Sunday, 5 October 2014

Orchid Watering

It is often said that more orchids fail as a result of getting the watering regime wrong than any other reason. When it comes to watering epiphytes there are two elements to consider when considering your watering regime, these are When and How. The vast majority of orchids grown by hobby growers are naturally found on trees above the ground where the light is more plentiful. Most orchids that are not terrestrial need their roots exposed to light, air and water.

When to water?
Orchids should be watered as they start to dry out. Dont allow them to completely dry out, but just before. This rule generally works for most orchids with variations depending on whether the orchid is able to store its own water. Orchids such as cattleyas and oncidiums should be allowed to dry completely between waterings while orchids such as phalaenopsis and paphiopedilums that have no water storage organs should be watered before they dry out.

There's is no strict rule on how to water, that can apply for every grower. This is because your local growing environment will not be the same as anyone else's. Key climatic differences such as temperature, humidity, air movement, the potting mix (type and age), and light levels all influence the watering requirements of individual plants.

When deciding whether to water, there are several identifying clues to determine when a potted orchid is almost dry:

  • the surface of the potting mix will appear dry when the potting mix is moss 
  • dry pots will feel lighter when lifted.
  • clay pots feel dry;
  • If you insert a pencil or wooden skewer into the potting mix when removed it will come out almost dry.

Generally it is best to water your plant in the morning to give the moisture on the leaves time to dry off during the day, this will reduce the risk of fungal damage. If any water remains in the center of the plant then use some kitchen towel to dry it off.

Many people prefer to use natural water rather than tap water to avoid any of the added chemicals or to have water with a different PH. If you use water treatment such as that provided by Lagan Water then this can help increase the range of plants you are able to cater for.

During the summer months when temperatures are higher then you will need to water more frequently, and conversely in the winter months water less frequently. Keep in mind that temperatures close to the window on a windowsill will be colder or hotter than your general house temperature. Keeping your plant away from radiators in winter will help minimise premature drying.

When orchids are watered, they should be watered copiously, infrequent and plenty is better than little and often. Place your plant into the sink and let the water run freely from the drainage holes for about a minute. Do not use salt-softened or distilled water. Allow the plant to drain completely. This is an opportunity to examine how the potting mix behaves. If you cannot pour water rapidly through the pot, the potting mix is too dense and you run the risk of starving the roots for air. If you see finely divided material that looks like coffee grounds in the water coming from the drainage holes, your potting mix is breaking down and it's time to repot into fresh mix.

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