There are more than 28,000 species of orchids in the world. Most of the orchids thrive in warm days and cool nights. Each and every species have their unique growth characteristics. In the wild neither the plants nor the flower spikes are disturbed because they have the necessary space to grow. Many outdoor orchid growers will also give this natural habitat without training the orchids. In the limited confines of an indoor space it is important to train the orchids to the space.
Why should you train your orchids?
Some of the varieties are compact and shorter. Some of the varieties that look compact enough on the nursery shelf is not compact any more once the plant attains maturity. The plants will grow tall, requiring both vertical and horizontal space as they mature over the period of years. For some plants the flower spikes will hit the top of the grow shelf. This is a problem for most of the indoor orchid collectors. Space is a great constraint for many indoor gardeners.
Training for space
Common methods to train the orchids include – training the plants, stem and flower spike.
Staking the flower spike
The wild card of the staking world is the flower stalk itself. These can grow long and windy. You have to use stakes to control the flowers spike. While staking the flower spike be careful not to break the flower stalks. You can also train them in fun ways like heart shape when you have two flower buds in the same plant or two plants with flower buds in the same pot.
Staking or not staking is a personal preference. Both the methods do no harm to the plants. But when you grow plants in a small indoor set up I find staking is essential. In other words staking is for our convenience.
For orchids with heavier flower spikes, the plant may tip over once the flowers start to open up. Staking will help in these circumstances.
Staking the plant
For most orchid varieties new growth appears from the base of old pseudobulbs. Sometimes these plants want to take over the entire grow space invading other plants space by pushing them. In that case I always tie up (gentle and loose) the new growth along with the whole plant. I use a twine to accomplish this work.
In other case the whole plant will grow wild invading, in that scenario I will stake up the whole plant to tame it. Consider a small tomato cage kind of setup to control them.
Best way to avoid overgrown orchids
If we are careful in selecting the different varieties of orchids, and the number of plants that can hold in your grow space, the problem can be addressed to some extent. But the problem is orchids are so addictive, once you get into that hobby you will add more and more plants than you can hold well in your grow area. Have some knowledge on the species of orchid you are buying. So you will have some idea about its growth habit and how much space it will take in your grow room.
Here is my article on how to choose and buy healthy orchids from store.
Also watch out for the length of the flower spike. They grow tall. To overcome this situation, once I spot any flower buds I remove the plants from the grow shelf and display it in living room or on the kitchen counter or side table, where the space is available.
How to train common orchids
Here I have discussed some of the varieties that I have come across and how I handled it
This is the very common orchid spotted in many garden center in the Northeast. These orchids grow well indoors tolerating the cold and with minimal sunlight. If you are a beginner gardner in a colder climate, this is something you should definiteley try growing this orchid. The plants produce vertical growth with alternating leaves on either side of the stem. Overall the plants are compact. They also reward you with flowers even though the sun exposure is minimal during winter months.
Last year I conducted an experiment. I had two flower buds in different phalaenopsis plants at the same time. I staked one of the flower stalks and left another to grow the way it liked. Big mistake!!!. The unstaked plat formed a weird shape(maybe a half heart) pulling the plant along in the direction with the weight of the flowers. Once flowers started to bloom the situation become worse. I had to balance the plant by adding some pebbles and placed it in a different spot where it won’t fall out of its pot. The lesson learned is to always stake the flower spikes in phalaenopsis orchid.
Oncidium are orchids with pseudobulbs. The flower spike will emerge from the pseudobulb. The spikes will be thin or thick depending on the variety. Some spikes will produce only 6 to 10 small flowers, in that case I will leave the flower spikes just the way it is. My personal rule is to stake the flower spike only if it is thick with many flowers.
I have a zygopetalum which once wanted to take over the whole space. I moved it to a different space, within a week it invaded into the space of its neighbor oncidium. So I tied up the new growth along with the whole plant. That’s how I trained my orchid who wanted to take over the whole space.
For all orchids with pseudo bulbs similar to oncidium this is rule to train (tie up) the orchid plant and the flower stalk.
Dendrobium also have pseudobulbs, but the bulbs grow upwards. Under the right conditions these plants thrive really well. A single plant can send up as many pseudo bulbs under the favorable condition. Each psudo bulb is capable of sending one flower spike at a time. I used to leave the flower spikes on its own. They are compact most of the time. But if you feel like they are taking over the grow space you can stake them. The plants are also compact. Now and then you may spot a vigorous grower, trying to invade the neighbor. If you are able to catch them at the beginning, its easy to train them to our desire.
Dendrobium is very easy to propagate. With its vigorous growth it wont take much time for the plant to fill the entire pot.
Vanda grows well in hanging basket without much potting material. These plants have hanging roots . Since these plants grow in hanging basket without potting material, you have to mist the vanda roots almost everyday. For me this is high maintenance.
That said I will never try to grow a cymbidium orchid indoors. They are unruly and wild. With their growth habit its no doubt those plants will take the entire house. The blooms are very beautiful and great for vase arrangement. If you have limited indoor grow station, just admire them on the vase or in the nursery. For outdoor growers with extended space, this might be a good news.
I have not talked about any exotic orchid plants. There are so many plants and species available. I have talked about very few of the common orchids.
Do and Dont’s of staking orchids
Here are a few things to be considered or be careful about while staking the flower spikes.
- Stake the orchid spikes when they are young and short before the buds start to open
- While staking try not to damage the roots especially the plump roots in phalaenopsis
- As the flower spike grows up in length add more clips depending on the length
- While staking do not change the plant position as it may disrupt the growth and direction of spike (like other plants, orchid spikes tend to grow in the direction of light). I cannot stress this enough
- While staking be careful not to break or damage the flower spikes.
- You can be creative to tame the flower spikes in different shapes.
How do you train your orchids? While you are at it, please check out my other orchid articles in mygardentales.