“Properly selected and cared for orchids can be among the showiest and most exotic of all garden and patio plants,” says orchid expert, Tinus Oberholzer from Plantae Orchids in Johannesburg.

Autumn is a great flowering time for dendrobium-type orchids, oncidiums, and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis hybrids). Unlike the usual moth orchids found in supermarkets, orchid enthusiasts can find moth orchids with blotchy faces or unusual colours, as well as new miniature moth orchid hybrids.

Garden orchids

There are lots of hot spot microclimates in Gauteng where orchids can be grown on a protected patio. Orchids need a frost-free environment and some protection from excessive sun, wind and rain. “Where frost or temperatures dip below 5ºC, plants need to be brought into the home, to be grown on windowsills. Unheated patios should be avoided as they can be very cold in winter,” says Oberholzer.

The Cattleya Alliance hybrids can survive in a half-sun position but do badly if the temperature around them dips below 5ºC. Epidendrums need almost full sun.

In the home

“The moth orchids are now the number-one best orchid houseplant,” says Oberholzer. “These orchids thrive in exactly the same conditions as African violets.”

Consider these tips for growing orchids indoors:

* Light: Place orchids fairly close to an east, or lightly shaded-north, window. A south window will only provide adequate light in summer.

* Temperature: Typical home temperatures of 10 to 12ºC at night and 24ºC during the day are fine. Guard against excessive temperatures next to windows.

* Humidity: Group plants to take advantage of their collective transpiration (exhaled moisture) or place them on gravel-filled humidity trays to raise the humidity to 50 percent.

* Watering: Balance the rapid surface drying that can take place in the home with the plants’ lower metabolic processes resulting from lower light. Remove excessive water so the containers do not sit in water.

* Fertiliser: Fertilise regularly at a low dosage. - Saturday Star