by Lia Andrews. Dan and Margie gave an excellent on the basics of orchid for 3 of the most popular orchid types. To purchase orchids or for expert advice contact Dan & Margie through their facebook page (their phone number is listed).
These include vandas, renantheras, ascocendas, arandas, and mokaras. Healthy vandaceous orchids flower 2-4 times a year. They need to be protected under 40° F and watered every other day (just the roots). Vandas, ascocendas, and renantheras require about 70% light and are typically secured with wire in wooden baskets without any media or hung on hooks. Mokaras can take full sun and can be attached to rebar stuck in the ground. Mokaras are Margie’s favorite orchid: they are an excellent landscape plant, prolific bloomers, and can handle full Florida sun.
Though my favorite are the huge corsage orchids that bloom only once a year, Dan prefers mini-catts that bloom several times a year. Care for both types is the same. Cattleyas require 50% sun (bright filtered light). They can be potted or placed in trees. In pots they should be watered 1-2 times a week (like potted dendrobiums and phalaenopsis).
Oncidium hybrids offer some of the wildest flowers in the orchid world and bloom twice a year. They require 50% sun (bright filtered light). They should be watered infrequently (once every 7-14 days) unless grown bareroot in a basket or mounted on wood (in which case they can be watered twice a week).
Orchids hate to be wet and need good air flow to stay healthy. After all they do grow on trees and rocks in the wild. Use media with a variety of ingredients including fern bark, alliflor, coconut husk, etc. Oncidiums do best with a seedling mix, while cattleyas prefer larger pieces of bark and stone. Orchids can also be mounted on wood or tree fern, or attached to an empty basket or hook. Pure sphagnum moss is often used by growers for ease of transport, but it retains excessive moisture for Florida humidity.
Follow the old adage of “weakly weekly” using a 20-20-20 fertilizer for 2 months in a row. Then use a bloom booster (10-52-10) weekly for 2-3 weeks, then return to balanced for 2 months. Repeat cycle. Water before fertilizing to increase absorption. Professional growers use bloom booster 6 weeks before a show to ensure blooms. Vandas are big eaters and can be fed a pinch every time you water. Dan gave a great tip: be sure to thoroughly wash your spray bottle every time you feed to avoid clogging (Dan uses bleach).
Separate pesticide application from fertilizer. Scale and thrips are primary pests for orchids in south Florida. Safer soap is the best non-toxic option, however Dan uses Orthene every 3 months on all orchids. It is expensive but it won’t hurt the flowers and keeps all pests at bay.