The Tribune - Spectrum


, July 21, 2002
Garden Life

Orchid cultivation gains momentum in region
Satish Narula

Growing orchids is easy
Growing orchids is easy

GARDENING enthusiasts of this region have tremendously contributed to horticulture by introducing and then successfully growing a range of plants that were ordinarily not cultivated in our climatic conditions.

Take orchids. Their cultivation is gaining momentum in this region and this is evident from the fact that these spectacular blooms, either single or in bunches, find a place of pride in various decorations. Probably there is no other flower with as much variety of blooms, colours or size.

Growing orchids is easy. When you see its spectacular blooms, you end up matching them with a scorpion, a dancing girl, a lady's slipper, a monkey, a spider, a butterfly, a moth or, hold your breath, the horrendous Dracula and many more forms.

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Maybe you have heard about or seen orchids growing on trees. You may also have seen orchid roots holding the stems. Do such plants bleed the tree on which they grow? No. These orchids are called aerides as they derive their moisture and food needs from the air. They are also called epiphytes. There are the terrestrial types too that derive their nutrition, like other plants, from the soil. Such orchids mostly originate from the temperate regions.

Orchids absorb a lot of water in the rainy season
Orchids absorb a lot of water in the rainy season

Still another kind of orchid, the renanthras, fall between the above categories as they send a part of the roots into the soil and also throw up aerial roots that cling to a tree and derive nutrition and moisture from the air.

During the rainy season, the orchids absorb huge amounts of water to utilise it in the lean period, storing food reserves in their thick leaves or bulb-like extensions. They are a hardy plant and are good at adapting to altered habitats or climates.

In general, orchids dislike the sun, with a few exceptions that grow well in the sun. Once you are aware about their climatic needs, you can provide them a home in a pot full of holes, a basket, in bamboo sections, a coconut shell, wooden logs, etc. In case of the terrestrial types, most of the growing media comprises brick pieces, crocks, charcoal pieces, leaf mould and fibrous (moss etc) sandy loam soil. In case of epiphytes, a small quantity of moss is put on the stem of the tree and the roots of the orchids are spread on it. It is then covered with moss and the plants are secured with wire or thread. It strikes roots in a few days. Do not add fertilisers in a bout of overenthusiasm. This may kill them.

In the present growing period, orchids absorb food material. For most of the varieties, the rest period is from November to March. During that period they may, in some cases, even shed leaves. As the plants wake up again, they put forth theirblooms. It is good to drastically reduce the watering of the plants during the rest period, but it is not advisable to altogether dry them.

Under the conditions prevailing in this region, according to Rajnish Vij of the Orchid Society of India, Chandigarh, some of the orchid varieties that can successfully be grown include the foxtail orchids, also called Draupadi or Sitapushpa as it is the symbol of sanctity, purity and womanhood, the cymbidiums, the cold- loving intermediate and warmth-loving orchids, the cattleyas with giant blooms almost five to six inches big, and the dendrobiums, the warmth-loving good potted orchids. These are one of the most commonly available cut flower orchids in the market.


This feature was published on July 14, 2002