Be an Orchid Pro: Easy Tips for Exotic Blooms
A Four Seasons expert florist offers orchid care advice for the rest of us.
Singapore seems awash in orchids. “You see them growing wild on trees along the road,” says Linus Kia-Yee Loh, flower shop manager at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore. “Some were added there by conservationists hoping to bring the native species back,” he explains. “But native or not, I love them all!”
So how does Loh advise Hotel visitors hoping to encourage their orchids’ success at home?
• Buy plants that are about 80 percent in bloom, with few tight buds. Those buds are likely to drop off or die when you move the plant to your home with its different environment.
• To ensure long-lasting flowers, keep your plant in a bright, airy site, with morning or filtered afternoon sun when possible.
• Don’t fertilize when your plant is flowering. After the blooms fade and new leaves appear, use a fertilizer specifically formulated for orchids, and follow label directions precisely. At the Hotel, Loh uses fertilizers labelled 14-14-14 (good for general growth) and 14-27-27 (to promote flowering), alternating between slow-release types and water-soluble mixes.
• Ideal temperatures for most orchids include a drop of 12°C (10°F) at night. So check your setting’s night-time temperature first, and then look for a species (there are thousands in total) that does best in that environment. On your next visit to Four Seasons Hotel Singapore or The Regent Singapore, check out the selection at the National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens for inspiration.
• Keep your plant away from extremes of cold or heat.
• A loose growing mix is best. At the Hotel, Loh uses one composed mostly of charcoal. Other mixes may include tree fern, bark, coconut fibre or moss. These airy, fast-draining materials most closely approximate what epiphytic (tree-perching) orchid species prefer. Terrestrial (ground-growing) orchids need a mix that holds more water.
• Keep your plant’s growing medium barely moist, and resist overwatering. Less is best!
• Trial and error is the way most successful orchid-growers learn, and everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be discouraged if your first orchid dies. Try to determine what you did that the plant didn’t like, and console yourself that you won’t do that again.