By : Serene Fong
25 February 2019
In Part 1 of our Gardening: Growing Orchids series, I shared how sunlight plays an important part when deciding the type of orchids to grow. In Part 2 of the series, I will share another environmental factor – wind, that will affect the orchids’ growth and some tips to care for the plant.
Coping with Windy Conditions
Orchid plants love well ventilated areas, so never fear if you have strong wind, and just remember to water them well.
However, do be careful where you place your orchids to avoid turning them into killer litter. As most balconies in high-rise buildings in Singapore get lots of wind and are exposed to weather elements, it is not a good idea to hang plants from the balcony ceiling. For the same reason, HDB does not permit flower pots to be placed on ledges or even on shelves beneath the parapet level. I mount a few of my plants on slabs secured on a vertical trellis set against one wall of my balcony. Not only is this an excellent way to save space, it is also a good way to showcase my plants.
Taking Care of the Plant
This sounds like the easiest thing in the world to do, but some care has to be exercised. If you get lots of wind, you should really drench your plants. If you have the luxury of time, you can dunk every pot into a pail of water, thoroughly soaking them. Otherwise a watering can will do.
Some orchid experts suggest watering twice a day, when the weather is dry and hot. Some claimed that they water their plants once every 3 to 4 days. However, you must observe your plants to ensure that they are not stressed with the dry conditions. If they show signs of stress such as wilting, you may need to move the plants to a shadier spot for a few days.
When handling chemical fertilisers, make sure you do not overdose. More fertiliser does not mean bigger and better flowering plants. Fertilising once a week is sufficient but some plant enthusiasts advocate twice weekly, at a weaker dosage.
If you prefer the organic way, you can try using rice water – the water left over after washing rice grains.
The trick about fertilising is rotation. Like humans who enjoy a variety of food, so do plants. Help yourself by simply charting your feeding programme which takes the guesswork out of this exercise.
You cannot escape this – all plants need to be repotted after about 3 years as the pot becomes too small to contain it, or else the plants will show signs of stress. This is also when the pot starts to turn brittle, and get covered with algae. When this happens, the plant sheds some leaves, refuses to grow further, and if it ever flowers, they are small and subject to bud drop.
If the plant has encased its roots so stoutly to the pot that no amount of tugging is possible, the best way to remove the plant from the pot is to soak the entire pot in water for a couple of hours to loosen the roots. Then using a pair of closed secateurs, firmly but gently pry the roots open from the pot. Look out for fresh green roots which are necessary for the plant’s survival, hence do not damage them.
The potting material of broken bricks and charcoal used for ‘ground-growing’ orchids are recommended for balcony orchids. Make sure you stabilise the plant firmly to the pot when repotting. The orchid should be secured so it does not jiggle – otherwise the new roots will not form properly. You can place a wooden or bamboo stake in the pot, and tie the orchid to it with soft string or twist ties.
One Last Tip
Orchids belong to the wild, and they are happiest when conditions simulate this. So if you spot any weeds growing around your pots, try not to pull them out – let the jungle into your garden.
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