BRIAN KIDD: A moth you will want in the home

Stunning  the moth orchid.

Stunning  the moth orchid.

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It’s great to read your letters and this week I had four about looking after Phalaenopsis orchids, which I thought would interest many of you.

When grown at home this moth orchid is far less trouble than some others.

During spring and summer they should be given plenty of light, not direct sun, and in those seasons they must never dry out. Rainwater is perfect because they don’t like our chalky water.

In the autumn and winter, watering must be done carefully. The compost must never dry out, so spray it regularly with rainwater to keep the compost, which consists of equal parts of Osmunda fibre and sphagnum moss, just moist all the time.

There are some other important things to remember.

These gems thrive in hot humid conditions, but during the winter they love lots of light and central heating. They are happy if the temperature doesn’t fall below 15.5C (60F).Lower and watering must be reduced.

Lovely spidery roots grow longer and become more interesting as the plant ages. Many people don’t like this appearance, but bear in mind this is all part of a most interesting plant structure. The roots take in air as well as water.

The flowers bloom for weeks and quite often a plant will flower for nine months or more.

Here’s another important thing: never cut off the flower stem until it turns brown. If it stays green, and they usually do, a baby plant may grow out of the tip of the old flower stem or another flowering shoot may appear out of the side of the stem lower down the plant.

New flower stems will also grow from between the leaves. When a baby shoot appears on the old flower stem, use a split cane pushed into the compost and, using fuse wire, make a small ball of sphagnum moss. Tie this on to the split cane at the base of the baby so it can root.

Keep the moss wet all the time. Once the roots have penetrated the moss (after six months), the baby can be cut off and planted in its own container.

Try to ensure flies don’t get into the room because if one lands on an open flower, the flower is pollinated and the blooms only remain for a few days. Not many people know this.

Feeding should be with quality liquid orchid fertiliser. Follow the directions and there will be no need to put the plant into a larger container for two years.

When it does become necessary to pot it on, use orchid compost. But if you are really interested in seeing these gems in a dramatic situation, instead of using a pot, put the compost on a section of interesting tree bark such as cork oak.

I once saw a moth orchid growing on the stem of an indoor yucca –­ a tree I am not fond of. But the orchid made it look beautiful as the silver spidery roots were more than a foot long and there were more than 100 flowers on the plant.

TIP OF THE WEEK...

Have you stopped watering your indoor amaryllis? I hope so. The pot needs to be put on its side somewhere sunny and not watered at all. The leaves should all die back by October.

Then repot in DRY John Innes No3 compost and don’t water again until February or once the fat flower bud emerges.

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