Dear Orchid Lovers,
Happy Thanksgiving! Winter is upon us as demonstrated by the 12″ (30cm) of snow that fell on us this weekend. It was supposed to be 2″. Let’s hope that’s not indicative of the entire winter.
How are your orchids faring with the changes? Summer outdoor growers will have brought in their orchids, and all of us northern growers have had the heat on. No matter where you had your orchids during the pleasant months, they are now experiencing different conditions: light, temperature, and humidity are all potentially different. Here are some Neo care tips now that winter here:
Light: We removed the extra shade cloth that was protecting some of the shadier growers, so everyone is getting 50% light right now. We will keep it like that until March or so. For plants that live on or under deciduous trees, winter actually brings them an increase in light availability as the canopy opens up. This makes up a little for the shorter day length and diminished light intensity. And I like that with the extra shade cloth gone, it’s a lot brighter in the greenhouse!
Temperature: We grow under intermediate conditions as best we can. The greenhouse goes down to 57 at night and can get into the 70’s during the day in the winter. Those temps are much higher in the summer, of course, and most plants will go outside to avoid the high heat of the summer greenhouse. If you’re growing in your house, you are probably not getting much of a swing in temperatures. Just remember that some plants, particularly Dendrobiums and Cymbidiums in my collection, need that temp swing to set flower buds. Some recent discussion with a nearby Neo grower makes me think that for those of you having a hard time getting your Neos to bloom, a little temp fluctuation might be the trigger they need. It certainly can’t hurt as long as you keep them above the freezing point.
Water: THE most important thing is WATER. I want to be clear that the same rules apply to Neos year round: water them well until those roots turn brilliant green–not white and green, but entirely green–and then let them dry out. Repeat as necessary. For me in my dry northern conditions with forced air heat blowing on the plants in the greenhouse and my woodstove burning off all the humidity in the house, I need to water about every other day! That’s how fast they get crispy. If you have better humidity, and especially if you’re able to get your plants good and wet with each watering, you may only need to repeat every four days. Maybe even just once a week. They are YOUR plants in YOUR conditions. I am just giving you the guidelines to go by: get wet and then dry to crispy. If you don’t have moss, just wait till your medium is dry and the roots are all white. If you’re growing bare root, you can water every day. And remember: when in doubt, wait one more day to water, especially in winter when the plants aren’t doing much in the way of growing.
I want to emphasize that Neos do NOT have what most people think of as winter rest. They slow down in winter because of light and temperature, but they still need all the same stuff just dialed down a little to match their metabolism. Plants like Catasetums, Habenarias, Pleiones, and some Dendrobiums–those guys get nothing or next to nothing for months. THAT’s a winter rest. They come from areas that have wet and dry seasons where it’s either raining every day (wet season) or it rains once a month (dry season=rest). Neos are from temperature regions of Asia which are comparable to much of the US (but not Florida or California or other annoyingly pleasant places), where we have four seasons all of which involve precipitation.
I am writing this from bed having just had my gallbladder removed this morning, so if anything doesn’t make sense, let me know so I can edit it. I just didn’t want anyone putting their plants in danger and having a sad holiday season.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my health, my greenhouse full of orchids, my friends (many of whom are reading this), and my family who make every day great.
p.s. That red thing on the table in the featured image is a 12″ ruler.