Help getting into orchid growing

Bob1016(9b)January 22, 2012

I live in orlando FL, and I am interested in starting to grow orchids. I currently live in an apartment (third floor) with a balcony that faces West (260 degrees if you need that much info). I currently grow many veggies, a rose bush, a few carnivorous plants (including a two nepenthes), herbs, and succulents, so I am not new to gardening.

I like to do my research before starting a new endeavor so I know the basics about orchids, but I am still seeking advice for which types would be best to grow. I know that there is no generic answer for this as it varies greatly from location to location. Below are my environmental conditions:

Jan - average: 71/49, record:87/19, humidity: 88/57 (morning, afternoon)

Feb - avr: 74/52, rec: 90/26, hum: 88/53

Mar - avr: 78/56, rec: 92/25, hum: 89/50

Apr - avr: 83/60, rec: 96/38, hum: 88/47

May - avr: 88/66, rec: 100/48, hum: 88/49

Jun - avr: 91/72, rec: 100/53, hum: 90/57

Jul - avr: 92/74, rec: 101/64, hum: 91/59

Aug - avr: 92/74, rec: 100/64, hum: 93/60

Sep - avr: 90/73, rec: 98/56, hum:92/60

Oct - avr: 85/66, rec: 95/43, hum: 90/57

Nov - avr: 79/59, rec:89/29, hum: 90/56

Dec - avr: 73/52, rec: 90/20, hum: 89/58

On my balcony I have spots that get 6, 4, 2, and no hours of sun. We get almost no frost, none this year, and an almost constant breeze.

I would love to grow Masdevallia, Odontoglossum, Paphiopedilum, or any unique looking hybrids, but will deal with others if it is highly recommended.

Thanks for your help, Bob

P.S. sorry to be so incredibly detailed about the weather, it was more of a learnig experience for me than necessary info (it is interesting to see it all even though you live there)

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I was at an orchid place a dozen years ago staffed by a couple of old Swedes and asked them culture questions in great detail. One of them cut me off and said the following:

"Let me tell you about orchids, young fella (I was 60 so that's a hoot in itself). Give them a lot of light but keep them out of the sun. Water them once a week. Fertilize them once every two weeks with half strength fertilizer. Repot them every 2 years with fresh bark. Now throw away your books and enjoy your orchids, if you do this 80% will love you, the others you don't want."

That's my advice to you for the first 1 or 2 years.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 11:26PM
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That's good advice, and after a year or two I tend to follow it. I like to garden and one of the things that I like most about gardening is all the research, technical stuff, and learning as much as I can about the plants I grow. It's like the four hour work week: plan, automate, and eliminate all the not so fun stuff so that I can do what I call fun. After the initial buzz (usually about two years) dies down, I just end up growing things that i've learned to grow and the stuff that doesn't take a lot of work, then when I get interested again, it repeats.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 11:43PM
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Hi, Bob and welcome to orchids. I recently moved to Florida, Sarasota area and took a few of my plants with me. After growing for years in NY, I can tell you which plants have done very well in 4 months since we got here.

Cattleyas have all responded to the increase in light and warmth. I have mixed hybrids and all are growing multiple growths and roots. None flowered although a few are hanging on to some sheaths, so we'll see.

I took two Masdes and neither are doing well. I have tried them inside and out. They are declining. I am using RO and rain water on all plants.

Phals are all spiking but don't look good to me. They are late as they usually bloom for me in Dec/Jan.

I have a large Angraceum which is full of spikes and buds. Usually flowers for me in Dec. but decided to make multiple spikes. The plant is in heaven here.

Another happy plant is Aeranthes grandiose which is sending out multiple spikes.

A Psychopsis is also doing well, gave me 3 blooms at once.

There are others, I can't think off-hand. Most are still outside on the patio.

Nicks advice is good. You should also join your local Orchid Society (which I plan to do) when we finally find a house. I know there is a orchid show coming up in Tampa. I don't have the dates but you can go to the Tampa orchid Society website and I'm sure they have the info. You can buy plants from local growers or unusual plants from visiting growers. Lots of fun.

Your local society will introduce you to growers in your area and you can get local information which is the most important.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:01AM
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Psychopsis looks like an amazing orchid. I am not familiar with all the names yet, there are just so many, but maybe I'll get about half of them down in twenty or so years.
Which Angraceum (am i correct about that being a genus?)?
Joining the local clubs will probably be a good idea, I don't know how many people on here are from Orlando, and trust me when I say that even Sarasota is different then here, Florida has so many microclimate regions it's crazy.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:43AM
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I agree but that is even more reason to join a local club. Florida has more orchid societies than any other state. I was amazed and it is so helpful to attend a few meetings to see what people are growing well, in your neighborhood.

My niece lives in St. Pete and grows the most amazing dendrobiums in her pool area. Some are 6ft tall filled with spikes and flowers which last over 6 months. She brings bouquets of them to work. They sit in pots on her patio and she rarely waters them. They are the only plants she grows now.

Go to a meeting, even if you don't join you will enjoy seeing the plants people grow. They usually have divisions and free plants so it could get you started. It is fun.

This shot was taken a two years ago, in NY. It is blooming 2 spikes.I carried this monster to Florida with me and it is so full of buds now on 6 spikes! I'll take a shot when it blooms. Seems to love the climate here.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 1:38AM
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Josh Jane, that plant is gorgeous!!!

That's a Dendrobium? Wow

Does it have a fragrance? It is so perfectly grown. Boy, does that plany look happy in your care!

What kind of mix is it in and does it grow that well with a lack of humidity? How about light? Was it grown in a window? I love it!

Bob: I hope you have just as much fun as I hope to. Your area should allow you to grow just about 80% plus more!


    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 9:24AM
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Ok. Jane, re-reading your post I saw that it is an Angraceum, and it's beautiful. That is my next one.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 9:29AM
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Do you realize that your plant could be worth hundreds?
No kidding. I almost bought one until I saw what they are going for on E-bay..Ouch



    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:29PM
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James AKA lumpy_j

Bob, there are some nice orchids that are native to Florida, Encyclia Tampensis for one. There is the ghost orchid also which definitely not for beginners but really cool. I think anything listed as an intermediate grower would be good outside in your area.

Jane, Wow, how do you keep that thing upright. I'm embarrassed to post pictures after seeing that.

Mike, Hi again, don't shop on E bay for orchids, almost always a rip off. I like how everything is listed as "very rare". There are lots of good vendors on line. Exotic Orchids of Maui and Oak Hill Gardens are my favorites. If you travel to Logees you might be able to go to J&L who are also from Connecticut. I've never been to their place but I see them at shows and they are very nice and helpful, and most stuff is in the $20 to $30 range.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 2:33PM
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What about Caladenia arenicola, Calypso bulbosa, or Encyclia cochleata. Just going off of basic information about these, and their apperence. Encyclia Tampensis looks very interesting too, and it shouldn't be very difficult. What are your opinions?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 3:03PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Yes, why not start off with something easy. Here is my Encyclia tampensis, line bred not wild collected, and the perfume is a bonus.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 11:50PM
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Thanks so much Lumpy. Like a two edge sword you have got

On the one side I am about to embark on a spending spree while at the same time I am excited about

Thank you Arthurm! Another thought


    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 6:42PM
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Mike that pic is from 2 years ago. It is quite a bit bigger now. Its in bud and I'll post a photo when it blooms.

I keep repeating myself, but truly believe new growers should join their local Orchid Society and meet growers in your area. You can get healthy plants at their auctions and many are free. You can speak to people and learn how they grow and what they grow.

Don't spend a fortune on-line until you get a better idea which plants will do well in your growing environment. You will learn that through the members of your OS.

Bob my Encyclias seem to like Florida and are making a lot of growth. I'm still trying to figure out lighting with them here. Arthur is right, try not to get too complicated. You need to have successes. Orchids take time to learn and its better to start with the more tolerant while you learn.

There are no 'easy orchids' if your growing conditions aren't right. Even the so called 'easy' plants might not do well.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 10:52PM
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Jane, that sounds awesome. I would love to see it in bloom again.

Thanks again for encouraging me to join.:-)


    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 3:58PM
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Do you guys think that Encyclia cochleata would be a good starter? It is a Florida native so conditions are about right, and it looks amazing. Any other insights? Or are there any hybrids with this as a parent? Can anyone recommend where to buy this orchid in Orlando?
Thanks for all your help guys, bob

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 1:39PM
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westoh Z6


For my conditions, the enc. coch. is an easy plant. Can get pretty big (@20" tall without flowers), but I really like the clam-shell/octopus flowers. When I bought mine from EOoM a year or so back, it was supposed to be one of the smaller sized varieties. I grow mine outside in partial shade in summer and the brightest spot I can find inside in the winter.

I think they may also be known under a different name now-a-days (prosthechea cochleata?)

Good luck,


    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 3:31PM
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Yeah there prosthechea now. The trianda (?) variety is native to Florida but the others are native to central and south America. The flowers are what got me, I have not seen hundreds of orchid varieties, but since I've been looking, they're all so amazing. What normal people think of as an orchid doesn't even compare to some of the varieties out there. Is $25 for a "bloom size" P. cochleata a lot? (I now they need to have a few pbulbs before blooming so I guess that what that means?)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 4:24PM
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westoh Z6


FWIW: I got a blooming size one from Exotic Orchids of Maui (EOoM) for $10 last year.

$25 seems a little steep.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 7:24AM
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I don't know where I can get one in Orlando, I found a place in st Pete that carries them and that is a shorter shipping distance so it makes me feel more comfortable. I would rather buy one in Orlando for less, but I would be wIlling to have it shipped from a relatively close location (I just don't want to risk undo shock from prolonged shipping on my first orchid).

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:59AM
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