It's a fairly large family, that including around 28 000 species. This diverse family has members that grow in a variety of ways, including in the ground (terrestrial orchids), on trees (epiphytic orchids) and on cliffs and on rock or cliffs (lithophytic orchids).
Members of this family can be found naturally the world over, in almost every habitat. Frequently beautiful, many of these orchids are mainly found in remote and often hard to reach locations.
Orchids range from species whose flowers that last for up to a year to others that only flower for a single day. But regardless of how long the blooms last they all rely on highly specialised and ingenious methods to attract pollinators. Several even mimic the pheromones of the insects they wish to attract.
Cryptostylis ovata Slipper Orchid attracts this parasitic wasp by emitting a pheremone that mimics the scent of the female wasp.
The flowers themselves produce a somewhat staggering amount of tiny seeds. As any one that realised the vanilla is a type of orchid may have already noticed when they scraped out their tiny and delicious seed. However creating the seed is only the first part. Unless these tiny seeds come into contact with the certain mycorrhizal fungi they can't germinate in the wild.
Left pic: Vanilla seeds scraped out with a knife. Right pic: An orchid seed germinating. The Seeds themselves don't have enough nutrients to germinate by themselves and rely on the fungi (the fine filaments coming out from the seed) to provide them with the nutrients they need.
To get around this, orchid growers have devised various techniques that can be used to germinate seeds artificially, allowing them to breed a vast array of orchids with truly stunning flowers.
Growing Orchids at Home
One of the best orchids to grow at home is the Moth Orchid (phalaenopsis). When looked after they can flower for anywhere from 6 months to over a year, and as long you get a few things right they are incredibly easy to look after.
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- Keep inside in bright indirect sunlight. In winter make sure they are in a spot that gets cold draft as they're tropical plants from Southeast Asia that don't like the cold.
- Don't repot while they are flowering.
- When watering, remove the inside pot that the orchid is planted into and allow all the water to drain through. Water less in winter (maybe once every 2-3 weeks) and more in summer (once a week).
- Feed your orchid with Kings Slow Release Orchid Food once every 9 months to keep it happy and healthy to keep it happy, healthy, and improve flowering.
- When repotting use an orchid mix. Keep the pot fairly small as they prefer to have their roots constrained.
Other delightful orchids that can be grown at home include: Cymbidiums, Slipper Orchids (orchids in the sub family Cypripedioideae), Dancing Ladies (oncidiums), and Dendrobium Orchids. Aside from Cymbidiums the growing requirements are fairly similar. Cymbidiums can be grown outside in a shady spot. Often people bring them inside while they are flowering.
Left: Cymbidium Orchid Right: Dancing Lady Orchid (Oncidium)
To learn more about Orchids and see some gorgeous displays come and join us at the orchid show!