[Orchid] Plant Shelf and more ...

What's New:
  • Joe is battling an aggressive form of Prostate cancer so that is why we have not updated this for a period of time. He is doing much better and you can read his blog about the battle at http://prostate-cancer-log.blogspot.com (5/7/07).
  • Updated photo on our Ghost Orchid, a photo of Dendrobium Unicum and a photo of Dendrobium Smilliae (also known as the bottle brush orchid).(5/2/04)
  • Some new flower pictures have been posted.(2/28/04)
  • Update on Ghost Orchid and a great photo of our Cirr-Medusa.(3/30/03).
  • Fixed 8 broken links on the web page(3/30/03).
  • Added step-by-step deflasking instructions with photos (2/8/03).
  • The guestbook was down for a period of time. It is now working and we welcome your comments (2/5/03).
  • We broke up some community pots (compots) of young orchids and now each is in its own small pot. So now we needed more space, again. Click here for our solution, using a fishtank (11/01/02)!
  • We recently received a young Ghost Orchid (Polyrrhiza lindenii) from a friend. Click here for details (11/01/02).
  • Fixed broken link (again) for TDS meter. They changed that URL again and raised the price to $19.95 (from $8.95) - still a bargain though (8/22/2002).
  • Fixed broken links for TDS meter and added more details on what we purchased for our Reverse Osmosis system, including the actual parts we purchased and how to obtain them.(8/8/2002).
  • Marilyn's Miltoniopsis wins Best in Show! (7/28/2002).
    Updated the information on the LIGHTING section and added details about brightness needed by different orchid types (7/28/2002).
  • Updated the information on FERTILIZING section, adding details on what we do and when (7/29/2002).
  • Added a section on Flasks (07/29/2002).
  • Added a section on Fans and Air Movement (07/29/2002).
  • Added a section on Blooming (07/29/2002).
  • Fixed problems with our email address and guestbook - please try again (6/18/2002)

    We designed this web page to be read from top to bottom but here are some quick links to sections of it:

    Orchid Shelfs Humidity Lighting Pots Bark/Soil Fertilizer
    Suppliers Culture Sheets Fans Blooming Flasks Books
    Water Reverse Osmosis TDS pH How To Water Links


    Below are parts purchased (and where) for the plant shelves and include links to pictures throughout. It also discusses humidity, water, etc. Why? Because we quickly ended up with over 60 orchids and they were taking over our home. So we built the shelves and decided to share the details with others. It is not hard to do once you see how and the three shelf version costs about $220 and the two shelf version even less (about $180).

    METAL SHELF (Price Club/Costco). This shelf measures 72" H x 48" W x 18" D and has four shelves, including the top shelf which is used for storing spare parts, i.e. pots, etc.; $75.99. Click here to see the box it came in, if you want to get the same one we used. This shelf is a knock-off of the name brand "Metro" shelving units used in the food service industries and in hospitals. If you don't have a Costco near you, consider buying the "Metro" brand. It is more expensive but also comes in more sizes and colors (white, chrome and black). It is available at the "Hold Everything" division of Williams-Sonoma and also at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

    LIGHT FIXTURES (Home Depot). You need two per shelf and so buy six . They are made by Lights of America and cost about $9 each. They hang by chains from the shelf above and thus you can adjust the distance between the lights and the plants below. Click here to see the box the light fixture was packaged in and the boxes the 3 plant bulbs were packaged in, again if you want to use what we have been using.

    LIGHTS (Home Depot). You need two 48" fluorescent bulbs (rated 40 watts) per light fixture so buy 12 bulbs (they cost about $5 per bulb). Be sure to replace them annually EVEN if they still seem to work as they do dim over time. The bulbs themselves are made by General Electric and are labelled as Wide Spectrum Plant and Aquarium bulbs. See the box they came in under Light Fixtures (above).

    TIMER (Home Depot). This is a 24 hour timer and it must accept a grounded plug, i.e. a heavy duty plug as the light fixtures use grounded plugs. The timer will cost approximately $8. Click here to see the timer we used.

    POWER STRIP (Home Depot) You will need 2-3 power strips. These plug into the wall and then accept up to 6 plugs. They cost $5-8 each. Click here to see it with the timer plugged in and here to see it in use on the shelf, with lights plugged into it. Notice how we fastened the power strip to the shelf with plastic wire ties.

    WIRE TIES (Home Depot) These are useful for tying the wires together so they do not just dangle freely. Click here and here to see them used. Click here to see these wire ties loose and in a package. Home Depot sells them in all sizes. You should get them 7.5-9.5" long.

    This is enough to build your plant shelf, with 3 usable shelves and lights etc. If you build the two shelf version, buy four (not 6) light fixtures and eight fluorescent bulbs (not 12), saving about $40. Either way, it should take under an hour to put together. We use it for growing orchids and the rest of this page is focused on this. Click here to see our first shelf with three growing shelves and here to see the second shelf with just two growing shelves and a storage shelf between the two. This second shelf is for taller plants.
    (11/22/01) Now we have three shelves in our basement for Marilyn's 100+ orchids - when does it end???


    HUMIDITY is important so we measure it with a Radio Shack gauge; it is their part # 63-1013 and costs $24.99 and measures the temperature, humidity and the high and low of each (until you reset it). Click here to see a close-up of it. We were shocked to see our home had a humidity level of 25% in the winter! Orchids need at least 40% so we purchased a humidifier. (Charley's also sells one for $19.95, part # 6620).

    HUMIDIFIER-You can increase the humidity a number of ways. Start with a standard humidifier and place that near the shelf. The QVC TV Channel humidifier we use costs $35 and holds 2.5 gallons of water. Click here to see ours which is the Holmes 1855 model.

    HUMIDITY TRAYS-You can also build humidity trays. One can buy some (18" L x 6" W x 1" D) metal trays from Smith and Hawkens. They sell 6 for $50, including shipping. A local garden supply store may have clear plastic ones that work equally well (we bought a few for $1.79 each). Click here to see a clear plastic tray in the foreground and a metal tray on the background, with egg crate in both and here to see two plastic trays with the egg crate on the right and a brown humdity tray on the left in it. (The brown tray is made by CMI plastics of Cranbury NJ and available from Venamy Orchids).

    PLASTIC EGG CRATE-The plain plastic egg crate is normally used in fluorescent light fixtures. Home Depot sells it for $6 for a 2' L x 4' W sheet. This you can readily cut into the size you need and the plants sit on the egg crate and you then pour water into the egg crates. As it evaporates, it releases humidity.

    LIGHT-plants need light and more than the typical home has to offer yet most orchids generally do not like direct sunlight. Different types of orchids have different light needs. When moving an orchid to brighter light, do it gradually; this gives the plant time to adjust. Brightness itself is measured in foot-candles, the light a single candle will display on a white piece of paper held one foot away. The intensity of the full sun on a clear day is about 10,000 foot-candles while a 60 watt incandescent light bulb measured 3 feet away will provide about 80 foot candles. That said, here is what is said to be optimal for each orchid type, as originally found on http://www.odoms.com/cattleya12.htm:

    Brassavola2,000 to 4,000
    Brassia2,000 to 3,500
    Cattleya2,000 to 3,500
    (standard type)
    2,000 to 4,000
    (miniature type)
    1,000 to 3,500
    Dendrobium1,500 to 4,000
    Epidendrum1,500 to 3,500
    Laelia2,000 to 3,500
    Ludisia1,000 to 2,000
    Masdevallia1,000 to 2,500
    Miltonia1,000 to 3,000
    Odontoglossum 1,000 to 2,500
    Oncidium2,000 to 4,000
    (green leaf and mottled leaf type)
    2,000 to 3,000
    Phalaenopsis1,000 to 1,500
    Phragmipedium2,500 to 3,500
    Sophronitis1,500 to 3,000
    Vandas2,500 to 4,000

    As you can readily see, orchids require much more light than is found in the home. This is why we use light shelves and then confirm the increased brightness with a light meter - many camera stores may have a suitable light meter for sale. Click here to see the light meter we use. It is made by HYDROFARM and is the LGLM light meter. (Charley's also sells one for $29.95, part no 6639). We measure the light at the leaf's surface where the light hits the plant leaves.

    Another factor is photoperiod, i.e. how long the lights are on. Imagine your orchid needs light in the range of 2500-3000 foot-candles (for a typical 10-12 hour day). If my lights are not as bright, I can use the photoperiod to either make up for a lack of intensity, or as an aid to condition a plant to a higher light source. For example, suppose my light meter reading is 1800. This is a little shy of my ideal. I can use a longer photoperiod to meet its light requirements. 1800 foot-candles for 16.5 hours is the same as 2500 foot-candles for 12 hours (29,700 foot-candlehours). Note: we have not tried this yet certain web pages suggest it works.

    It is said you can use an ordinary SLR 35mm Camera to measure light. Below is from an email sent by "WINTERSTARBURST at aol.com" on their technique. We have not tried it but it may well work:

    Using any camera with a built in light meter (most SLR cameras have this feature) you will measure the light in the area you have chosen. It will give you a fairly accurate reading. Set your film speed at ASA 25 and your shutter speed at 1/60 of a second. Place a flat sheet of white posterboard in the position and height you wish to display your orchid. You need to do this for each level you sit an orchid. When you look through the view finder it should display light metering in f-stops. Hold your camera close enough so that all you see is the white of the paper and focus on that by depressing your shutter half way, you should see your f-stop measurement. When doing this be sure you are not blocking any existing light. Here is a table to make it easy to convert the f-stops to foot-candles: f/2.8= 200 foot candles, f/4=370 , f/5.6=750 , f/8=1,500 , f/11=2,800 , f/16=5,000. Most fluorescent bulbs will give a conversion of foot-candles on the back of the package.

    POTS-Orchids should grow in plastic pots and with holes in the bottom so water can exit and does not stagnate in the bottom. Click here to see the ones we use, which we usually buy from Chula Orchids. We will often put a layer of styrofoam on the bottom (to promote drainage) and the bark mix abobe that.

    BARK/SOIL - Most Orchid plants have roots that need air to grow properly. One can grow them on pieces of cork, in loose bark and some will grow in the air (attached to grillwork or tree bark), but not in soil. Anyway, we tend to use bark chips. The bark pictured was purchased at Venamy Orchids. Others swear by crushed coconut husk, fine bark and/or perlite. In all cases, watch the plant media and change it if it starts to break down. (FYI: there are some orchids that only grow in soil and they are known as Terrestial orchids and grow in a flower pot like any other plant).

    WATER-this is important. Tap water has many dissolved chemicals in it and as you use it on a plant, the chemicals build up in the plant and stunt its growth, or worse, kill it. Your local supermarket likely sells better water. We generally buy "purified" water ($0.89/gallon) and when you read the label, it is Reverse-Osmosis (RO) water which is usually 98% pure. Brita Water should also work (but Culligan will not - too much sodium). If you have a water softener in your home, the tap water is dangerous for your orchids as it contains sodium. Using 'purified water' will require you 'feed' the plant with fertilizer to replace the minerals.

    REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER- We had been spending $10 per week at the local supermarket for that "purified" water. We decided to buy our own RO system for about $160 and thus after some 20 weeks, it pays for itself. You can find one like ours at That Fish Place and they call it the KM0196 model for $154.99. Go to their web page and type that model number (just left of their SEARCH button) and you will see it. Be sure to ask them for the faucet adapter if you wish to connect it to your sink and also the pressure gauge; they can get it but it is not showing on their web page. If they seem unclear on what it is, indicate Kent Marine carries it and ask That Fish Place to contact them to get it. Kent Marine does not sell to the public yet you can see their products at these links, along with what we paid for them, in case you wish to replicate what works for us:
  • Our RO system ($160)
  • The pressure gauge ($15)
  • The faucet fitting ($9)
  • The flush kit

    The RO system is rated at 24 gallons per day but that assumes proper water pressure, water temperature and so on. We expected to end up with 15-18 gallons per day yet recovered 21 gallons per day. Click here to see it before we installed it and click here to see it installed and operational.
    The water is supplied from our faucet via the yellow hose to the clear canister on the left. (The faucet adapter is an extra item for $9 as the ROS unit is designed for a 3/4" hose connection). This water then passes to the clear canister on the right and continues to the white container on top. Two hoses exit from there - the orange hose is waste water and the blue hose is purified water. It recovers about .88 gallons (3 1/2 quarts) of purified water per hour and discards 5.45 gallons of waste water per hour. The pressure gauge is an extra cost item ($15) and well worth it. The faucet adapter is also an extra cost item ($9) as is the flush kit ($15) barely visible behind the unit on the far left. All these options are recommended. Our recovery of .88 gallons per hour works out to 21 gallons per day. Our water temperature is 48F and 'hard' (both lower the recovery rate of purified water) yet we do have high water pressure (this helps the recovery rate). Thus we are not receiving the rated 25 gallons per day (the people at That Fish Place said we would not get that rate) but are happy with the 21 gallons per day.

    What is in the canisters in that ROS system? The one on the left in the picture is the 1 micron sediment filter which traps particulate (rust, dirt, sand, clay, etc) in the water. The canister on the right contains a matrix carbon filter to remove gases and other stuff (detergents, herbicides, pesticides and chlorine). The white container on top contains a membrane to remove what is left. This membrane is the true Reverse Osmosis section. The result of all this is water which is 94-98% pure.
    Click here to see it after six months of use. Notice the crud on the hand from simply touching the left filter! The ROS filtered this (and other things) from getting to the plants and also to our drinking/cooking. That should convince anyone that ROS is the way to go!

    Click here to see more details of it in action, filling up a 22 gallon rubbermaid container. I placed arrows on the picture to help explain it. Arrow 1 points at the ROS system, 2 points at the faucet connection that flows to the ROS system, 3 points at the blue hose that carries the cleaned water to another hose and then 4 points at the rubbermaid container on the floor that holds some 22 gallons of water.
    Sometimes I fill up 1 gallon containers. The best way is to use siphons so you fill up one and it fills the others. Click here to see and arrow 1 points at the ROS system, arrow 2 points at the container receiving the cleaned water via the blue hose (the blue hose is clean water, the yellow one is tap water and the orange hose is waste water). The 1 gallon container I called C takes in the cleaned water and then fills containers A and B via siphoning. This way I can easily fill 3 containers at once.

    TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)- Ordinary water has numerous things dissolved in it, i.e. salt, nitrates, phosphates, carbonates, dissolved gases etc. Plants can be quite sensitive to this as they have no means to prevent it from accumulating within the plant and thus the concentrations build up and thus stunt the plant and worse. We ordered a TDS meter from Pure Royalty as they currently wanted about $19.95 for it (a bargain!) and the $19.95 covers the handling/shipping (the meter itself is said to be worth $49!). The TDS meter is about 6" long and you insert it in the water you wish to measure and it displays the TDS level of your water. We measured Tap Water and found a level of 171 parts-per-million (ppm). We also measured Brita Water and found a level of 129 (Brita cleans your water to some degree). We then measured the output of the Reverse Osmosis system and it had a level of only 1(!). I also measured the waste water from the ROS system and it had a level of 187. The ROS system is removing the TDS and thus the ROS system is turning slowly yellow as a result (compare it to this before we installed it - this is in just 15 days of using it!). At least it is not going into the plants or us (we drink the ROS water also)! I do strongly recommend you order your own TDS meter to see what your water is like and it only costs $19.95. Do it soon as they may soon change their minds again and charge the normal $49 + $8 (s/h) or $57. [It is worth noting that the TDS meter actually measures conductivity of the water (pure water does not conduct electricity well) and this is an indicator of how many ions are in the water - more ions, higher ppm. The goal is to have fewer ions.

    PH-We are sorry if this gets too technical but it is rather important and we will try to keep it simple. Orchids, like most plants, need the water/fertilizer mix to be slightly acidic - as an example, vinegar and lemons are somewhat acidic and have that tart taste for that reason. Industrial acids are very acidic and downright dangerous. Likewise, Drano (a household cleaner) is the opposite - it is very alkaline and also dangerous to handle.

      Pure water is in the middle. All this is measured by pH. Pure water has a pH of 7.0. When you add in fertilizers and/or nutrients, this will alter the pH and likely make the resulting water mix more acid (lower pH) or more alkaline (higher pH). When we measured our water mix, we were stunned to find the pH was 3.1 - too acid!!! So what do you do? After you add the fertilizer etc to the water, (1) you then need to measure your pH and (2) you need to adjust it to a range of 5.5 to 6.5, i.e. slightly acidic.

      MEASURING PH: Two possibilities include: pH Paper and pH Meters. pH Paper is easy in that you put a drop of your water mix on the pH Paper and look at the color; expect to pay perhaps $10 for a roll of short-range pH paper; click here to see some pH papers from one supplier. pH Meters are more expensive yet work better; these cost at least $50 and upwards of $1000 and higher. Three sources (there are many) include Alternative Gardens, Atlantis Hydroponics and Ben Meadows(search for their pHep and Hanna products). FYI: we have not shopped at these places (yet) so be sure to shop around.

    We finally purchased the pH 41 meter for $68. It works well and here are some tips with it as it is a bit tricky:
    1-You activate it by storing it in pH 7.0 buffer solution (provided) for 2 hours.
    2-After each use, we rinse it with tap water.
    3-When you test a water sample with the pH meter, it takes a few seconds for it to get an accurate reading (the water sample needs to cross a gel membrane inside the meter). So put it in the water sample and wait 30 seconds or so.
    4-When done, store the probe wet - it should be wet at all times but do NOT store it with DISTILLED or DEIONIZED water as that will cause it to wear out faster. They suggest a pH 7 buffer solution but we ran out and used a mix of ROS water and ordinary tap water. We found that the meter didn't work and now store it in pH 7.0 buffer solution and that does work.

    For fun, I measured Orange Juice and that is pH 3.5 or so - acid! I also measured Welch's Grape Juice and the meter showed 3.4 - also an acid (and slightly stronger). Here is a close-up of the pH41 meter we use and its pH7.0 buffer solution (used for calibration and storage - there are a few drops of the buffer solution in the cap of the pH41 to keep it properly moist when not in use).

      ADJUSTING PH: Here you use some commercial products from Dyna-Gro and Alternative Garden and just add a few drops to your water mixture to raise the pH or lower the pH and then you measure it again and keep doing this until the pH is in the proper range (5.5-6.5 for Orchids).

      TEMPORARY MEASURE: A friend (with advanced degrees in Chemistry) stopped by and we determined that after we make one gallon of ROS water with DYNA GRO "LIQUID GROW", we needed to add 1 milliliter of DYNA GRO "PRO-TEKT" to neutralize it, i.e. bring it back to near 6.0. (1 teaspoon holds almost 5 milliliters to give you an idea of the quantities involved). For the ROS water with DYNA GRO "LIQUID BLOOM" mix, we needed 1.2 milliliters of DYNA GRO "PRO-TEKT" to bring back to about 6.0. Obviously shake it well when you add anything to the water. Our friend cautioned this may not work every time as DYNA GRO products likely vary from time to time. This is why we purchased the pH meter so we could check the resulting water mix each time. Anyway, the DYNA GRO "LIQUID GROW" increases the acidity while DYNA GROW PRO-TEKT increases the alkalinity. Mix them together and they tend to cancel each other from a pH perspective. I am being simplistic but that is how it works. Practically speaking, you must measure the pH to find the proper balance.

    HOW TO WATER. We mix the ROS water with fertilizer and then one of us immerses the plant in the resulting water mix such that the water level comes up to the level of the bark. We leave it in there a few minutes and then do the next one. We also will mist the top of the bark between waterings, as needed. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERWATER. Wait until the bark is dry, which usually means once per week.
    I did find a good document on water that relates to Lady Slippers but applies to all. Click here (PDF) to see view it.

    FERTILIZER- we use DYNA GROW and SUPERTHRIVE. Just follow directions on the label. Click here to see pictures of these products. One thing worth mentioning is make sure your fertilizer supplies nitrogen in the form of nitrates and not in the form of urea. Nitrates are directly available to plants while urea is not and must be broken down in the soil. Since most orchids do not grow in soil, they do not have access to the nitrogen in urea-based products. Thus, do not use urea based fertilizers. Here is how we do it:

    As we water our orchids, we also will fertilize them on a recurring schedule. Our schedule is organized around the concept of 4 consecutive weekends, i.e. after 4 weekends, start the cycle over with weekend #1.

    WEEKEND #1:
    All plants get ONLY water, no fertilizer etc. The water itself is 'purified' or Reverse Osmosis. The TDS reading of this water is less than 25 or so. See elsewhere for details.

    This first weekend of water (only) allows the plant to rinse some of the fertilizer out from prior weekends.

    WEEKEND #2:
    All plants get water as in Weekend #1 and now with fertilizer added. Thus we put the water in a one gallon container and add fertilizer and then adjust the pH before we use it on the plants. Specifically:

    1-Fill a one gallon container with purified water.

    2-Add Dyna-Gro's Liquid Grow Plant Food (7-9-5) at the rate of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of purified water. This will have the side effect of driving the pH down too low when done. So proceed with Step 3 now.

    3-Add Dyna-Gro's Liquid Pro-Tekt at rate of 0.6 milliliters per gallon. The quantity 0.6 milliliters is almost exactly 1/8 of a level teaspoon. This brings the pH back to about 6.1 which is fine for orchids. This works for us and may well be different for you. In fact, each container of Dyna Gro Liquid Grow or Pro-Tekt may vary slightly from batch to batch so it is wise to measure the resulting pH with each new container you open.

    4-Add one drop of Superthrive to every gallon of water/fertilizer mix, adjust pH and then shake thoroughly.

    WEEKENDS #3 and #4:
    Do as you did for weekend #2 yet do NOT add Superthrive - we add Superthrive only on weekend #2.

    The above 4 weekends complete one cycle and we just repeat over and over.

    1-Certain Phrags do not like as much fertilizer as the above regimen outlines. In that case, we fertilize on weekend 1 and water the other 3 weekends with only water, supplementing with additional water as needed to keep them from drying out.
    2-Vandas need heavy watering - at least once per day, depending on the weather. They are also heavy feeders so fertilize frequently.

    When the plant is approaching its normal blooming season or in spike or in bloom, replace Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow with Dyna-Gro Liquid Bloom.

    BLOOMING- Orchids generally like a change in temperature each day, i.e. to mimic what happens in the real world between daytime and nighttime. An orchid grower gave us the tip that to make many orchids bloom, they need a wide swing in temperature for a few weeks. He suggested that we have our orchids experience a 30 degree swing between day and night and do this for 30 days or more. We live just outside of New York City so September and October is when we start getting cooler nights. We leave many of our orchids out on a covered porch around then and the plants usually bloom shortly thereafter. It may work for you.

    RESULTS-Does it all work? Click below on a flower name to see results, names in parenthesis indicate where orchid plants were originally purchased:

         "Ascda. Tubtim Velvet" crossed with "Rhy. Coelestis", Vascostylis Viboon Velvet Powder Puff AM/AOS. (R.F. Orchids, Homestead, FL). Wins 1st place in Lights Division at NJOS monthly meeting of 3/11/2004!

         SLC HazelBoyd.

         Zygo Titanic.

         Paph Supersuk 'Eureka' AM/AOS X Voodoo Magic 'Black Wings'(Venamy Orchids, Brewster NY)

         Paph Via Victoria 'Sunday Special' X Sheila Hanes 'Greengold'(Venamy Orchids, Brewster NY)

         Laelia Autoceps (Santa Barbara Orchids, California)

         Colmanara Wildcat 'Doris' (A New Leaf, Ithaca, NY)

         Dendrobium Nobile Yellow Paney "March" (Venamy Orchids, Brewster NY)

         Miltonia Herralexandre (Venamy Orchids, Brewster NY).

         Oncidium Sharry Baby (Venamy Orchids, Brewster NY).

         Phalaenopsis 'P.Taisuco Kochdian' X 'P. Yukimal' (Home Depot)

          BRS. Rex 'Sakata' AM/AOS (Orchid Man) has bloomed and has a fragrance of baby powder. (Close-Up). Wins 2nd place at North NJ Orchid Society on 5/10/2001

          Our Cattleya Gertrude Hauserman (Venamy Orchids) has bloomed and it is pretty! (Venamy).

         Cirr. Medusa - Check this picture out - blooms just 48 hours but wow!

          Miltonia Vanity "Red Shadow" AM/AOS (Venamy Orchids) has bloomed with 7 wine-colored flowers. Close-Up of one of the flowers. Wins 2nd place at North NJ Orchid Society on 6/14/2001 (Lights Category)

          Miltoniopsis Pearl Ono "Iliwai" (Venamy Orchids) has bloomed with 7 beautiful flowers. Wins Best in Show at North NJ Orchid Society on 6/20/2002 (Window Sill Category). This is a cool growing orchid that sits in an east facing window under an air conditioning duct.

          Dendrobium Unicum (Parkside Orchids) has bloomed with a number of beautiful flowers.

          Dendrobium Smilliae (Parkside Orchids) is also know as the 'bottle brush' orchid - the flower is most unusual!.

    The Ghost Orchid is native to southern Florida and is unusual in that it has NO leaves at all and a beautiful flower. Ours is still quite young and we aquired it around 10/16/02. Click here and here to see photos of it. The first is little blurry yet you will see a penny next to it for size perspective. We live in northern NJ where humidity is a problem so this is kept in a semi-closed container and sprayed almost every 2-3hrs and so far, the wetter it is, the greener is it. At least we have not killed it yet!.

    Well it is now 3/30/2003 and thus some 5 1/2 months later and the Ghost Orchid is growing. One root withered away yet others are growing fine. Click here to see it.

    Here it is on 2/28/2004 and it is still alive - we water it heavily and that seems to help. Click here to see it about 1 yr and 4 months after we acquired it.

    I took this photo on 4/24/2004 and it is doing fine. Now I hang a wet paper towel on the side of the container to drive the humidity up and I also 'feed' it about weekly. Click here to see it. It is interesting to see how it has grown since first acquired it. Compare here and here, some 18 months later (10/02 vs 4/04).


    The links listed below will lead to sites with which we have had personal positive experiences.


         Venamy Orchids has a good web page on this topic. Match their picture to your flower to obtain the species name.


         These culture sheets are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format and were downloaded from the American Orchid Society web page and included here for your convenience. They discuss specific light, humidity and other requirements for the different types of orchids. These culture sheets are very specific and thus quite helpful.


    Cattleya Cymbidium Dendrobium Odontoglossum Oncidium Paphiopedilum Phalaenopsis


    Cattleya Cymbidium Dendrobium Lycaste
    Masdevallia Miltonia Paphiopedilum Vandas

    Other notes of interest from their web page:
         Growing Orchids in the Garden
         Growing Orchids in your home
         Orchid Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


    We spoke with a commercial grower (Venamy Orchids) as to why our Vandas do not do well while his do and he had this simple tip: Drench that Vanda daily and twice daily in the summer. Fertilize every other week. We started this by misting the Vandas heavily 3-4x a day, basically until the roots turn green. The Vandas are responding great, i.e. new roots. So here in the northeast USA, drench those Vandas and give them plenty of sun and watch! A friend of ours (Jane B) said she hangs her vanda on the gutter and hoses it down every day and she has stunning flowers. Could it be this simple? Seems so!

    FLASKS: You will sometimes see companies sell small flasks of orchids. These are very young orchids stored in a sterile container, generally under a year old. We have two (front, back) such flasks and were wondering what to do, when to do it and what to watch for. We asked friends, browsed web pages and so on and here is what it looks like you do:

    (Much of the below comes from "Ruben in Orchids" (305-226-4185, Miami, FL) and this web site.)

    "Care of Flasks (after Seed Sowing or Transplanting)
  • The flasks must remain sealed or contamination will occur.
  • Store under low light intensity:
  • 80-90% shade screening (OR)

  • Fiberglass cover (OR)
  • In a window
  • Temperature of 75-80F is optimal, extremes (30-110F) tolerated for a short time.
  • No direct water - low humidity.
  • Removing Plants from a flask

  • When to remove the plants

  • Remove if the plant leaves almost touch the top of the flask.
  • Remove if the plant leaves turn yellow or semi transparent-this may signal a problem.
  • Try to remove them at the start of their normal growth cycle.
  • How to remove them
  • Carefully break flask or remove plants first with tweezers or with a wire hook.
  • Wash plants with plain water to remove all the agar nutrient solution.
  • Leave clumps together. Do not separate now or smaller plants will die if separated from the clumps.
  • Pot larger plants individually in a 2 or 3" pot. Pot smaller plants as a clump in community pots ('compot').
  • Use clean tree fern or charcoal/bark mix - a course mixture for good drainage.
  • Water plants thoroughly after planting in the clean medium.
  • Spray with a fungicide/bactericide - Physan or Kocide.
  • Resume normal watering - once a day or every other day.
  • Fertilize every two weeks using a full strength balanced fertilizer.
  • Repeat spraying with fungicide/bactericide every 3-4 weeks.

    Click here to see us doing it, with step by step photos.

    Your orchids in compots can be separated into individual plants after about a year in the compot and then grown normally.
    We split up some compots and suddenly had 20+ small plants that needed shelf space, lights and so on. We already have 3 such shelves but did not want to go that route for smaller orchids. So we found an old 29 gallon Fishtank, cleaned it and placed the orchids in there. Click here to see the setup. We found an old computer fan and hooked that up to a Radio Shack 12v power supply for air circulation. We placed the plants higher up as the fish tank light is fairly weak - Notice the use of eggcrate and plastic flower pots to raise the the orchids closer to the light. I am looking for a better light setup as we speak. Anyway it seems to work well and because it is somewhat closed, the humidity stays up there.
    We use fans and these are important for a few reasons. (1) Air movement is what most orchids have in the wild and it evens out temperature and humidity differences (2)Fungus forms easily in stagnant air so by keeping the air moving, you reduce the likelihood of fungus forming. We keep two fans on our orchids, one is on a timer with the lights and the other just runs as needed. We are considering a ceiling fan for the area which would run around the clock as we notice the plants like a mild breeze.

         Smith and Hawken
         Chula Orchids
         Charley's - a GREAT catalog, call them at 800-322-4707 to get one.
         Worm's Way - another good catalog, call them at 800-274-9676 to get one.
         Gardener's Supply Company
         Ben Meadows
         Alternative Garden Supply


         NY Botanical Garden Detailed instructions on light, temperature, etc.
         Venamy Orchids (NY). General tips on caring for Orchids.
         Orchids A-Z. If you know the species, visit here for care tips.
         Orchids Asia. Step-by-Step tips for the new Orchid grower.


        (Ortho's) All About Orchids
       96 pages, ISBN 0-89721-424-2, $11.95, 1999

       ORCHIDS SIMPLIFIED, An Indoor Gardening Guide, Henry Jaworski
       140 pages, ISBN 0-395-91327-6, $21.00, 1992

       304 pages, ISBN 0-88192-267-6, $39.95, 1995
       100 ORCHIDS for the American Gardner, Elvin McDonald
       246 pages, ISBN 0-7611-1071-2, $17.95, 1998

       (Sunset) ORCHIDS, John Dunmire
       112 pages, ISBN 0-376-03556-0, $12.95, 1999

       (Time Life Books) ORCHIDS, Alice Skelsey
       160 pages, ISBN 0-8094-2591-2, price unknown, 1978

       EXOTIC ORCHIDS, Wilma Rittershausen
       96 pages, ISBN 0-89586-833-4. $9.95, 1989

       ORCHID PESTS AND DISEASES, American Orchid Society
       118 pages, no ISBN #, contact American Orchid Society to order. See LINKS below.

    TIP: Before you purchase any of these books, take this list to your local library and see if they have the book. If they do not, ask if they will do an "interlibrary loan" - most will. Fill out their form and give them the ISBN number shown above and they will get the book from another library, usually for free. This way you can preview the book at home before you buy it at the local Barnes & Nobles, Borders or on Amazon.com.


         American Orchid Society (Delray Beach, FL)
         North Jersey (NJ) Orchid Society
         RF Orchids (Homestead, FL)
         Parkside Orchids (Ottsville, PA)
         Santa Barbara Orchids (California)
         Venamy Orchids (Brewster, NY)
         Juno Beach Orchids (Juno Beach, FL)
         Orchid WebRing (Scroll to bottom and click NEXT or RANDOM).


         Our inspiration for building the shelves comes from this web site:


         Our email address is at "orchids@collins-consulting.org" or just sign our guestbook. We welcome suggestions to improve the web page.



    Some of you may not like those images of phalaenopsis orchids following the mouse everywhere. The below button will control that. If on, it turns them off; if off, it turns them on. This web page will not remember your last setting so if you set it off, you will need to set it the next time you visit. We hope to have this fixed soon.

    Marilyn is the orchid enthusiast and Joe is the computer guru. The resulting web page is a joint effort by the two of us.

    Designed for Internet Explorer 5+ and will not work as well under other browsers- sorry!
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