Switching growing conditions

bradarmiJuly 12, 2010

So it looks like we will be closing on our new house, which means my orchids come with me and the wife and leave my parents house (my mom already got moving boxes for them).

Anyway, I kept the orchids in my parents' sunroom where they flourished and now am "considerring" locking the orchids up in our basement, since my new wife thinks orchids are nice, but ugly when not in bloom. And if I dont she will make our new life very bad for both me and the orchids. So I have been talking to the orchids and although they arent too fond of the new wife, they love the fact that we will be together.

Here is my plan - I am thinking of growing them in the unfinished basement (until its a man-cave complete with a urinal in the bathroom and a pool table) and put up some artifical lights. I ran into a new lighting company at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show (cant find their brochure since its packed) but I was considerring building an "indoor greenhouse" with salvaged windows from my parents' house (my dad and I replaced the windows). Anyone consider this? I think I may have posted this before but I cannot find the original post.

I was going to build the greenhouse indoors to keep up humidty and light it with some hanging plant-grow lights. Any ideas, suggestions, etc? If anyone has a similar set up - how do you control for temps? Do they increase too much? How would I allow for a night-time drop in temps for the phals and catts? I wanted to build a greenhouse outside, but the cost of materials and heat specifically has really made me think of utilizing indoor space I wont need for a while.

Besides, we have a HOA (yard Nazis) and I need to infiltrate their organization to see if a sunroom/greenhouse or koi pond is permissible since no one in the neighborhood has any garden whatsoever.

thanks for your input

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I built my mother a basement greenhouse in Calgary Alberta. No glass was used, the walls of a large 'Rumpus Room' were painted with a heavy Epoxy paint, the floor was stripped to bare cement and coated with a rubberized something or other. I built her tables with a waterproof bottom, all the water ended up in a 5 gallon bucket. Inside was a submersible sump pump which pumped the water into a sink next to her washing area. I got her a 1,000 watt HI light which cruised on a 8' rail up and down the room. She had plants hanging from all the walls and covering the tables.

Keeping it from overheating was no problem, heating it controlled by a thermostat. After 2 years we noticed that certain plants would not bloom. Cymbidiums, Dendrobium speciosum, kingianum, delicatum etc need to get cold in the fall to initiate bloom. We took an old unused bathroom and turned it into a 'cold room' where the plants were allowed to go down to freezing in the fall and winter and then brought up in Spring. They promptly bloomed. I had everything set on timers so that my 78 year old mother needed to do nothing but water which she enjoyed tremedously.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 6:49PM
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We have a member in our club who grows everything in her basement. Her 200 orchids are on benches and everything is on humidity trays. She has everything under shoplights fitted with grow flourescent lights they are on with timers for 14 hours per day. I have a greenhouse solarium and hot tub room and she is flowering more orchids than I am. Honk me off.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 11:12PM
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westoh Z6

I'd say you might want to rethink the window idea, in an artificial light situation you almost always have an issue with providing enough light and the windows would just let that much needed light escape. If it were me, I'd put up some type of temporary wall, paint it white and then go from there. Possibly do it in a corner where you only had to construct 2 walls. Maybe use an existing wall with a window for temp drops in the fall. Also put an oscillating-type fan in the room for air circulation.

As far as lights, with 6 85watt CFLs and 3 sets of 4 light T12 fixtures, I'm able to grow @60-75 comfortably in my 10 x 12 spare bedroom setup. BTW: I'm only using 2 of the T12 fixtures and 2 CFL's this summer, as the rest of the 'kids are outside and loving it. Something to consider for the future.

If the basement is not heated, you may have an issue with winter cold when the lights are not running (heater on a timer for the lights off hours?), otherwise I'd think the basement set-up would handle temps the rest of the year just fine.

I open a window in fall evenings for the temp drops for my phals, (drops from day temps of @75-80 to night temps of 60 for a few weeks).


    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 7:22AM
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highjack(z6 KY)

I agree with Bob regarding the windows and the use of walls to cordon off an area.

The one thing you have to guard against is if you increase the humidity, you must protect the floor structure above you. Most people growing inside a grow room use plastic to make sure the joists are protected and the humidity doesn't create mold throughout the house.

You don't need to worry about a temperature drop because when your lights are turned off, the temp will drop. Even fluoro tubes put off enough heat to raise the temp by 10 degrees, CFLs, T5s and HPS/HD will raise it even more. The room where I had two 1000 watt HPS on travelers would go to 85. The room was about 10 x 12. The more open area where I only used T8s would go to 75 with several units in play.

One of the best things you can do before setting up your room is to talk to a hydroponics business.


For heat it would be better to have your grow room WITHOUT a furnace vent operated by your house thermostadt.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 11:08AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions, I have been trying to get on all day but our server here at work keeps kicking me off (they're on to me).

Bob:I like the idea of constructing it in the corner, minimizing expenses and maximizing basement space.It's a new house so I dont expect it to get too cold down there come winter. The furnace is there (the same side I want to put the greenhouse on - another thing to think about). So maybe Brooke is right, not have the furnace blowing hot dry air will help.

I have to try to find the company that made those lights - I asked what about footcandles (since orchid literature is all mesured in footcandles). The guy was well -educated and reminded me that footcandles is a mesure for visible light - not applicable here since most of the bulbs he sold were in the red/violet blue spectra of visible light and gave everything a glow. (I also have a reef tank so am familiar with lights).

Interestingly, he had African Violets and cacti under the same light the same distance from it, and both were flourishing. He said I'll never need to worry about burning since all the light is usable by plants and they do not produce heat.

Ron I can sympathize, I have orchids that flower very well for me at the expense of some leaves. I ranted a while ago that we grow them for flowers, so I sacrifice a few leaves here and there, but honestly, it would be nice to grow some of those specimens you see at shows that are just perfect.

Nick I would like to hear more about the cold room, I have some cymbidiums and dends who need this cold treatment as well - do you have any pics?

thanks for all the great ideas, I think this will have to be constructed with some planning, but with much less stress than putting up an outdoor greenhouse.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 5:55PM
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No pics, my mother kept her house snugly warm while outside temps in Alberta dipped to -40F. We closed the heat vents in the bathroom in question, and using a 'High/Low' thermometer monitored the temperature. I had her crack the window just enough so the lowest point would be as close to 30F as possible. It got enough heat from the surrounding rooms so she never used the heating vents. During the day she let it get as warm as 60F.

I built her a table at sink height, covering the sink and most of the bathroom area, so she could water her heart out and it would all drain into the sink. A few 100 watt ceiling bulbs gave the light.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 8:33PM
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whitecat8(z4 MN)


Congrats on your wedding and now a new house!

My DH has this thing about the lathe house on the patio for the orchids. To him, it's ugly. I thought it was ever so much more attractive than the shelves protected by chicken wire :) but not to him. So, I've upped the light in the orchid bedroom, gotten a larger fan, and called it good. Probably not as many blooms, but harmony in the house... about the orchids, anyway. :)

Quite a few people in the local MN orchid society grow very successfully in their basements all year round, although I don't know details of providing cooler temps.

If you like to tinker, it sounds like this is made for you. On the other hand, maybe Nick's got some spare time and a gleam in his eye for a new project...

Keep us posted, WC

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 3:51PM
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I found this thread to update everyone. I moved into the house this summer and took most of the orchids inside in late August and ordered four Sunshine Systems lights. These are LED lights that burn cool and have the blue-red spectrum. Anyway, its been a good 2.5-3 months and EVERYTHING is spiking either earlier than growing in the sunroom. Phals that haven't spiked in two years are throwing out several spikes and the vandas are reblooming! The tolumnia, eplc., cattleya, dendrobiums, oncidiums, and Christmas cacti are all in bloom weeks ahead of schedule. I am not sure if it was the neglect they received during moving or the summer temps, but I am really impressed with the lighting systems and am considering growing everything under these lights (even managed to stuff my orange tree under the lights).

I made a "cold room" by placing the cool growing plants in the covered basement window well (at night) and thanks to our longer than average fall temps, the plants have really responded to the treatment.

Thanks for the great ideas everyone!I will post pics of the temporary grow area and the indoor grow room that we discussed earlier over the weekend. We got a hold of industrial-strength greenhouse material to construct the frame of the grow room, I cannot recall the name of it, but that will be another discussion.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 5:16PM
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I would like to commend on Nick's post. I was quite impressed with his construction of an 'orchid room' for his mother. She can be proud of such a loving, caring, son.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 12:08AM
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If her hobby had been knitting, her loving, caring son would not have lifted a finger for her. It was fun though running her 'orchid basement' in Calgary from LA.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 10:07AM
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Wow Nick - after reading your post, you almost make me wish I'd had kids, lol!
It sounds like a beautiful set-up, your mom is very lucky to have you.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2010 at 11:12AM
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Ok so I finally got a chance to upload take some pictures of my indoor growing set up. Thanks to the comments and suggestions on this forum, the plants are doing really well under lights in the basement as I said in the above post.

Here is the link to the snapfish account, I hope it loads

Here is a link that might be useful: Orchid Room

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 10:31AM
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This sounds like a horrible situation to be entering...a wife who doesn't "allow" your passion and a HOA that restricts how you live. I seriously worry for your happiness in life.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 5:42AM
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its not really that bad, I too agree that the orchids are quite ugly when out of bloom and in winter there just isnt really enough light. Had it not been for the wife - the orchids would have never got a room dedicated to them with such good (artificial) light - HOA - we will see how bad they are since I have yet to ask them about the pond to be installed in the spring...

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 12:01PM
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What an interesting thread! Thanks for sharing the pic.

My fiance was just talking today about us doing something like this if and when we get a house, rather than building an outdoor greenhouse. Neat to have stumbled across this thread the same day!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 8:46PM
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Ateles - go for it, it is a great idea, and you wont have to pay winter heating bills (I am in zone 5 Chicago) - and as my old man so eloquently pointed out - I could buy 3x the number of orchids new each year instead of paying a heating bill! All in all, some of the lights, particulalry LEDs are cool-running and aren't that bad on the electric bill.

I still want a greenhouse, but I think I would use it as a cold-frame to extend the growing season for veggies.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 7:05PM
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What an excellent point your father has!!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 2:03PM
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