I want to find out more about orchids, especially the hardy and easy to grow type. Is there a good orchid club in the area? Phyllis W
A good place to start learning about orchids is by joining the American Orchid Society, which offers a wonderful monthly magazine called 'Orchids'. This publication explains the ins and outs of the wildly popular hobby in terms that everyone can understand and includes hundreds of color photographs for readers to ooo and aah over. Best of all, it only costs $40 to be an AOS member - about the price of a very nice orchid. (To join, call 561-404-2000 or visit www.aos.org) There are currently over 500 orchid clubs affiliated with the American Orchid Society that are located around the world including 8 right here in Virginia. These groups meet monthly to show off member's plants and to discuss orchid related subjects. Richmond is fortunate to have the Virginia Orchid Society which has 125 enthusiastic members (I joined in 1987) who put together elaborate orchid shows, symposiums, field trips, new member classes, and auctions. The VOS meets at the Science Museum of Virginia on the third Sunday of each month at 2pm.
Another great place to learn about orchids is at next month's Maymont Flower and Garden Show where there are thousands of orchids on display with experts available to answer questions.
Also, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has a permanent orchid display in the east wing of their new conservatory that is every bit as impressive as that of the renowned Longwood Gardens.
I have a Dendrobium at home that has not flowered in 3 years. I found an article on the internet that said Dendrobiums need a drying out period between November and March to get them to bloom. Is this correct? John H
There is an unusual type of Dendrobium called 'Nobile' that requires the extreme care that you describe along with both bright sun and cool temperatures. Once a year, the plant will drop its leaves and small Cattleya-like flowers appear by the dozens up and down the canes. However, unless you see lots of old dried up flower stems on some of the older canes, chances are you have the more common 'Evergreen' type Dendrobium which requires more reasonable growing conditions.
The 'Evergreen' Dendrobium is easily recognizable because it keeps its leaves (thus its name) and sends out long stems of white or pastel colored flowers from the tops of the canes. These flower sprays are regularly used in floral arrangements and the individual blooms are strung together to make Hawaiian Leis. The year round care of this popular orchid is similar to that of the Cattleya and Oncidium - provide filtered light, water twice a week, and 60-90 deg F temperatures. A simple remedy to get a reluctant Dendrobium to bloom (assuming the plant is healthy otherwise) is to put the plant outside for the summer in filtered sunlight. The long sunny days, high humidity, and gentle breezes of Virginia will make even the most stubborn plant spring to life.
We recently bought an Oncidium Sharry Baby that has just started to grow a new pseudo-bulb. The plant is still in bloom but the new leaves are turning yellow and looking unhealthy. How do I fix this problem? Sharon X
Oncidium Sharry Baby is one of the most well known orchid hybrids in the world because the long sprays of burgundy and white flowers smell very strongly of dark chocolate. So intense is the alluring fragrance, that women have come to fisticuffs to get a closer whiff.
The plant, itself, is quite large and robust (i.e. hard to kill) and losing one new growth is not, necessarily, the end. The plant will try several more times to grow new leaves so it is important that we identify and correct the problem immediately. Improper watering technique may be the culprit as all orchids with newly growing pseudo-bulbs are vulnerable to bacterial rot. It is easy for water to get trapped in the emerging leaves where air and sunlight cannot dry them out properly. Soon the tender young leaves turn yellow and fall off.
The challenge for orchid caregivers is to either avoid getting water in the new growths or water only on sunny mornings and, where possible, provide air circulation so that errant water droplets will evaporate by nightfall.