Orchid care expert on how often to feed plant to avoid ‘toxic’ effects

Plant rescuer Sarah Gerrard-Jones shares tips caring for orchids

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There are more than 28,000 different species of orchids, with more being discovered on a regular basis. In fact, there are around 200 to 300 species of orchids discovered every year which are mainly found in the tropics.

Most of the orchids you find on sale in supermarkets and garden centres are the popular phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth orchids.

Phaelonopsis are popular for a good reason – they are relatively cheap, love heat and will flower for months if they’re happy.

Cymbidium orchids are another popular variety that is known for their decorative flower spikes.

They all have a period of dormancy and a period of growth with temperature, feeding regime and watering being different for each stage.

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With this in mind, Angela Slater, a horticultural expert from Hayes Garden World has shared how often to feed orchid plants to avoid “toxic” side effects.

Your orchid requires different feeding regimes during both its rest and growth period.

The plant will need one fertiliser to promote flowering and another to promote the growth of leaves.

Angela continued: “Cymbidiums can be fed with a weak-balanced feed throughout the summer and then switched to a dilute solution tomato fertiliser in August.

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“Feed phalaenopsis a dedicated flower fertiliser every second watering; dissolve it in a tub of water and keep this for every second watering.

“If you feed at every watering, you can get a build-up of salts which can become toxic for the plant.

“Cut the flower spike of a phalaenopsis back to just above the next node down the stem once the flower spike is down to the last couple of flowers, but don’t wait until these flowers have started to go over.”

Even if the flower stem has two to three fresh flowers at the end of the stem, these may need to be sacrificed as the sap is still rising.

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The sap could still push out a new flower spike above this node which is why the last few flowers need to be sacrificed.

If it fails to send out a new flower spike, you will have to wait until it produces one from the base.

Phalaenopsis can flower at any time of the year but cymbidiums only flower from autumn to spring.

However, the flower spikes will last several weeks if the temperature is not too hot – below 15C.

The flower spikes can be supported using a bamboo cane or stick.

Cymbidiums generally prefer cooler conditions to the phalaenopsis. They prefer temperatures to be below 30C in the summer months.

Cymbidium orchids, like moth orchids, don’t like to be sat in water for long periods of time and prefer to dry out a little before they need watering again.

Different orchid species flower at different times of the year, so with a bit of planning you can have an orchid flowering year-round.

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