Orchid Cultivation for the Home Gardener

Every year, the Orchid Show turns the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Orthwein Display Hall into a tropical oasis brimming with vibrant, blooming orchids. Visitors can take in a display that features between 400 and 500 orchids from the Garden’s permanent collect, which includes about 6,300 orchids.

The display is lovely, and can also leave the home gardener itching to grow beautiful, blooming orchids of their own. Orchids, however, can be a tricky plant to grow, which is why the theme of this year’s show is focused on cultivation for the home gardener. Specifically, tips are focused on four genera — Cattleya, Cymbidium, Phalaenopsis, and Paphiopedilum

In that spirit, the Kemper Center shares a few top tips on each genera to help home gardener :

Cattleya

Commonly known as the corsage orchid, Cattleya are high light, warm-growing orchids. Keep them in bright, indirect sunlight, with temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees during the day and 55 and 60 degrees at night. Water thoroughly once a week with lukewarm water and feed your plant orchid fertilizer after watering

With proper care, Cattleyas will flower on average once a year for about 3 to 6 weeks.

Cymbidium

Like Cattylea, Cymbidiums, need bright indirect light, but they can tolerate cooler temperatures than their Cattleya counterparts. In the winter, they can be kept at temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees during the day and 50 and 55 degrees at night. They can tolerate temperatures of up to 85 degrees in the summer, but be sure to bring them in before first frost. Cymbidiums need a constant supply of water in spring and summer, but soil should be kept barely moist in the winter. Fertile every two weeks after watering from March to September

Cymbidiums will bloom once per year around late fall or winter and early spring and flowers can last for several weeks

Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis is one of the easiest orchids to grow in the home and the plants are available widely and cheaply. Phalaenopsis are low-light orchids that do best in indirect light. They prefer temperatures in the 60s at night and 70 to 80 degrees during the day but can handle temperatures as high as 95 degrees or as low as 50. A thorough watering once a week is usually adequate. Add fertilizer when watering

Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the longest blooming orchid genera, with blooms lasting 2 to 6 months from late winter to spring.

Paphiopedilum

Paphiopedilum, or slipper orchids, are fairly easy to grow as houseplants. Like Phalaenopsis, they are low-light orchids that do best in indirect light. Generally, they prefer temperatures between from 60 degrees to low 70s during the day and mid-50s to low 60s at night.They don’t have water-storing stems, so they require moist soil and watering every 5 to 7 days. Fertilize once a week.

Paphiopedilums will typically produce one flower per spike, and blooms appear typically between autumn and spring and last approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

For more information, check out some plant care videos on Cattleya, Cymbidium, Phalaenopsis, and Paphiopedilum. More plant tips, including bloom times and tips by month, can also be found on the Kemper Center’s website.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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