Orchids and How (not) to Kill Them

planAh, orchids. Their intoxicating beauty is only rivalled by how easy is to kill one, especially the rarities. I’ll be making a separate post about why common orchids die (this is for other reasons) and I’ll be focusing on the unusual species obtained from a small orchid greenhouse or annual orchid expo. I’ve had to build a greenhouse just to keep mine in thriving conditions, but the non-ultra tropicals can be grown indoors with the proper care. Because it is the most common cause of orchid death in the hands of a capable horticulturist, I will be focusing on root rot.

For this reason, I strongly object to purchasing those breathtaking Dracula and Masdevallia orchids that not only won’t flower outside of a greenhouse, but will almost always die. Trust me. I’ve lost quite a few. This is due to the fact that these so-called cloud forest orchids need sphagnum moss to keep their roots moist enough in a non-tropical environment. In using pure sphagnum, you are restricting the aeration of the roots, leading to fungal diseases.

Root rot affects more than just cloud forest orchids. Many orchids will not get enough (or will get too much) light indoors, leading to the fungi multiplying and the roots rotting away. Orchids optimally need outdoor sun (like in a greenhouse) with a 50% shade cloth, though orchids that need more light can be moved near the brighter greenhouse sides. This isn’t necessary, as plenty of Dendrobiums (as seen in the featured photo) and Epidendrums can grow just fine in a household windowsill, but these still need light and should not be growing in an area that receives very little sunlight.

What it boils down to for the less tropical orchids is light and ventilation, which can often be


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