Growing Orchids Indoors

fluorescent and incandescent lights to supplement
window light

fluorescent light gardening rack

We live in a fantastic gardening area of the country here in Miami. We don't have the weather problems of  many other parts of the country ( especially in the last few months with tornadoes in 12 states) or bitter winters, or mudslides or earthquakes. We have the ability to grow thousands of species of plants for most of a year without a worry about damaging cold weather. In most cases, we have a virtually unlimited ability to grow what we want to, provided we have the land to do so. We can grow a vast array of orchids on trees outdoors, making some impressive natural-looking gardens in the process. 

But what about those millions of people who don't have any land ? I grew up in suburban Milwaukee but my family didn't have a greenhouse, so I started growing orchids in windowsills and under fluorescent lights. Many grand orchids grown in windowsills and under lights showed up every month at the Wisconsin Orchid Society meetings, some of which bettered anything I have seen grown locally in Miami. We are spoiled in this area with our outdoor climate, leaving those people who live in apartments, condominiums and townhouses wanting for more growing space. There are lots of good aesthetic reasons to grow plants indoors, and there are some health advantages, too. There is something elegant about growing orchids on your windowsill, especially when they flower in the middle of winter in northern areas during a long cold winter.

Orchids resting on humidity trays, with plastic grates to keep the
plants out of the water.
 You do not need any elaborate equipment to grow orchids indoors, but there are a few requisite needs to start with. One of the main enemies for indoor plants is the dry air produced by air-conditioning and heating units. You can counter the problem by setting the plants on watertight plastic tubs or trays filled with a few inches of gravel, kept moist. I used to use fine-grade lava rock in shallow Tupperware bins, and the plants grew very well. The most important point to remember with this method is to make sure the plants are not sitting in water at any time, just sitting on moist gravel. A grand array of plants can be grown successfully with these techniques, but be aware that plants will grow slower this way than outside in warm climates. The plants will need less water and fertilizer when growing indoors.

One of the best techniques overall is to summer your plants outdoors when weather permits, then let them enjoy the winter sunlight indoors. This technique works really well, just make sure you clean the plants before you bring them indoors, getting rid of any pests as well. There are many websites that cater to indoor gardeners, and vendors who specialize in products for indoor and hydroponic gardens. You can have a green thumb all year round with these tactics, and your imagination is the only limiting factor.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


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