During autumn, nurseries and florists are well stocked with magnificent orchids in flower. Anyone who is already hooked on orchids is lapping it up, while others may be feeling unsure about taking home something that is so beautiful – and a bit expensive – and keeping it alive. But there’s no need to be shy. Keep in mind that most orchid blooms will last for weeks, providing much better value than a bunch of cut flowers, and the following advice will help you keep your orchids not just alive, but thriving, until next year’s display and beyond. Here’s a rundown on three of the best autumn performers.
Best known as dancing lady orchids, Oncidium spp. produce sprays of flowers that ‘dance’ on the stems. The flowers are also distinctive due to their labellum, or lip, an enlarged bottom petal. A colour mix of yellow and brown is most common, but flowers also come in pure yellow and combinations of pink, red and white. They are usually small to medium in size, but because there are so many on each spike, they make a good showing.
Commonly called moth orchids, due to their large, moth-like flowers, Phalaenopsis spp. mainly originate in parts of Asia. Their flowers, in white, cream, pink or purple, are exceptionally elegant and long-lived, and the petals are either a solid colour or feature contrasting coloured veins, spots or edges. If you’re lucky, you might find a variety with perfumed flowers.
Native to Central and South America, Cattleya spp. are known for their spectacular large flowers, which are usually perfumed and often have frilled or ruffled edges. The petal shape can vary from wide to narrow, making some varieties hard to recognise, but the trick is to look at the lip petal at the bottom of the flower. In cattleyas, it curves around to join at the top, creating a tube that encapsulates the sexual organs. Flowers come in nearly every colour except blue, and the lip is usually a different colour.
For growing information about these beautiful orchids, along with 10 top care tips, pick up a copy of the March issue, on sale now.