Orchid Grower

Insider Info

Some people have green thumbs. They like to grow plants and they're good at it. Some of those people like to grow flowers. Of those people, some prefer to grow orchids -- and nothing but!

"I find a lot of joy in watching a planted seed grow and produce something beautiful. It's always been part of my existence growing up," says orchid grower Jim Toth in Saskatchewan.

For orchid growers, the orchid is the Cadillac of flowers.

Orchids are flowering plants. There are more than 20,000 different species of orchids. They grow all over the world. They can be found in the tropics, in the mountains, by the water, and in the grasslands.

An orchid requires certain conditions to grow and bloom. The orchid grower must be careful to make sure the plant has what it needs! There are five key factors to manage -- temperature, light, humidity, water and air circulation.

Every species is different. Some plants will do fine in the window while others need to grow under special lamps. Orchids are very picky about their environment!

Growing orchids is a challenge. That's one of the reasons growers grow them.

Another aspect to this hobby is that it's both a great way to be alone and a great way to meet people. That is, you can enjoy orchids all by yourself, or you can join a group to discuss orchids to your heart's content.

This is true for Roberta Fox of California. She has a large collection of orchids. "I can spend lots of time just looking at them, always looking for that new growth, that new bud. Also, I have met some wonderful people, whose company I enjoy and who have taught me a lot."

Anyone can grow orchids. If you don't have a basement or a greenhouse, you just have to buy the kind of orchid that likes to sit on the window-sill and enjoy the type of environment you live in.

You've heard about pedigreed dogs and cats. Would you believe there are pedigreed orchids? There are!

These are what expert growers like to grow. Pedigreed orchids have paper documentation confirming their type. While it may grow well on your window-sill, the orchid you bought at the corner supermarket probably doesn't have this documentation.

Another thing that makes orchids so special is that many of them are endangered species. Sometimes, this makes it hard to get your hands on some of the rarer plants.

This is a popular hobby. The American Orchid Society has about 30,000 members around the world.

The American society was started 75 years ago. At that time, orchid cultivation was mainly a hobby for wealthy people. Now, it's a hobby for anyone. That's because all you really need is space and a good way with plants.

How much you spend on this hobby is up to you. You may buy an orchid for $40 that doesn't need special equipment to grow. Or you can buy a rare specimen for thousands of dollars!

You may also check out orchid shows to find a plant that appeals to you. "Orchid clubs usually have a raffle table, and that can be a source of plants for a very reasonable price," says Fox. "And often, people have divisions of their plants that they will share, or sell very reasonably."

If you want to grow a "sit in your window" orchid, you will need: a mister with which to spray your plant, some fertilizer, and a special pot with some kind of growing medium.

What's a growing medium? Since orchids don't grow in soil, they need a growing medium such as clay pebbles, peat moss, fir bark or even boiled corks.

Most of these basic supplies can be had for under $30. If your window isn't bright enough or your orchid is a tricky one, you'll need fluorescent lights, which cost around $8 a bulb and $25 for the fixture. Or you might need metal halide lamps, which can run up to $250!

Many growers also have humidifiers to keep the air moist. That's another big expense, depending on how fancy the machine is.

There are careers related to this hobby. Some orchid cultivators get so serious about their plants that they end up as orchid house businesspeople. They breed orchids to sell to other enthusiasts.

Some orchid fans become fascinated by the general practice of horticulture and become horticulturists at a university or in a private business.

Getting Started

If you want to try growing an orchid, the experts suggest you go to your local supermarket and buy a "no name" orchid. Actually, it'll most likely be a phalaenopsis, but it'll be a no name because it won't have documentation. Nevertheless, it's a fine plant for under $30 and it grows in normal household conditions.

If you've got a green thumb and you find these strange plants intriguing, you'll want to look into some literature on the subject. Your local library will have details on the different species and how to care for them.

When choosing the types of orchids you want to grow, consider your climatic restrictions. How much room do you have? Are you willing to buy space heaters, lights or a humidifier? Do you want to build a greenhouse? What's the weather like where you live?

The next step is to get involved in an orchid club. Fox recommends learning from others.

"Go to shows if you can find them. Talk to people. I have the advantage of living in an area with many growers, and many clubs," she says. "However, there is also lots of information on the Internet -- newsgroups, chat groups, and all sorts of Web sites."


American Orchid Association
16700 AOS Lane
Delray Beach , FL   33446-4351

Peninsula Orchid Society
P.O. Box 6894
San Mateo , CA   94403


The Orchid Mall
Billed as "Your Link to the Orchid World on the Internet"

Growing Orchids
Check out these insightful tips from the folks at the Royal Botannical Gardens

Step-by-step overview of the art of growing orchids

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