Once you develop more than a passing interest in orchids, you will quickly notice how diverse this exotic plant family is. Encompassing genera that yield both the vanilla you love to bake with and fragrances you love to wear, each flower has unique characteristics and care requirements. Compare your plants to some of the most commonly cultivated orchids to help you determine what type of orchid you are growing.
Orchid stems are also specialized into what are called pseudobulbs. These are basically expanded stems that allow the plant to store excess water and food. The roots of epiphytic (tree-dwelling) orchids have a special outer layer of dead cells called velamen. Because orchids metabolize slowly in order to not outpace their resources, the roots also absorb slowly, meaning that they need help catching water as it passes by. The velamen cells catch and fill with water as it passes by so that the true root (the core of the root structure) has ample time to access as much water as it can. Velamen is silver-white in color, but becomes transparent when wet, so that when the root is wet it turns green as you are able to see through to the inner structures of the root that contain chlorophyll.
Also called Cockleshell orchids, they have no fragrance, but they do bloom for several consecutive months, making them appealing for people who want color in their garden for long periods of time. The Encyclia orchid has dangling petals and sepals, which is why some people say it resembles an octopus. It thrives when planted on an orchid mount because this simulates the epiphytic growing conditions found in the wild, and it comes in colors such as yellow-white with purple throats at the top.
These orchids can be planted in orchid bark, moss or a mix (mixes might include bark, small rocks, moss, sponge rock, and even cork). Don’t even think about planting them in the soil. If your orchid is planted in bark you’ll need to water it more often than if it’s planted in moss. The bark will help the water drain with ease where the moss will hold the moisture longer. I prefer the bark or mixes which are predominantly bark because the watering is much easier for me to get right.
I think flying with the plant would be a challenge. Could you purchase one when you get there? Also, you need to check about bringing live plants into Spain because they have different rules for different countries. If you are giving the gift of a keiki or a cutting, that can be really challenging to grow for a beginner as well. So I’m not sure if that’s the best option. Honestly I think your best option is to contact this society and ask them what reputable growers they would recommend. I hope this helps! – Mary Ann
Do a finger test. This is the best way to determine whether an orchid needs more water. Stick your pinky finger into the potting mix, taking care not to disturb the orchid's roots. If you don't feel any moisture, or you feel just a little, it's time to water the orchid. If you feel moist potting mix right away, give it more time. When in doubt, you should wait an extra day.
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Because these orchids are top-heavy with lots of blooms on each stem, this type of orchid often requires staking. There are over 1,000 species in this category, and they usually come in colors such as white, lavender, or yellow. One of its biggest advantages is the fact that it can grow almost anywhere, regardless of the zone you live in, and some of them keep their leaves all year long. They can also come in more than one color per bloom, which makes them especially attractive.
Sympodial: Sympodial orchids have a front (the newest growth) and a back (the oldest growth). The plant produces a series of adjacent shoots, which grow to a certain size, bloom and then stop growing and are replaced. Sympodial orchids grow laterally rather than vertically, following the surface of their support. The growth continues by development of new leads, with their own leaves and roots, sprouting from or next to those of the previous year, as in Cattleya. While a new lead is developing, the rhizome may start its growth again from a so-called 'eye', an undeveloped bud, thereby branching. Sympodial orchids may have visible pseudobulbs joined by a rhizome, which creeps along the top or just beneath the soil.
Brassia, Comparettia, Odontoglossum, Polystachya, Cochleanthes, Tolumnia, Trichocentrum, Brassavola, Psychilis CC Image courtesy of Arne and Bent Larsen on Wikimedia Commons | Catasetum, Cymbidium CC Image courtesy of http://www.larsen-twins.dk on Wikimedia Commons | Cephalanthera CC Image courtesy of Sramey on Wikimedia Commons | Dichaea, Eulophia, Galeandra, Trichoglottis, Lycaste, Stanhopea, Caularthron, Domingoa, Prosthechea, Dendrobium, Goodyera, Stenorrhynchos, Pogonia, Gymnadenia CC Image courtesy of Orchi on Wikimedia Commons | Dipodium CC Image courtesy of David Lochlin on Flickr | Ionopsis, Campylocentrum CC Image courtesy of Maarten Sepp on Flickr | Macradenia CC Image courtesy of Maarten Sepp on Flickr | Koellensteinia CC Image courtesy of Alex Popovkin on Flickr | Leochilus CC Image courtesy of Marcos Antonio Campacci on Wikimedia Commons | Oeceoclades, Bletia, Chiloschista, Renanthera, Miltonia, Brachionidium, Cattleya, Lepanthopsis, Nidema, Scaphyglottis, Trichosalpinx, Eria, Coelogyne, Cyclopogon, Eltroplectris, Eurystyles, Platythelys, Prescottia, Psilochilus, Triphora, Paphiopedilum CC Image courtesy of Dalton Holland Baptista on Wikimedia Commons | Oncidium CC Image courtesy of Calyponte on Wikimedia Commons | Arethusa CC Image courtesy of Chris Meloche on Wikimedia Commons | Arundina CC Image courtesy of Kevin Gepford on Wikimedia Commons | Calopogon CC Image courtesy of Bob Peterson on Flickr | Cleisostoma CC Image courtesy of Earth100 on Wikimedia Commons | Dendrophylax CC Image courtesy of Mick Fournier on Wikimedia Commons and CC Image courtesy of Big Cypress National Preserve on Flickr | Micropera, Crepidium CC Image courtesy of Raabbustamante on Wikimedia Commons | Taeniophyllum CC Image courtesy of Airborne Pilot on Flickr | Corallorhiza CC Image courtesy of Wsiegmund on Wikimedia Commons | Maxillaria CC Image courtesy of Walter on Flickr | Govenia CC Image courtesy of Sanfelipe on Wikimedia Commons | Isochilus CC Image courtesy of Patricia Harding on Wikimedia Commons | Lepanthes CC Image courtesy of Quimbaya on Flickr | Elleanthus CC Image courtesy of Philipp Weigell on Wikimedia Commons | Pleurothallis CC Image courtesy of KENPEI on Wikimedia Commons | Restrepiella CC Image courtesy of Moises Béhar on Wikimedia Commons | Bulbophyllum CC Image courtesy of Montrealais on Wikimedia Commons Calanthe CC Image courtesy of Qwert1234 on Wikimedia Commons | Phaius CC Image courtesy of Hectonichus on Wikimedia Commons | Spathoglottis CC Image courtesy of Vaikoovery on Wikimedia Commons | Calypso CC Image courtesy of Walter Siegmund on Wikimedia Commons | Tipularia CC Image courtesy of TheAlphaWolf on Wikimedia Commons | Malaxis CC Image courtesy of Bernd Haynold on Wikimedia Commons | Oberonia CC Image courtesy of Ramesh Meda on Flickr | Anoectochilus CC Image courtesy of Badlydrawnboy22 on Wikimedia Commons | Cranichis CC Image courtesy of Americo Docha Neto on Wikimedia Commons | Mesadenus, Pteroglossaspis CC Image courtesy of NC Orchid on Flickr | Pelexia CC Image courtesy of Elena Gaillard on Wikimedia Commons Ponthieva CC Image courtesy of Jose Lacruz on Wikimedia Commons | Spiranthes CC Image courtesy of Eric in SF on Wikimedia Commons | Zeuxine CC Image courtesy of Panoso on Wikimedia Commons Dactylorhiza CC Image courtesy of Uoaei1 on Wikimedia Commons | Habenaria CC Image courtesy of J.M.Garg on Wikimedia Commons | Ophrys, Pseudorchis CC Image courtesy of Hans Hillewaert on Wikimedia Commons | Orchis CC Image courtesy of Algirdas on Wikimedia Commons | Platanthera CC Image courtesy of Enrico Blasutto on Wikimedia Commons | Epipactis CC Image courtesy of Dcrjsr on Wikimedia Commons | Listera CC Image courtesy of Superior National Forest on Flickr | Sobralia CC Image courtesy of João Medeiros on Flickr | Broughtonia CC Image courtesy of Walter on Flickr Masdevallia CC Image courtesy of trixty on Flickr | Isotria CC Image courtesy of Jason Hollinger on Flickr | Flickingeria CC Image courtesy of Averater on Wikimedia Commons | Cleistesiopsis CC Image courtesy of Charly Lewisw on Wikimedia Commons | Cypripedium montanum CC Image courtesy of Bill Bouton on Flickr | Cypripedium reginae CC Image courtesy of Orchi on Wikimedia Commons | Disperis, Encyclia, Epidendrum, Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla barbellata CC Image courtesy of Malcolm Manners on Flickr | Govenia CC Image courtesy of Bosque Village on Flickr | Psychopsis CC Image courtesy of LadyDragonflyCC – >;< on Flickr | Aplectrum CC Image courtesy of Fritz Flohr Reynolds on Flickr
Avoid overwatering which leads to the demise of many more orchids than underwatering. Constant wetness will cause the roots to rot, which leaves the plant without a means for taking up nourishment which then causes the leaves to droop and will eventually kill the plant. The classic advice is to water the day before the plant dries out. If you have to let the plant go dry to figure out what a dry plant weighs, it will not kill the plant and will make you a better grower. Another measure is to use the pencil trick (the point of a sharpened pencil, when inserted into the medium, will darken with moisture if the plant has enough water). And, there's always the old standby - put your finger in the mix. If it feels wet, it is wet. If you aren't sure whether it is time to water, wait one more day.
The orchid plant is also unique in its morphology (form or structure). We can begin with the leaves and work our way down to the roots. The leaves of many orchids in cultivation are unique in that they are specifically designed for water conservation (as is true for almost every orchid structure). They have a heavy waxy leaf coating and specialized stomata (openings through which the leaf “breathes”) that help to prevent water loss during transpiration (the act of the plant “breathing”). Many orchids utilize CAM photosynthesis as well, which in essence means that the plants collect materials during the day and then process them at night.