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Orchids are the largest family of plants in the world. With 30,000 known species, you could acquire a different orchid every day for eighty years and still not grow them all. Back in the realm of reality, readers of this beautiful book can quickly and easily find the orchids that are right for them—which ones will thrive on a windowsill, which prefer artificial lights, and which need a greenhouse; which are for beginners, which for experts. And you can pinpoint the species within a particular genus that are the ...
Orchids are the largest family of plants in the world. With 30,000 known species, you could acquire a different orchid every day for eighty years and still not grow them all. Back in the realm of reality, readers of this beautiful book can quickly and easily find the orchids that are right for them—which ones will thrive on a windowsill, which prefer artificial lights, and which need a greenhouse; which are for beginners, which for experts. And you can pinpoint the species within a particular genus that are the best ones to start with. Once you select your orchid, William Cullina's authoritative guide explains what to do to keep it alive and healthy.
Featuring more than two hundred color photographs, Understanding Orchids covers everything you need to know to grow orchids successfully, whatever your level of interest or experience. With improved tissue-culture techniques making orchids more affordable, and the Internet making them readily available to consumers, growing orchids is more popular than ever: membership in the American Orchid Society has more than doubled in the last fifteen years. This is the book orchid fans have been waiting for.
Learning to grow orchids and understand their idiosyncrasies is a true journey.
The sheer number of orchid species—estimates range from 25,000 to 35,000 worldwide, not to mention some 40,000 hybrids—means there will always be new plants to explore, new friends to make.
You could start acquiring an orchid a day when you were twenty and still not have grown them all when you turned eighty! No other family of plants offers us inquisitive humans such overwhelming diversity.
Orchids are a world unto themselves, and I think the almost limitless potential for discovery is one key to their phenomenal popularity. Even after twenty years of growing orchids, whenever I see a new one or a particularly well grown specimen, I still get that spine-tingling, toe-tickling feeling of WOW that hooked me in the beginning.
If you are just starting out with orchids, you are in for quite an adventure.
How to Use This Book
My goal is to lead you on that adventure, and because I am writing for orchid lovers at every level of expertise, from absolute beginner to experienced grower to expert, you may find that some parts of the book are not pertinent at this time.
Here’s how the text is organized.
Part One contains all of the information you’ll need to choose a place where your plants will grow well, whether on a windowsill, under lights, in a greenhouse, or outdoors. Here you’ll learn about light, temperature, and humidity, the basics of good orchid culture. I have tried whenever possible to explain concepts in a straightforward way in plain English.
However, I recommend that you become familiar with some of the terms listed in the glossary, which are in bold type the first time they’re used in the text.
After a while, the meaning of words like “pseudobulb” and “velamen” and “footcandle” will become second nature to you.
Part Two, “Care and Feeding,” delves into the topics of watering, potting, fertilizing, and dealing with pests and diseases, as well as troubleshooting when your plants have problems.
All of this information will help you keep your orchids thriving for years to come.
Part Three, “Orchid Reproduction,” covers more specialized topics. Although you don’t have to understand the mechanics of evolution, pollination, and hybridization to grow orchids, these chapters give you more background and context about this amazing family.
Part Four focuses on one hundred of the most commonly grown groups (genera) of tropical orchids, covering in detail the general cultural advice given in Parts One and Two. From Angraecum to Zygopetalum, this section describes each genus, explains which species are easiest for beginners, and includes anecdotes and growing hints that will help you decide which orchids are right for you.
The appendixes at the back of the book contain useful information about botanical terminology, orchid resources on the Web and orchid organizations, and awards. There is also a glossary of terms and a list of books for further reference.
This book is based largely on my own experience, along with that of people who, in person or in print, have been my mentors over the years. I cringe to think about it, but I always learn as much from my mistakes as from my successes. I truly hate to kill an orchid, partly because each one is so darned expensive, but mostly because I probably could have saved it had I known a bit more.With that in mind, I offer here what I have learned, in the hope that you will be able to learn from my mistakes as well as my successes.
No doubt some people will take exception to my advice, for there is more than one way to pot an orchid. Take my words as a guide or a starting point, but, most of all, be observant, patient, and caring, and the orchids will teach you well. Of course I am biased, but I think you will find that there is no more magical, fascinating, and only occasionally frustrating family of plants than the Orchidaceae. I raise my watering can to you and offer this toast: “May your roots be long, your pseudobulbs fat, and your flowers all the colors of the rainbow.”
Copyright © 2004 by William Cullina.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Acknowledgments v I n t r o d u c t i o n viii How to Use This Book ix
Part 1 Setting Up the Orchid Environment
1 G e t t i n g Start e d : Your F i r st O r c h id 2 Buying Your First Orchid 4 What to Look For 4 Orchid Anatomy 6 2 Wher e to Grow Your O r chi d s 9 On the Windowsill 9 Under Artificial Lights 11 In the Greenhouse 18 The Great Outdoors 22 3 L i g h t 23 Day Length, or Photoperiod 25 4 Temperat u r e 27 5 Humidit y a nd A ir Movement 31 Relative Humidity 31 Air Movement 37
Part 2 Care and Feeding
Watering Orchids in Pots 41 Watering Mounted Orchids 42 Automatic Watering 44 Watering Plants That Need a Dry Rest 45 Water Quality 46 7 Fe r t i l i z at i o n and N u t r i t i o n 49 Fertilization and Dormancy 52 Fertilization and Flowering 52 Types of Fertilizer 52 8 Pot t i ng an d D i v i d ing 55 Pots and Other Containers 57 Pot Size 59 Mosses, Ferns, Liverworts, and Algae 61 Potting Mixes 63 Dividing Orchids 73 9 Mounting Orch ids o n P l aq u e s a n d Branch e s 79 Mounting Procedure 82 Attaching the Orchid 84 1 0 P e st s a n d D i s e a s e s 87 Orchid Pests 88 Orchid Diseases 91 Organic and Biological Pest and Disease Controls 93 Viruses 95 1 1 Troubleshoot i n g G u ide 97
Part 3 Orchid Reproduction 1 2 R e p r o d u c t i o n in th e Wi l d 102 1 3 Hand P o l l inat i o n and C a r e o f S e e d l ings 109 Hand-Pollinating 109 Flasking 111 Unflasking and Caring for Seedlings 113 1 4 H y b r i d i z at i o n 115
Part 4 Common Orchid Genera from A to Z Introduction 129
Appendi x e s 228 1 Taxonomy and Nomenclature 230 2 Orchids on the Web and Orchid Organizations 234 3 Judging and Showing Orchids 236 G l o s sary 241 B i b l i o g r a p hy 246 Photo C r e d i t s 248 I n dex 250