature or rich in chlorine or even from excessive environmental humidity

Temperature factor

We are talking in particular of damage caused by too low temperatures:
  • appearance of reddish color in younger foliage;
  • browning at the base of the flowers;
  • brownish spots on the flowers (especially on Phalaenopsis where stains are irreversibly formed after only 4 hours at very low temperatures, below 4 ° C).

However, most orchids currently grown are in the form of hybrids that adapt to different temperature conditions, but not too much from their original one.

Read also the article: «Diseases and treatments of orchids».


See: «Orchids - The language of flowers and plants».

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