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RISMEDIA, March 2, 2011—Orchids can add eye-catching appeal to any room. Follow these basics to produce vivid blooms throughout the winter.

Temperature: Generally speaking, if you’re comfortable, your orchid is comfortable. Aim for day temps of 70° to 85° Fahrenheit and 60° to 65° F at night.

Light: Supply the brightest light you can. A sunny south or southeast window works great, but shield tender leaves from direct afternoon sun with a sheer lace curtain—especially from late winter through fall. If your orchid receives too little light, it won’t bloom, even though it’s budded.

Humidity: The average humidity in most homes is too low for these rain forest natives. Orchids don’t need to be dripping with water; they just require 50% to 70% humidity. Increase your home’s moisture with a humidifier, or group plants together to create a humid microclimate. Avoid setting orchids near heating vents, fireplaces, woodstoves and ceiling fans.

Watering: Orchids grow wild in the crotches of trees, collecting water from fog or rain that trickles down a tree trunk. Most potted orchids grow in bark or well-drained soil. It’s important to allow the medium in which the orchid is growing to dry out thoroughly between waterings. Typically, water your orchid once or twice weekly. Avoid watering late in the day to prevent soggy soil during the cool night hours; this can lead to disease problems. Early morning is the best time to water.

Fertilizing: Use a diluted fertilizer solution and feed only when the plant is growing actively—when new leaves are emerging (usually during the warmer months of the year). Water your plant before fertilizing to avoid burning roots. Overfertilized orchids end up stunted and will stop growing.

Flowers: As flower sprays form, give your plant plenty of room so that the stem can arch and soar. Once blooms begin to open, place your plant on a cool windowsill (60° to 70° F) to make flowers last longer. Blooms will collapse if insects pollinate them; if this occurs, remove the flower immediately. Cut off flower stalks when the last blossom fades. To trigger more flowers to form, make the cut right below the shoot that produced the first bloom.

Repotting Your Orchid: Keep your orchid healthy by repotting it once a year. The best time to tackle this task is immediately after flowering, when new roots have appeared but haven’t grown longer than half an inch. Water plants before repotting. Begin the process by taking the orchid from its pot. Gently remove all potting medium from around the roots; a soft stream of water can speed this along. Healthy roots are firm and white; remove any dead or dying ones.

Typically, orchids like tight quarters, so choose a pot that fits the roots without bending or breaking them. Repot using the same type of growing medium in which your orchid was growing previously. Plant Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium orchids with the base of the bottom leaf at the surface of the growing medium. For Oncidium orchids, new growth should be buried one half inch in the soil. Water repotted orchids sparingly until new roots appear and burrow into the soil.

This article is excerpted from Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine.

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