Thursday, March 11, 2010

Orchids in winter

I was in the mood for orchids some weeks ago but my mind kept telling me, "it's off-season!"
Winter, or rather, as much Winter as coastal Mumbai gets, still had its grip on us .
It is never Winter as those outside the Tropics know it, yet those bitingly chill winds that roll off the back of the frozen Himalayas are cruel enough to kill or severly damage Dendrobium orchids and the other warm-growing orchids in my garden. I lose more than a few to them every year.
And what makes it worse is that I grow all my orchids outdoors so there is no shelter from those cutting winds. Especially for my Dendrobiums which are tied on to the trunks of various trees. Those I couldn't move even if I wanted to.

Then as I looked around my garden, I found first one and then another orchid in bloom ... good enough to satisfy my craving.
Leading the list was that absolutely gorgeous Dendrobium which had not one, but two spikes full of flowers (top photo).
Then there was this unusual yellow Phalaenopsis, speckled with hot pink.

I quite forgot that this is Phalaenopsis season in my garden! They like a temperature swing of about 10* to initiate spiking and it looks like they're quite happy with what they're getting.

This Phalaenopsis is relatively new to my garden. This is the first time that Phal 'Mini Orange' is blooming for me. I'm trying to picture it in a matte black ceramic planter .... mmmm!
Spathaglottis , one of my never-fail orchids. And a terrestrial, unlike the other epiphytic orchids. This is one of the few orchids that you can grow just like any other garden plant.

And the dwarf hybrids are just as pretty, if not more.

Then, there was this lovely Cymbidium. But I can't claim credit for this one. I must confess that I bought it in bud from a flower show that was on in Mumbai recently. Isn't it beautiful? It was way too expensive but worth every rupee for the sheer delight I feel every time I look at it.

And then, of course, I had this one stashed away in my apartment ... Phalaenopsis 'Winter Carnival' .
How apt!


  1. wow..a group of orchid wonder..ur knowledge on plant care is ausim...lovely flowers

  2. I love the shapes and colors of orchids. These are not something I would ever grow myself since they wouldn't be happy outside - and I'm not a house gardener. And so I'll admire yours. Your garden must be a rainbow of colors with these beauties.

  3. Now I have orchid envy. You have some real beauties.


  4. Ooooh Sunita wow beautiful orchids and am envious. My two cattleyas are the only ones blooming and I am being very good by not visiting the plant nurseries (it is just tooo hot). You do have a nice collection on hand.

  5. Wow, you certainly have some gorgeous orchids ... particularly love the new orange one. It's terrific so many survive the chilly winds of winter.

  6. Beautiful!! and love your write up.. always inviting for someone who has been a student of Botany!!
    I have plans for a mini garden in my balcony and some indoor plants.. but never thought that i cud grow orchids. Now i know.. and i'll contact u first for tips when i'm all set :)

  7. I am not an orchid fan. However, there are two in my collection, Phalaenposis.
    One is a present from a neighbor, the other from my wife.

    I use to think of orchids as fragile
    creatures, however the heat they tolerate in my backyard is impressive.

    Still not a fan, but admiring their
    twosome beauty among the whole.

    As usual, a great pleasure to drop

  8. Inspired by you I have grown some myself, and they have come out reasonably good. Your collection is absolutely phenomenal...must be a heady feeling to have them around.
    P.S - With reference to the comment on your last post, they play a reckless, inebriated Holi in hills, but we were safe in the confines of the Hotel room with a lusty view of Himalayas.

  9. They are lovely Sunitha!

    Could you give some basic tips on growing orchids? OK I guess that's too broad - so let me ask you just a couple of questions, as starters!!

    1. Do they bloom year-round - a particular plant, how many times a year do you see flower spikes?

    2. What do they love - moisture or sun or shade or...?

    My pa-in-law is making a start (someone gave him a couple of plants) and I could give him these tips!!

  10. I was sure I had replied to all these comments already! ... looks like I forgot to hit the Publish button. Anyway, ...

    Thank you, Deepa :)

    Stephanie, maybe you could try growing some of the cold-loving orchids. I know there are many of them but I havent really paid much attention to them because it didnt really have any relevance for me.

    Thank you, Flower Lady :) I must say the same about your roses, though.

    Helen, cattleyas in bloom must be quite a show! Maybe if you liked around like I did, you'll find more of them in your garden. Hmmm... staying away from plant nurseries must take a lot of effort. Better you than me ! ;D

  11. Bernie, that orange phal is special, isn't it? I keep picturing it mounted (tied on) to a piece of driftwood or even a slate slab ... ooooh!

    Priya, the best part about orchids is that they dont need much space. Go ahead, indulge! :)

    Antigonum Cajan, it always starts with 1 or 2, then before you know it, you'll have orchids growing all over the place. Best of luck!
    Oh yes, orchids are really tough! I dont know why we think they're delicate.

    GT, good for you! Which orchids have you started your collection with? Have you posted any photos yet (I dont remember seeing any) ?

  12. Flowergirl, I wish I could compress the answer to that into this little box! Its always easiest to grow the orchids that like your climate. Dendrobiums, Phalaenopsis, Oncidiums ... all these grow well in The Mumbai climate. I find Dendrobiums especially easy to grow, but then I've been growing them for years and years.
    No, the flower spikes do not show up year-round but each spike lasts for almost a month so its almost as good. Factors like excess heat, driness in summer, etc. do affect the flowering.
    What they prefer depends on which orchids they are. Dendrobiums and Vandas love the sun, Phalaenopsis needs bright shade ... to each his own.
    If you know which one your pa-in-law has, it'll be easier to guide you.

  13. Such fabulous orchids. The colours and patterns are wonderful. I know what you mean when you say you can't move them. Once they are established with their roots holding on to the tree there is no shifting them any more. I did not know that you would get such cold winds. I grow all my orchids outside but not the Phalaenopsis, I always lose them outside to adverse weather conditions. The Cymbidiums won't mind the cold as they grow outside in Sydney. I grow them in my garden too but it is nearly not cold enough for them!
    The winter Carnival has an appropriate name. I do like the orange one in a black matte pot. My favourite is the yellow one with the freckles, it looks so cheerful. Your collection is fantastic.

  14. You have lovely orchids, it's a pity that the yellow Phal is a bit pixellated here, maybe during posting. It is good you are in an area in India where the temperature goes down to favor Phals and Cymbidium. Here in Manila is so hot that Phals are difficult to bloom, so i just maintain the Vanda teretes.

  15. Sunita,
    Your collection of orchids are gorgeous! I wish I could grow orchids like you do :)

  16. Lovely. Absolutely beautiful... I saw some flowers in Delhi which I thought were orchids... will post the pictures and ask you if those are purple-pink orchids too.

  17. wow you are growing some pretty orchids. I love all the blooms. Here in lahore, the most common and adaptable are cattleya and dendrobium.

  18. Absolutely, Haddock!

    Trudi, its just for a few weeks that we get these cold winds that make one doubt that we're in a tropical coastal city. And I must confess that my apartment garden is not so badly affected because the close proximity of other buildings traps the heat and cuts the chill factor. It's just my other garden that bears the brunt of the cold winds :(
    I must scout around for a black planter for my orange Phal. now. I think it'll look really good too. And yes, the yellow one with the 'freckles' is really pretty, isn't it? And its an easy bloomer too.

  19. Thanks Andrea :)
    Sorry you couldnt get a good view of the yellow Phal. Maybe I cropped it a bit too tight.
    I love Vandas, they're so flamboyant! I grow a few of those too but I'm not so comfortable with them as I am with growing Dendrobiums. Do you get named orchids to buy in Manila? Here it is a bit of "maybe, maybe not". That is, when you can get them at all!

    Sandy, thank you. From what I've seen on your blog, you've made a good start. It's just a matter of building up your orchid collection over time.

    Thanks, IHM. Yes, please post the photos. Even if they aren't orchids, it'll be great to see some pretty flower pics ;)

    Muhammad, those cattleya can look quite spectacular. Lucky you! Maybe you could try growing the Spathaglottis too. They're quite easy to grow.

  20. I've been growing orchids in a smallish way for a couple of years. We just bought a house, so some of the plants got to spend the winter outside. I keep them all in pots, because I think our climate us too dry for aerial planting.

    Your photos are splendid.

  21. Ohh wow, what a beautiful bunch of different orchid flowers. Love it thank you for sharing the pictures. Looking forward to see another of your pictures.

  22. Hi Sunita again, i did not see your question above until now. Do you mean are we sure of the hybrid names in Manila? Yes, most of the big nurseries culturing the hybrids in tissue culture are all reliable, because most of them are members of the Philippine Orchid Society and are authorities on orchids. We have lots of those here. Please visit my two last posts of their orchid show. thanks.

  23. Lisa and Robb, I'm so embarassed that I delayed replying for so long. Sorry!
    Which orchids do you grow? I think that epiphytic orchids can handle dry climates better than we think provided they're 'mounted' on a tree. Maybe you could provide a water feature near by?

    Thank you, Orchidstobuy :)

    Lucky you, Andrea! Here it is a bit of a hit or miss. Except for the major growers most of the smaller nurseries who source their plants from elsewhere don't really have much of a clue what they are stocking. Such a pity!

  24. Dear Ms. Sunita,

    I am from Dombivli (near Mumbai) and have a phalaenopsis two years old, not yet flowered. It is kept on a east facing window sill and I water daily morning. What could be the reasons for its not blooming.
    Please help.
    Mani Nair

  25. Lack of flowers could be due to any one of several reasons, Mani. First, check the amount of light that the plant is getting. Phals require less light than dendrobiums but they still do need a certain amount of light to bloom.If the leaves are a dark green you can be sure that it is not getting enough light.
    Another reason could be the lack of feeding. Compost teas are a good option especially if you're growing your plants the organic way.
    Another option is to reduce the watering slightly so that it goes into a period of stress for a couple of weeks. In any case, watering should be automatically reduced during the cooler months. Very often phals respond with flower spikes to temperature swings of at least 10 degrees every day for about 2-3 weeks.

  26. Thanks Sunita ji for your valuable help. Yes I think my phal is getting more light than needs. I have shifted it to a North balcony where it get filtered light and the area is little cooler also. Feeding with compost tea. As suggested by you I will decrease the watering to once in two days. Hope it flowers soon.
    Mani Nair

  27. You're welcome, Mani. I hope you get a lot of blooms this time. My phals usually start growing bloom spikes in Feb.
    In what have you planted the phals? If it is a terracotta pot with holes along the sides, watering once in 2 days is fine. If it is in a plastic pot or a pot without holes along the sides for air circulation, delay watering further. The top of the medium may look dry but chances are that it will be soggy wet in the centre.

  28. Thanks Sunita ji. It is in bricks + coal + coir peat and in mud pot. Regarding Fertilizer - compost tea will suffice or I have to add any blooming fertilizer.


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