Gardeners' World: Orchid expert talks caring for Phalaenopsis
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For those who are new to owning an orchid can often be shocked to find that, despite following their orchid care instructions, the blooms begin to wilt and fall off. In a lot of cases this can be perfectly normal as it can signify that the houseplant has reached the end of its blooming cycle and is now gathering up energy to re-bloom. During this normal phase of resting, the orchid is busy growing new leaves and roots to grow stronger. However, orchids losing their blossoms could also signal a bigger problem.
If gardeners feel as though their orchid blooms are not falling off as part of the plant’s natural cycle, watering could be an issue according to Mark Bennett, qualified horticulturist.
He explained: “If the orchid’s roots are dying then orchids drop the flowers and flower buds to conserve its resources as it tries to survive and maintain the essential plant tissue such as the remaining roots, leaves, pseudo-bulbs which often turn yellow as a reaction to overwatering”.
Orchids typically require watering once every 10 days during winter and once a week when the weather starts warming up in spring and summer.
An indication that an orchid needs watering is when the top of the soil has slightly dried out. If it is still damp then gardeners should avoid giving them water.
To help “eliminate the risk” of your orchid being overwatered, gardeners should ensure their plant pot has good drainage, according to gardening pro Dorothy Butler at BackyardBoss.
Stress as a result of drought can also cause orchids to drop their flower buds. Mark explained: “Orchids drop their flowers and flower buds if they experience drought stress due to low humidity and a lack of watering.
“The low humidity saps moisture from the leaves, roots and flowers and if the potting medium dries out completely the flowers and flower buds drop.”
All orchids need a minimum of 40 percent humidity in order to be healthy when the blossoms start developing.
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This can be difficult to achieve during winter, however there are two ways to increase the humidity for the houseplants.
To increase humidity levels around an orchid, you can mist the leaves or put a shallow tray of decorative rocks and water underneath your orchid for a more ornate look.
To do this, take a shallow tray, put a layer of decorative rocks or beads in it and add some water to the tray, then set the orchid on top of the rocks.
Owners will need to check the water levels of the tray every so often to make sure it’s full. This approach is less maintenance than misting the leaves every day, but both ways are effective.
To ensure the plant is fully hydrated, Mark advised: “Place the orchid’s pot in a basin of water from a few minutes as a different method of watering as this is an effective way of ensuring the potting medium is evenly moist.”
The gardening pro warned: “The flowers drop off quite suddenly after a period of drought stress as the orchid cannot sustain them and drops the flowers to conserve its resources, so it can increase the chance of immediate survival.”
A drastic change in temperature will also lead to blooms dropping off of orchids. In fact, it is the “most common reason” according to Mark.
He said: “One of the most common reasons for orchid flowers and flower buds dropping is because of a sudden fluctuation in temperature that is outside of the orchid’s usual temperature range.
“This happens most often due to indoor heating in winter which suddenly increases the temperature, causing the flowers to drop.” Orchids are able to survive in temperatures that range from 18 to 30 degrees, similarly to other houseplants.
However, when it comes to orchids, they tend to get accustomed to “specific environmental conditions”. This can be hard to maintain in winter as households will be turning on their central heating and these houseplants prefer cooler temperatures compared to during the day.
In the evening orchids prefer to be kept at 16 to 19 degrees, so it is important to find an area of the house that is out of the way of draughts, and away from direct sources of heat.
Matt advised: “Place your orchid slightly back from a cold window sill as if the leaves or flowers are in contact with the window at night the cold temperature can cause the flowers to drop. In consistent temperatures the orchid’s flowers should last six to eight weeks before falling off.”
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