Suggested Genera


There are so many orchids on the market today. How does one decide which types to collect – is it based on outstanding traits?
Jorge K
With over 30,000 naturally occurring species and hundreds of thousands of man-made hybrids, the idea of orchid ‘collecting’ can be overwhelming. The choices are reduced somewhat by fact that most of the species are quite obscure and are not being produced commercially. In addition, the hybrids that are available today are much different from those of just 10 years ago as tastes change and improvements are made. You, therefore, now have only to decide among, say, 50,000 orchids.
The cultural conditions that you have to offer further narrows the field. Some orchids like lots of filtered sunlight (Dendrobiums) while others like shade (Paphiopedilums). Some orchids like to be watered daily (Vandas) while others like just once or twice a week (Oncidiums). Some orchids like warm temperatures (Phalaenopsis) while others like it cool (Cymbidiums). It is nearly impossible to grow satisfactorily all the major orchid genera in the same environment due to the wide range of light, watering, and temperature requirements.
Aesthetic appeal cannot be underestimated in acquiring an orchid collection.
My father has grown Cattleyas (the corsage type) exclusively for 55 years and thinks everything else is ‘just a weed’. He gladly accepts that the shortcomings of the genus: the flowers only last 2-3 weeks and the plants require a greenhouse. In exchange, he is surrounded each day by, perhaps, the most amazing display of beauty – Large, colorful, frilly, and fragrant blooms in every room of his house.
Ultimately, personal preferences along with practical limitations will guide your decision.

My Cymbidium orchid grows lots of new leaves every year but never blooms. What can I do to make it bloom? Roger L
Growers in Virginia will find Cymbidiums to be ‘culturally challenged’ as this plant prefers all day slightly filtered sun light and cool temperatures (50 deg F) year round. To make matters worse, the plants are very large and heavy, often growing in 2-3 gallon containers. The ideal location for this genera is San Francisco, CA where the climate is perfect and the orchids are literally planted in the ground. While I can’t recommend growing Cymbidiums in Virginia, here are some suggestions for blooming this otherwise grand and wonderful orchid: Put the plant outside for the summer in an area that receives filtered sunlight. Continue to leave the plant outside into October or November until the weather forecast predicts a hard freeze (lower than 30 deg F). Bring the plant inside to the coolest and brightest part of the house and notice if there is a new pointed shoot emerging from the base of the leaves. Check periodically over the next few months for these new shoots.
If none are found, then try again next year. If, however, a new flower spike is emerging, there are more challenges still to overcome. Continue to water the plant thoroughly once or twice a week but now the primary concern is to keep the night temperatures below 60 deg F. Otherwise, the swelling flower buds will try to open too quickly, shrivel up, and fall off. Ouch. Well, there is always next year… We currently have a delightfully scented yellow Cymbidium blooming now in customer pickup.

Several orchids that I have purchased have spots on the leaves that look like water spots. Is there a safe and effective way to clean orchid leaves? Laura S
The ‘water spots’ that you are describing are probably not serious. Fertilizer and/or water residue can be unsightly but is easily removed by gently wiping the leaves with a mild soapy water solution then washing off with plain water.
In the event that the spots are more than cosmetic, it would be helpful to know the kind of orchid, the size of the spots, whether the spots are getting larger, and whether the spots are on the old leaves or new. Some orchids are prone to bacterial infections (particularly Phalaenopsis) and early symptoms are brown sunken spots that get larger over time. These sunken spots can occur if the new leaves are wet and the temperatures fall below 60 deg F. An environmentally friendly technique to stabilize this situation is to stick a pin through the spots to allow air to dry them out then sprinkle cinnamon onto the area.
If unsure how to proceed, take the actual plants to your local orchid expert or, better yet, send a digital photograph.

Thursday, November 13, 2003 - 19:00