Orchids are known as tropical plants, associated with hothouse conditions, and it is true that they need high humidity levels and a large number of genera tend to grow in tropical climates. But there are plenty of species that can survive even thrive, in much cooler habitats, as far as the Arctic Circle, even. Some of the better known types are Odontoglossums, Masdevallias, Paphiopedilums, Cymbidiums and Miltonias. With these flowers it can often be the little details that make the biggest difference. There are a lot of factors that have to be just right for orchids to flourish, in whatever climate.
Let us look at a few important things we need to remember. You may be aware that orchids usually grow off other plants, mostly trees. That is why they are called epiphytes. Some types of orchids do grow in soil or rock media, but when you have to put together a potting mixture you need to incorporate bark pieces as well. Including a good proportion of bark will ensure that root rot is less likely.
The medium also needs to be free-draining– you cannot let orchids sit in a puddle of water. The pH value of the soil will need to be looked into, as it will fluctuate with changes in the seasons, in combination with other factors.
Check with local garden supplies stores or even the nearest horticultural society for more specific tips on this. You will need to repot most orchids about once every year or every two years. Be careful when choosing a potting vessel– the shape and size will greatly determine how much water you give to the orchids.
As for watering, because of the high chlorine content of most tap water, you should play it safe and go for rain water or at least distilled water. It is the watering part that most orchid enthusiasts need to fine-tune– these plants are very picky about how much of it they will take. Overwatering is the number one cause of early death for most orchids.
Conservatory or greenhouse conditions are necessary if you’re growing them indoors– which you probably are in a cold climate. If so, pay close attention to daily highs and lows. Your plant will indicate what is working for it or not– for example; discoloration in the leaves is a sign that the plant is being exposed to too much sun.
If you are planting Masdevallias, you can grow them under fluorescent lights, but never under direct sun. In general orchids always grow best in shaded positions. You can water them daily and maintain high humidity for best results. Constant air circulation will be good for these plants. Odontoglossums have winter dormancy, so you need to bring down water and fertilizer application. Paphs prefer shady locations and fluorescent lights can be used. They are not winter dormant varieties, but both Odontoglossums and Paphs can be cross bred, and hybrids tend to have greater durability.
Specialist orchid fertilizers are important for the care and propagation of orchids. You also need a good supply of feed, maybe Multifeed, during the winter dormancy. Just keep in mind that it will probably take you a while to figure out how to treat your orchids just right– and then you will be blessed with beautiful sturdy flowers, even in atypical-seeming, cold climates.
Do you live in a cold climate but still grow beautiful orchids? What tricks have you learned? Please leave a comment below.
We have a number of type specific care articles. Click learn more about odontoglossum orchid care.