What’s in a Name?

There are many different types of orchid and orchid hybrids, probably more so than with other flowering plants due to their ability to crossbreed at the genus and species level. Rules have been developed to help distinguish hybrid plants from their originator orchids. I’ll go over a little about it here so that it might make things easier for you. It’s believed that there are over 100,000 hybrids in existence at this point, creating an almost unlimited variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of orchids.

Some hybrids occur spontaneously in nature, but others are man-made. If it is believed the hybrid occurred naturally by the cross-pollination of bees, butterflies, or other means, they are denoted with an X in the name – for example, Dendrobium Xruppiosum (meaning D. ruppianum X D. speciosum).

When they are a man-made intergeneric hybrid, the names are combined as a contraction. In other words, if you are talking about a hybrid of Odontonia and Miltonia, the hybrid is known as Odontonia. The same rule follows if three flowers are mixed, and the longer the potential for the name – take Brassolaeliocattleya for example. It is a hybrid of Brassavola, Laelia, and Cattleya.

This system would have gotten too complicated with anything crossing more than four, so there is another system for those: the name is chosen usually as an originator’s name (or a new name) and the suffix -ara, to give you the ability to determine it is a hybrid instead of an origin species.

Sometimes you will find an orchid hybrid’s ‘parent’ plants listed in parenthesis after the name. This helps people who are not familiar with naming rules and will also give you an idea of what qualities the plant should possess.

A few quick notes on hybrids verses origin plants: one isn’t necessarily better or easier to grow than the other. As a general rule, hybrids are easier to care for: often, origin plants are selected for their heartier traits just as much as they are chosen for their appearance. Hybrids are often cheaper to purchase and grow than origin species, because propagation is easier. Another thing to consider is that origin species tend to be more forgiving because they have adapted to their environment, learning to compensate for missing nutrients, lighting (or lack thereof) and growing material.

With so many varieties out there, you are sure to find a plant at a skill level, size, shape, and color that you want! This little cheat sheet explaining names as well as asking questions of your local orchid society or grower should get you all the information you need.

Beautiful Day at the Botanical Gardens

My daughter offered to take me to the Botanical Gardens today. Honestly, I haven’t seen much of her lately, she has been so busy with college and her job and her friends. When she mentioned it last night, it seemed like a sincere effort on her part to make a connection. I was delighted that she thought of me and of something she knew I would enjoy, since she knows how much I like flowers. It was very considerate of her.

We headed out there early and got a map. I asked her what she wanted to see first, since it was her idea. She chose the Rose Garden, which I thought was perfect. What a beautiful place it was! We could smell the fragrant roses long before we saw the first signs of the garden itself. I typically find drawn to varieties of tea roses but my daughter pointed out some breathtaking English Roses known as The Poet’s Wife. They were such a bright yellow and had such a lovely scent I fell in love with them. I might look for some to add to my own yard!

From there we walked through a meditation garden. My daughter took one of the sand rakes and made a pattern. I took lots of pictures when she wasn’t looking, her face so serious and happy at the same time. She was remarkably pleased by the pattern she made. It just looked like a lot of swirls to me but I was happy because she was happy.

Next, we went to what seemed to be more of a greenery garden instead of a flowering garden, My daughter laughed at the very strange looking Monkey Puzzle Tree. It looked an awful lot like a very sad pine tree. I thought something was wrong with it at first but apparently no, that’s how it should look.

After that, we both enjoyed the Butterfly Garden. There were several kinds of Asters, Black Eyed Susans, Daisies, Columbine, Zinnias, Marigolds, and Lilacs. It was so colorful and full of life. My favorite was the Sweet Pea, which are always so delicate looking. We watched the butterflies feeding for a while. One even tried to land on my daughter’s brightly colored shirt. She captured some nice pictures of these beautiful creatures with her phone.

The last garden we went to visit had some lovely orchids. My daughter was especially impressed with the brightly hued and beautifully patterned Vanda Coerulea. I found myself staring at some Lady Slipper orchids for quite a while. They were just amazing to see, and so colorful. However, both of us agreed that the prettiest orchids we saw were labeled as Dendrobium Cherry Song. While not necessarily as flashy as the Lady Slipper, they were so perfectly colored and shaped.

At that point, we had nearly looped around to the parking lot and we were both getting hungry. I am so glad that we had this time to spend together. On the way home, my daughter was talking about her favorite flowers and how she wanted to plant some in our yard as a reminder of this nice day together. How sweet is that?

From Sprout to Bloom: Orchid Care

Orchids require quite a bit of time in order to get the results you want. Here I am going to talk about some general tips to make sure that your orchid grows healthy and blooms happily.

Orchid seeds are nearly impossibly small, so it is best to get an already established plant. Repot it in a fast-draining medium that also holds water. Good options are bark based or peat based mixtures. You want it to drain easily to prevent rotting of the roots, but retain enough water that the plant doesn’t dry out quickly.

To get your orchid to grow properly indoors, you will need to use south or east facing windows to give them the proper amount of light. Windows with northern exposure don’t give enough light and those with western exposure can be too hot.

Feed your plant a balanced fertilizer regularly. Stay away from anything with urea. Many growers use a diluted solution in water once a week, others fertilize once a month. But never fertilize a dry plant, as it could burn the roots. Water first, and then fertilize.

Troubleshooting your orchid:

If your orchid fails to rebloom, that is a sign it needs more light. Look at the leaves. If they are the color of grass or have slightly yellow tones, then it is getting the right amount of light and it should continue to bloom. If the leaves are too yellow or they turn white, your plant is getting too much sun and its chlorophyll is being destroyed.

When your plant has shriveled leaves, it signals a lack of water to the plant. This could mean a few things, and requires investigation. Look at the medium your plant has been living in, because it might need to be replaced or it might not be holding enough water. You must also look at the roots of your plant to see if they are plump and either white or green in color. If the roots are not in good shape, it cannot take up water no matter what you do. To try and save the plant, you must raise the humidity in the air around the plant and repot/replace the plant medium and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, wet growing conditions along with too-high levels of humidity can bring on fungal or bacterial rot. There are many sites online where you can compare what signs your plant is exhibiting to common diseases and issues as well as giving you tips on what to do to correct the problem.

If you notice that buds are falling off before they open, there could be several reasons. Sometimes changes in the temperature can affect the blooms (for example, check to see if there is a heating/cooling duct aiming at your plant). It could be that you are under- or over- watering the plant. Maybe you moved the plant somewhere new before the buds opened, that can also cause them to fall off. The air around your plant might be too dry. Another issue could be pests – common culprits are mites, aphids, thrips, or mealybugs – or even ants, although ants are usually attracted to a food source and are often a sign of another infestation.

I hope you have found this post useful!