Care of Orchids in your home can be simplified by understanding more about their stem and root growth. Orchids can be subgrouped in a variety of different ways, including light requirements, temperature requirements, growing origins, etc. The type of stem and root system is another way that orchids can be grouped.
Taking care of orchids in the same growing group may make it easier to grow several at a time when you are just beginning. However it may be more interesting and satisfying to collect one of each type so that you can learn about a variety of orchid care needs. Keep reading this article for a brief introduction to each of the growing groups.
Grouping orchids by Stem Structure
Monopodial orchids typically have a single, thick stem growing straight up. Leathery leaves grow alternatingly from either side of the stem with wide aerial roots growing from the point that leaves and stem meet. These plants grow constantly and as a result may have new flower stems growing while a previous bloom is fading, thus always being in bloom! Monopodial orchids need a lot of moisture, warmth and lightly shaded coniditions to grow and bloom well. Let the plant dry out in between waterings. Examples include Vanilla Orchids, Vandas and Phalaenopsis.
Sympodial orchids have mutiple stems or pseudobulbs growing from one rhizome. The bulbs act as storage tanks for both water and food. These plants produce new bulbs at the end of the growign season which stems from the bottom, or eye of the front bulb. The front bulb is also the one that produces a flower stem after ripening. Sympodial orchids are very easy to grow. Varieties include Cattleya, Epidendrum, Dendrobium and Oncidium.
Grouping orchids by root structure
Epiphytic orchids have all of their roots exposed to air. Epiphyte means "air plant". In the wild epiphyts grow on trees and aquire all of their moisture and nutrition directly from the air and from organic matter that washes over them as they cling to the bark of trees. Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphyts.
Semi-epiphytic orchids such as cattleyas have roots that grow both in the air, and take root into the potting medium. These plants require very good drainage and great care must be taken to not have the roots soaking in water after watering or if placed in a non-draining decorative container.
Terrestrial orchids grow roots entirely in teh soil just like other garden plants. Examples include Bletia, Bletilla and Habenaria. Semi terrestrial orchids on the other had grow in rich porous organic material such as leaf litter. Examples include Cymbidiums, Phaius and Paphiopedilum.
Taking care of orchids with two different rooting systems clearly requires that you understand some of the basic needs of the plant. Epiphytes have different watering requirements than terrestrials for example. Can you identify the stem and root groups of all of the orchids in your home?
Interested in buying orchids in bloom? Visit the Aloha Orchid Nursery for beautiful vivid flowers, and collector plants. If you are interested in an easy to understand, step-by-step guide to orchid care, visit the Orchid Expert, by Nigel Howell.