Indoor / Outdoor Culture

During most of the year orchids can be grown outside in San Diego area. However, many orchids do not do well if the temperature drops below 40 degrees. This is especially true if they go through a evening wet from a winter rain. Keeping your plants indoors near a window or under artificial lights is one simple solution.

When plants are maintained indoors light quantity and quality must be considered. If kept by a window, they should receive filtered light and not be exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods. Setting up a permanent location allows you to deal with both the plants requirements and yours.

Many people who keep their plants indoors use 4 foot long fluorescent lights. Many types of fluorescent lights are available. Cool White (CW) fluorescent tubes produce almost twice as much light as most plant lights of the same size and wattage. Blue light promotes photosynthesis and compact growth, while red lights produce the same amount of blue as CW tubes, but nearly three times as much red and twelve times as much in the far red. Seedlings, community pots, and flasks do will under CW tubes. The use of only CW lights for flowering size plants is not recommended. When CW and wide spectrum plants are mixed (1:1) the plants do well and you save money.

Not all varieties of orchids are good candidates for indoor culture. The Miltonia, Palaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, and some Cattleya have been the most popular because they often bloom well with only moderate amounts of light. If a plant receives insufficient light, now growth is dark green and rather spindly. If light intensity is marginal, growth often looks normal but flowering does not occur, or, if they do flower, fewer flowers are produced.

When placing plants under lights a few things should be kept in mind. The closer you keep the plants to the lights the better off they will be as long as you do not have them close enough to overheat. Cattleya will do well within (2) to (4) inches of the fluorescent lights. Phalaenopsis are kept (6) to (9) inches away. on four foot tubes, the middle 2.5 feet is the brightest, with the light intensity dropping off as much as 30% near the ends. Place plants with greater light requirements near the center and those with less at the ends.

Keeping your orchids on slotted racks which are light weight, allows for drainage, and disperses their weight evenly over the expanse of the shelf. With racks, all of the plants under a given set of lights can be moved, watered, etc., without having to handle each pot. To prevent pots from falling off the racks they can be placed in 1x2 foot trays with (2) trays to a rack.

The amount of water and fertilizer required will depend on type and size of the pot, the potting medium you use, and the type of plant. Mature plants may need to be watered once a week, seedlings in 2" pots may require watering 2 or 3 times a week. Never let your plant stand in water for more than a few minutes. If needed the humidity can be supplemented with trays of moist gravel. When orchids are kept next to a wall, place a sheet of clear plastic on the wall and the floor directly behind the stand. This way, when the plants are misted, the wall and the floor will remain dry. If plants are summered outdoors, the entire collection should be inspected for bugs prior to bringing them in for the winter.

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