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Orchids Indoors

Orchids make great holiday gifts, as they keep on giving--possibly blooming for up to three months.

Orchid by the window (Sonny Abesamis, Flickr).

Potted orchid plants are readily available nowadays and are quite reasonably priced when one considers how long the blooms last. If you buy one with many unopened buds you may be fortunate enough to have the flowers on the plant last for three months.

Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, and Phalaenopsis varieties are usually easy to live with and do not need much maintenance.

Orchids live on other plants in the wild but are not parasites. They obtain their water and nutrients from rain, air, decaying plant material, and dust—all absorbed by the plants long fleshy roots. Their potting medium made up of bark chips, sphagnum moss, compost, charcoal chips, and small pieces of polystyrene allow the roots good aeration.

Orchids also need plenty of indirect bright light but not direct sun. Most orchids like southern and western exposures best, but Phalaenopsis orchids like a shaded eastern exposure.

All like humidity, so water filled pebbled trays under their pots in winter are good to offset dry air. Temperatures that are around 70 ⁰F work best, maybe slightly cooler at night. Water once a week—even a couple of ice cubes will do it. Orchid fertilizer applied once a week helps, too, if the flowers are in bloom.

Orchids make great holiday gifts, as they keep on giving. They are so versatile that just about any adult will be glad to get one.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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