Winter Care for Orchids

claritamariaSeptember 16, 2007

I posted a question about changing fertilisers at this time of year (see link below). It prompted another line of thought that I am posting here. They go hand in hand. Winter preparation.

I remember being lost as a new indoor grower last winter. While I shutter to think I will go through another winter locked up in z-5 with a couple hundred sleepy 'chids, I know this is reality.

Some people look at putting their orchids outdoors in Northern zones as a "break" from orchid tending. I am the opposite. For me & my collection, winter rest is "break-time".

I came from balcony growing in Fl to indoor growing with a very short outdoor season in Chicago. I never really thought too deeply about growing when I lived in Fl. (that was before I found this forum!) I only assisted Mother Nature every once in a while. Winters in FL, I was too busy with "high season fun" to care about orchids. Inadvertently, my neglect was actually correct; a winter rest period.

I wanted to start a thread since I see many new names on the board asking many questions. Today is the equinox. I thought it appropriate to open this discussion. It's a beast of a subject to handle. I need lots of help!

I clipped this post by WC8; an excellent discussion on the basics of rest:

This is a "soft intro" to winter care for orchids. It's difficult to get your mind around the concept as a new grower. A preview of the months to come

Water reduction/rest is connected with day length. If you grow in indoors; conditions also dictate watering habits; the amount of light being #1 on the conditions list.

Rest is also an emulation of situational conditions/ requirements in order to induce flowering the following season. Think about what we are growing; Mainly plants that come from places that go dry & sunny in winter and then are blasted by hurricanes and monsoons in summer.

This summer I read a few posts about Lycaste's not producing flowers or leaves. A strict winter rest is manditory in order to achieve a blooming cycle next spring. When the leaves are dropping my watering slows down. Then it stops. Last year I did roughly 3-4 MONTHS of rest. I maybe watered 4 times and tiny little sips if I saw the PB shriveling in any significant way. Other than that, I forgot I had them, kept them in the brightest light I had to give them. They are resting from water; not from light or temps; even naked PB's need good light. I iliminate all fertiliser at rest time. Kind of unthinkable to torture a Lycaste? No, not after the dozens of fragrant flowers I had this season and gorgeous scarf-like leaves!

Even though I have a "mixed bag collection", I can only think of 1 who doesn't get a rest or reduction in winter? For me Aer. odorata & my pleuro's; Dracs /Masde's. However, they do go a bit dryer in winter. I don't have the light to give them in winter and the day length is truncated.

Questions for the forum:

- Which orchids get a water reduction or rest in winter?

- Can anyone think of commonly grown orchids that do not require a winter rest or water reduction?

- How do you know which ones rest and which ones don't?

For the last question, I pull the Baker's culture sheet or ask the board

I don't fertilise anyone during the winter, with the exception of Dracs and Masdes but maybe 1-2x during winter. Hospital re-habs will continue to get High -N/ Superthrive. They can't rest or be reduced. They are too compromised. They have to be in fairly bad condition

Lycaste ( Dry rest)

Angs - let MB handle that one! (I emailed you but I am having incoming email problems)

Cloud Forest- (reduction)

Oncids/Ingens (reduction)

Paphs (reduction)

Phals (reduction)

Vandacious (neos, japonica, asco's) - Reduction

Japonica is an exception with respect to temps IMO. It will stay in very cool through a good bit of the winter. I will keep him in the shoppe, sans heat, long after I have moved everyone else into the apartment. Neos will join japonica for a time.

Can anyone add to the list?

Anything I have in s/h, intergens oncids, for example, go dry as a bone for a some days before I even think about filling the resevoir again. My disclaimer is that I have 70-80% RH and use a lot of rock as the substrate. Lava rock holds a lot of moisture.

When I say reduction, it is different depending on your indoor micro-climate. No one can tell you how many times a month to water. Maybe someone can recommend a % reduction ? I cannot. I will be on almost 100% artificial light but high RH. My waterting schedule will be different that someone who has more light to offer and less humidity.

Medium is discussed a lot. For me, it makes a difference only in winter. Orchids in spag will have to be watered less frequently that orchids in bark.

Well, the snake is out of the bag....


Looking forward to a restful winter

PS Anyone know what became of Spiced_Ham?

Here is a link that might be useful: Fall/Winter Fertiliser Discussion

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mehitabel(z6 MO)

Well, I just grow for the flowers, and the more the better, so I ended up making phals my priority, tho I still have some oncids and a few catts.

I definitely don't grow for unusualness or to challenge my skills or anything like that.

With phals, what I have read suggests they will grow year round if warm and well-lit. So that's what I go for-- make a warm, well-lit place for them, no rest. I want them to grow as much as the circumstances will allow. And I want to see the growth all winter.

Also, I believe the outdoor season is too short to sustain a plant for a whole year. I do think for most (except the highly specialized dry-season ones), they are better off it they can grow at least some in winter too.

How dry? I try to keep warmth, light, air and water/fert balanced. Obviously, if they're out of balance, the plant will suffer. But to me, precision is for the tax man. For plants, I just use my hunches. When they are wrong, the poor thing just expires unless I catch on in time :)

I know there are orchids that are specialized for a dry rest in winter, but I just happen not to own any.

I enjoy my hour or so a day down in the light room-- it's a bright, pleasant place. All white and green and brightly lit. If I leave the door open, the cats will visit. Put some New Orleans Jazz or Rag Time on, and go down there and poke around and whistle for an hour or so. Kill a few scale.

Absorbs your attention completely, keeping the mind off niggling worries. Good for the soul, and why I have always gardened. So I would be sorely deprived if there was a whole winter with no new growth to measure and gloat over. The growth down in the plant room and the flowers are what make winter bearable for me.

Whitecat once wrote something about "the light under the plant room door", and I hafta tell ya, it's a beautiful, beguiling thing, that slash of light beckoning you to come in and count the new little specks of leaves starting.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 4:36PM
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Thanks Mehitabel! It makes me want to go down into your orchid room!! Sounds fun! Nice way to pass time when snow is about too, good music, flowers and bright light! I have my plants and office together in winter for that beconning light reason! (It also gives me plenty of time for Orchid Compulsive Disorder)

I know there are other "specialists" out there. Would you tell us your winter rest or unrest stories?


    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 5:21PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

My winter tip - don't leave the windows open in the orchid room when it's -20 F. Generally speaking, orchids sulk after that.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 7:13PM
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MsFlintlock(z7 N GA)

I'm in NE Georgia. Our average first frost comes about Oct 15th, so I'm just beginning to arrange the shelving, groom the plants, and think about what groupings will optimize winter care both for them and for me. All the phals and paphs have been moved to the indoor plant light so I can see what's left that needs GH space. I only have an 8 x 10 and I willingly violate every rule I can think of about not overcrowding. Therefore, this year the mostly catts and oncidium alliances have been systemic bug and systemic fungus treated before the move. Scale loves closed in spaces. I have to leave room for the fans. They are critical to orchid health. All the advice to avoid drafts has definitely not been my experience. The more air movement the better - as long as it doesn't come with names like Katrina, or Opal or Ivan. I downsized by about 50 plants. With 150 on the plant lite, about 380 are waiting for GH space. But back to the topic .... with the heat this summer, I was watering daily or every other day. Usually in the winter I water weekly. I'm going to try to move that to every 10 days in the GH. That means doing half the GH about every 5 days so I can keep the humidity up for the other half. I have no foggers or misters. The paphs and phals inside the house have different needs. The paphs demand fertilizer and twice-a-week watering when inside. It's almost like they think the flourescents are brighter than their outdoor shady spot. I tell them that can't be, but their leaves start to yellow until I feed them something... so I go with what works. Three are in bloom and about 5 have low buds.

My heat lovers went into the GH first. The Vanda, all seedlings, angraecum, dracula, pleurothallis. Please let me know if any of these need the cold. I have too many to keep up with that very well. I was told my Cirr Elizabeth wasn't blooming for me because she needed to chill. This year she will. I'm keeping out the neo, hybrid minis with s (sophronitis) in their initials, and the paph armeniacum because I've read they need the cooler temps. Every winter the cymbidiums get farmed out to an old school turned office building that has an unheated hallway with windows. The cymbidiums bloom like crazy. I water them lightly weekly and take the bows. The buds always blasted in my 50's-at-night crowded GH. Maybe I'll add to this later as I continue to think thru the process. Sherlene

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 11:00PM
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A most timely post Clara - and should be made into a sticky or FAQ for beginners such as myself. A month ago, from this board I'd learnt about winter care for phalaenopsis species - thank you all again!

What about winter care for chinese cymbidiums (ensifolium, kanran, sinense, formosanum)? Am a windowsill (southeast) grower in Zone 6/Boston, and new to these. Current plan is to cut down watering to at most once a week. These cymbidiums are in clay pots with lava rock + fir bark. Will winter night temp range 40-50F (4-10C) and day temp range that's +10F/6C higher damage them? Reading about the native environment of these species on the web suggests to me that this plan should be OK? Thank you in advance!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 11:27PM
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Hi Sherlene and Chip!

Sherlene. Lucky lady to have a G/H! The pleuros will need stable year round temps, mid 70's day (not above 80) and mid 50's at night lowest. The like a 20 -25 diural range (day night temp difference) You may want to put your Dracs in the cool part of your g/h. They should be getting decent light. I know many growers give them approaching catt light. I do mine. I grow them indoors and had some out this summer. They are spiking. They need good air movement as fungus is very prevolant with Dracs. The thin leaves are highly suspectable and can quickly ravage tender leaves. Black tiny dots cluctered tight together are burn or over heating. Larger very round spots are fungus for Dracs. If you have a G/h and good humidity I would not recommend misting dracs as a cooling method, as fungus can happen all to fast.

Dracs and most common pleuros do not rest or have a large water reduction in winter. I have high RH indoors so my watering does decrease in winter. My Humidity is sufficient to carry them a bit longer than the average indoor grower's.

Chip, I don't grow Cyms but I do know they take lower night temps. The days may need to be a bit higher. I am sure there is someone on the forum that can answer about the cultural needs of Cyms. I kind of recall mid 70's day for winter but don't quote me on it. I grow some other asian orchids and they do get some extreme temps by orchid standards

Its a little early to cut back on the water. But just a preview of things to come! Here in Chicago it is summer again! Mid to upper 80's through month's end. You may get the same. Again not growing cyms, but once a week may be too much water, depending on your conditions and medium choice. There is nothing I can think of except Pleuros in my collection that get watered that frequently in winter. Light remains as plentiful as you can get during rest. Just the water changes.

If you have not discovered The Baker's culture sheets, they are a great investment. It will give you an idea of the needs of your plants, conditions and type of rest needed. Link below. If I have a primary hybrid, I will request the culture for both parent plants and take it from there!


    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 10:22AM
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richardol(Santa Royale CA)

I have the 7-day weather forecast coming up on one of the tabs I open every day on my Firefox. Thursday we are going down to 44, so the heater will be on and the greenhouse shut up at night for the first time this summer. I will turn on the fourth fan in the greenhouse that circulates the air above the heater.

I have started cutting back on water and am reviewing which of my plants needs a dry winter rest. I have more Dendrobiums in that category this year and some of my Encyclias also. In about six weeks I will turn the automatic watering off entirely and change to hand watering for the Vandas and Masdevallias.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 10:38AM
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I am silently sitting here, after reading the first (Claritamaria)email, and I am thinking, "I live in Miami. What do I do now after reading this?"

All this talk of ferts. I use Dynamite 13-13-13. The most I do is cut back on watering come November/December thru. I feel so like an inept mother.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 12:36PM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Dendrobium nobiles need a dry, cold, sunny winter rest. I stop all fertilizer at the end of August, all water at Thanksgiving. I don't resume watering until buds are very well developed, and then only baby sips until after bloom is finished. For the regular den nobiles this may meed a couple of months, and for the Yamamoto type nobiles this may mean four weeks or so.

The cattleyas need less fertilizer, down to 1/2 teaspoon, and then in the dead of winter down to 1/4 teaspoon, but I do still feed them, and water once a week.

Phals grow all year long, so are fed and watered regularly.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 2:31PM
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Catt_lover Gardener
I am giggling. You're not a bad Mum at all. That's what I used to do in Miami. SOBE was swinging, I forgot I had orchids for much of season :-) Ignoring orchids works in a sub-tropical climate during winter . Many of us are trying to emulate Miami winters in Northern indoor climates. I think sometimes people don't understand that Miami is a not 365 day / year tropical steamy sweat box or that Miami people own and use sweaters and jackets!

Thanks Orchid 126 for the geat info. I don't grow too many Dens. What is a Yamamoto type nobile?


    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 5:45PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Yamamoto was/is a prolific breeder of nobile type hybrids. Though to talk about a Yamamoto type just causes confusion.

For example, Den. Yukidaruma was bred by Yamamoto ages ago and is an "Old Fashioned Type" in that it is about to bloom from pseudobulbs/canes that matured over a year ago.

The newer types will produce blooms from the latest mature growth and do not need the degree of chilling needed that the older hybrids and the species.

The specialist growers around here just treat them all the same and do not worry about who produced the orchid. You just leave them out in the weather in your shadehouse and nature will do the rest. I've only got a few and they survived the coldest night of the year (1C) without fuss.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 11:57PM
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