Winterising Your Orchids


The arrival of winter means a little extra care is required for your orchids. Here are a few tips and reminders to consider when winterising your orchids. There are a few essential items to remember: temperatures, watering, light levels. Certainly your location, immediate climate and environment affect these variables.


Watering: First and foremost, remember that short days and decreased sunlight will affect and slow the growth of your orchids. Cooler temperatures and longer nights mean your orchids will require less water than in the summer months. Plants will not dry out as quickly and there is less evaporation of water. Vandaceous orchids may do well on a watering schedule of 4-5 days per week versus every day during the summer. Cattleyas may thrive on 1-2 days per week depending on the humidity. Of course, whether your orchids are grown outdoors or inside in a heated home may change the watering schedule of your orchids. Take time to assess how the orchids are tolerating the change of weather, growing conditions. Despite the variations, your plants will tolerate less water during the winter months. If you have moved your orchids inside the home for the winter, you will need to water a bit more frequently. Dry heat causes the plants to dry out and shrivel. Mist your orchids every day to maintain full and supple leaves.


Fertiliser: It is important to keep in mind that as plants require less water during this period of slowed growth, they also require less fertiliser. Cut back on the fertilising schedule. Using an occasional Flower booster will help set the flower spikes especially on phalaenopsis.


Light: The sun is at lower levels during the winter, yet your orchids still require light. Move your plants around to give them optimal light as possible. Even though your orchids like a brief rest period during the winter, they still need adequate light. Give your plants as much light as possible while the days are short. This will help to warm your orchids naturally with the sunlight. You may want to remove some coverings, plastics, or shade cloth on green houses to allow a little more light on your orchids. Light is an essential component for your orchids even during the winter months. Note how the sunlight falls on your orchids, the shadows and the length of time your plants get sunlight. Position your plants accordingly and be prepared to move them around as the winter months progress.

Cattleyas, vandas and other sun loving orchids should be placed where they will receive maximum light throughout the day. Orchids are less apt to get sunburned during the early months of winter. Take care to notice the sun angles and light intensity as mid-May and June arrive. Sunburn becomes a real risk during these months as the sun's brightness intensifies. You may need to shield or move your orchids to compensate for the sun as winter progresses.


Temperatures: Plants are sensitive to extremes in temperatures and severe cold can injure your orchids. However, cool growing orchids should be quite happy with the arrival of cool temperatures! Take care to move plants away from windows, plastic barriers and avoid having the leaves touch windows. The cold glass will damage the leaves if leaves are touching the windows. Individuals growing orchids outdoors must be cautious of freezing temperatures. Orchids will suffer damage if temperatures stay in ranges between 30 - 40 F degrees. Vandaceous orchids are extremely susceptible to cold spells. Develop a plan on what to do for your outdoor orchids. Decide whether you will bring them indoors if they are cold sensitive. This may be quite a feat if you have many orchids. It is not always possible to move all your orchids indoors when the temperatures reach critical marks on the thermometer. For outdoor orchids, water them thoroughly in the early evening to help prevent damage from frost and cold temperatures. During these critical periods, it is all right to water in the evening. Spray the leaves and roots well and spray again in the morning following the cold night. Decide whether it is possible to protect these orchids beneath cloths, etc. Never let plastic coverings touch your orchids as the cold plastic may cause damage. Watch the temperatures!

If you grow orchids in the home, take care to mist your plants and provide adequate humidity. The heating systems used in homes are generally a drier heat and may cause the plant to shrivel. Position the orchids so they are not directly in front of heating vents. This can cause dehydration. Check your plants. Another helpful tip is to place your plants in trays filled with rocks and water to keep the humidity higher around your plants. Green houses may offer a bit more of a controlled environment during winter, yet fans and heating systems are also necessary.


Staking: Winter months affect various orchids differently. The cool growing orchids will definitely get a jump start with the cold spells. Phalaenopsis, paphiopediliums, etc. will begin producing flower spikes vigorously. Stake the spikes to allow for the best orientation of the flowers. Don't turn the plants while the spike is maturing as this will cause the flower spikes to grow in funny angles. Check your phalaenopsis and help the spikes grow upward.

Cymbidiums like to be staked completely upright and straight which will enhance the presentation of the flower. Cattleyas love high light and may develop weaker spikes during these months when the light is at a lower intensity. Stake the new growths and spikes to provide support. The winter months may cause the flower spikes to be at their weakest. So take time to stake all flower spikes properly to prevent the spike from breaking and to ensure flowers are displayed appropriately.


Insects: Continually check your orchids for any signs of insect infestation. Mealy bugs and aphids love the emerging spikes and live within the bracts. Insects are often found in the folds and undersides of the leaves. Be diligent about inspecting your orchids so that any infestation can be dealt with quickly. The winter months may be somewhat hard on the plants and keeping them healthy is important. Always clean your tools and keep the growing areas tidy.


Glasshouse Tips: Check your equipment to ensure fans, heating systems are functioning properly.  Observe sides of greenhouse, slat houses and coverings and determine if any preventative maintenance is needed. Repair rips, holes as needed. Move plants away from glass sides.

Winter is usually a time when plants rest, yard work comes to a standstill in the Northern states and is drastically reduced in the Southern states. However, orchids still require a bit of maintenance and care to keep them healthy and prevent loss of plants due to cold, harsh winter conditions. Light, water and temperatures are important elements during the winter months. Have a plan on how you will care for your orchids and what steps you will take to keep them alive and healthy. It is helpful to watch the weather reports so that you are prepared for the forthcoming changes in the weather patterns. A little effort now to safeguard your orchids will ensure healthy plants year round.


Get winterised!

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