How to care for your beautiful orchids

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)

GARDENING: Readers' questions and a whole host of horticultural jobs from Brian Kidd

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Avisit to a good garden centre is always enhanced when there is a display of phalaenopsis orchids.

There are now literally dozens of different cultivated hybrids. It’s difficult to choose the one which looks the best and the price of these gems has reduced.

When they first became popular, £45 was the price for most of them, but it’s easy to find them at £15 to £20 today.

When grown at home, this moth orchid is far less trouble than some other types. During the spring and summer they are best grown in plenty of light, but not in direct sunshine.

During those seasons, the plants must never dry out and rain water is entirely suitable because they don’t like the chalk in our water.

During the autumn and winter, watering has to be done carefully. The compost must never dry out, but it’s a good idea to spray it regularly using rain water to keep the compost (which consists of equal parts Osmunda fibre and sphagnum moss) just moist.

I grow Osmunda ferns in the stream in our garden.

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 and are very happy indeed if the temperature doesn’t fall below 60F. If it is lower, the watering must be reduced.

Lovely spidery roots grow longer and become more interesting as the plant gets older.

A lot of people don’t like the spidery appearance but it’s important to bear in mind that this is all part of a most interesting plant structure, where the roots take in air as well as water.

The flowers stay in bloom for many weeks – quite often a plant will flower continually for nine months or more,.

Here’s another important thing to remember. Never cut off the flower stem until it turns brown. If it remains 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 on the plant.

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

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

It’s a good idea to ensure flies are not allowed in the room.

This is because if a fly lands on an open flower, the flower is pollinated and the blooms only remain in flower for a few days - not many people know that.