During the vegetative phase, plantlets require an exposure to 20,000 to 30,000 lux for vigorous growth. Light is important for the initiation of flower buds. At least 30,000 lux should be provided. Light Intensity can be controlled by using Shade net (50% to 70%) or introducing artificial Light. Maximum day length should not exceed 16 hours.
Providing proper humidity level, the optimum ranging from 50 to 80%, is important for good growth and flowering. If the RH drops below 40%, shading and possibly humidification or roof sprayers can be used. Roof sprayers can lower greenhouse temperatures by a maximum of 3°C and increase RH by a maximum of 8%.
Temperature to be maintained depends on the growth stage of the plants and the season of the year. During the vegetative phase, plantlets grow best at a temperature of 18°C at night and temperature of 20-25°C during the day. During the winter period (late October to late February): 16-18°C at night and 18-20°C during the day. Once the plants have reached the size indicating that they can start flowering within the coming season, they should be subjected to different temperatures according to their flowering period.
Substrate should be light, aerated, good water holding capacity and high porosity. Leaf Mull:Prepared locally, this media works as a natural feed to the plants making it cost effective. But it had its own disadvantages. This substrate has to be changed every year, exposes the plant to pest and diseases, etc., Coco-peat: This substrate is a bi product of coconut and is used as a Media globally because its safe from pest and diseases and also enables soilless cultivation. It is cost effective as it can be reused after sterilization. But one has to maintain proper fertigation schedule for the plants.
The composition of the fertilizer provided to the plant depends on the season and the growth stage of the plants. For Cymbidium production, it is very important to provide a complete fertilization programme that includes all the necessary elements throughout production and to monitor EC, pH and drainage percentages every week. Generally orchids require less fertilizer than most other plants. But feeding them the right amount of orchid fertilizer at the right time can lead to more brilliant flowers and stronger growth. In the summer high nitrogen fertilizer is used for vegetative growth while in winter low nitrogen fertilizer is used.
Water is one of the most important factors in the production cycle. Only rainwater or reverse osmosis water is suitable. Any other kind of water will always result in cultivation problems. On hot days an average Cymbidium crop needs 2-3 liters water per sq mt per day for transpiration. Irrigate the plants whenever the media is dry.
Phalaenopsis are ‘low’ light orchids. The leaves should be olive green. If they are darker it means the plant is not getting enough light; red tinged leaves mean the plant is getting too much light. Once the plant is in bloom you can place it anywhere in your home out of direct sunlight. If the plant does not re-bloom, increase the amount of light that it receives.
Use a shallow tray of pebbles filled with water to increase humidity around your plants. Be sure the pot does not sit in water as this will rot the roots.
Phalaenopsis are easy to grow because they enjoy the same temperatures we do – above 15º C at night and a range of 21º C to 26º C or higher during the day. 35º C is the maximum temperature recommended.
Frequency of watering the plant depends on the medium used to pot the plant and the season. Bark retains less water than moss. If the plant is potted in bark, watering once a week is generally sufficient. If potted in moss, water when the top feels dry. Summer months call for more frequent watering and winter less. It is best to water the plant in the morning. Let the water run through the plant for a minute or so. Be sure to let the plant drain completely. If any water remains in the crown (where the leaves join in the center) use a paper towel to blot the water to avoid crown rot. Avoid salt-softened or distilled water.
Any balanced orchid fertilizer (look at the numbers on the container, 20-20-20, etc.) can be used to fertilize the orchid weekly. Once a month, use clear water to flush any accumulated salts from the potting mix.
Cutting the spike
When the blooms are finished, you can cut the spike down to the level of the leaves and the plant will bloom with larger flowers and a strong stem within a year. You can also cut off the stem leaving two nodes (those little brown lines on the stem below where the flowers were) on the stem. One of these nodes will then initiate and generally produce flowers within eight to 12 weeks.
Do’s and Don’ts of fresh flower care
• Always use a clean vase and good quality water.
• Always use fresh flower food (Sugar) provided.
• Always re-cut your flowers initially.
• Always remove the leaves below the water line.
• Always check the water daily and top it up.
• Remove any flowers that with time look less than pristine, to keep the remaining flowers looking fresh.
• Never use a “home-made” substitute for flower food such as aspirin, soda pop, or bleach.
• Never remove all foliage from the stem.
• Never place your flowers with or near fresh fruit or cigarette smoke as both produce ethylene gas which will shorten flower life.
• Never place flowers in direct sunlight, near a heat register, or near any other source of excessive heat.
• Never use flower food in crystal or metal containers as the acid in the flower food will react with metal (including the lead in crystal).