Winter orchids

These four winter-blooming orchids are elegant and easy to grow

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  • Phalaenopsis


The first cymbidiums to bloom are miniatures, which top out at 2 feet. They do well indoors in warm, sunny spots like south- or west-facing windows.

Standard cymbidiums have large, dramatic, long-lasting flowers (eight weeks or more is a typical bloom time) and graceful, strappy leaves. They're blissfully easy to care for too. But they need some chill during the fall to set flower buds. They're happier outdoors than indoors--as long as temperatures don't drop much below 32° or rise above 100° for more than a few hours.

In frost-free areas, all cymbidiums can grow outdoors through winter. Elsewhere, protect them from cold by placing containers in a greenhouse or under deep overhangs. In summer, they thrive on lath-covered patios. Standard cymbidiums are sold in 8- to 10-inch pots, miniatures in 6-inch pots. BLOOM TIME: September-January (miniatures), February–early May (standards). LIGHT: As much as possible, without burning leaves. Plants with yellow-green leaves usually flower best. TEMPERATURE: Minis: 70° or higher (day), 60° (night). Standards: 60°–75° (day), 50°–55° (night) is ideal, but higher summertime temperatures (to 90° or so) and near-freezing winter temperatures are tolerated if plants are sheltered. POTTING MIX: Packaged cymbidium mix. Or fine-grade fir bark mixed with peat moss or perlite or both. WATERING: Keep soil moist during growing season, March-September. In winter, water just enough to keep bulbs from shriveling. FEEDING: January-July, feed with complete liquid fertilizer high in nitrogen every 10 days to 2 weeks; August-December, feed as frequently with low-nitrogen fertilizer.


Familiarly known as moth orchid because its blooms resemble moth wings, phalaenopsis is among the easiest orchids to grow. If there's enough light for your hand to cast a faint shadow, that will do. Moth orchids do appreciate high humidity, so they are happiest in a bathroom or near the kitchen sink. Phalaenopsis flowers endure a long time, and the plants send up new blooming shoots frequently. If it's happy, a plant can bloom for several months. BLOOM TIME: Varies. LIGHT: Filtered light; no direct sun. TEMPERATURE: 75°–85° (day), 60°–65° (night). POTTING MIX: Orchid mix or medium- to coarse-grade fir bark. Some growers add perlite and charcoal to the mix. WATERING: Keep the potting mix continually moist but not soggy. Provide additional humidity as recommended for oncidium (above). FEEDING: Fertilize monthly year-round with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.




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