One of the things that make the orchid family so great is the wonderful diversity of the flowers. What makes it even more wonderful are all of the fantastic areas that hybrizing can present. What began more than a century ago with the simple act of making primary hybrids with the newly imported plants into Europe, has snowballed all the way to the present to showcase even more exciting and complex hybrids for the grower to select. Not only can we cross within cattleya species, we can also take the additional step to breed them with encyclias, laelias and more. We can cross odontoglossums with oncidiums, cochliodas, miltoniopsis, and more. Orchid growers have experimented with making hybrids since 1856 when the first cross was made: Calanthe Dominyi, a cross of cal. furcata and cal. masuca. A short time later the first cattleya hybrid was made, C. Hybrida, a crossing of C. guttata with C. loddigesii. In no time at all, the early growers learned that orchids not only hybridize within their own specific group, or genus, but with other related genera as well. These new hybrids were then referred to as "intergeneric" hybrids. At first, this was a difficult process as there did not exist any viable way to grow seeds successfully, but by the 1920s, Dr. Lewis Knudson of Cornell University discovered a way to grow seed under sterile conditions and from then on thousands of hybrids were successfully created. If one was to trace the motive behind making these various hybrids, you would be amazed. In the beginning growers were just merely experimenting with hybrids to see what was possible. Many years later, the desire to develop higher quality flowers for the cut flower trade became the holy grail. A whole horticultural industry was created with the development of better cattleya, paphiopedilum, and cymbidium cut flowers. No picture of a modern lady taken in the 1920-1950s was considered contemporary without the showy orchid corsage figuring prominantly as a fashion accessory. These days, the commercial pot plant market drives the bulk of the breeding trends, but fortunately, many orchid hybrids are created just to provide the hobbyist with new and unusual flowers.
Though many of the antique hybrids are still seen in some collections today, most attention is given to the cultivation of modern hybrids. There is some effort to preserve some of those older varieties, especially within the cattleya and paphiopedilum group. Complete records of these hybrids are kept by the Royal Horticulture Society in England. The sheer number of crosses being registered over the years has substantially increased as many hybrids have been made by amateurs. Unfortunately, although the number of crosses has increased, it is up to interpretation as to whether or not the number of crosses with horticultural merit has also increased. Commercial growers generally have a wider perspective thru experience, and typically make better hybrids and certainly have the mechanism to distribute them widely. Today, as many orchid nurseries are closing, there seems to be less hybrids being made, or perhaps we just don't see them displayed. Whatever your interest is, we feel that there are still some interesting hybrid to enjoy. These new hybrids exhibit often very valuable traits such as floriferousness, fragrance or increased vigor. No matter what your taste is, there is an exciting hybrid for you.
Temperature-- With a few exceptions, most modern hybrids can be grown under general intermediate conditions. to be sure what requirements are needed, do a little research. Usually, one can get good advice from a qualified commercial nurseryman. There is a fair sized group that does appreciate lower day and night temperatures like masdevallias and sarcochilus, but as a general rule, most will do fine with day temperatures in the 75-80 degree range and night temperature in in the 55-60 degree range.
Light-- Again, as a general rule, bright, filtered light is best. This is the amount of light that can be measured by seeing a marked shadow when one holds a hand over the plant. Watch how your plants adjust and if you see stress in the leaves, lower the light. If the leaves are hard and robust, the light is likely acceptable, but if the leaves are unusually thin or flaccid more light is probably needed.
Humidity and Air Movement-- Remember to keep your growing area fresh. Ventilate whenever outside temps allow. Most orchids will do well with moderate humidity around the 50 percent range. The cool growing types often require a little more humidity. The same could be said for the most tropical. This requirement is maybe the most difficult to provide when growing inside under lights, especially in the winter. A small fan may be good.
Water and Fertilizer-- Watering schedules usually depend on your conditions. If your growing area is dry, you may have to water more often. Here the general rule is to water once a week. More water may be needed in the summer and less in the winter. Most orchids (except terrestrials) appreciate some drying out between waterings. Because these hybrids are so vigorous, they allow for some margin of error however. Water quality, as with all orchids, is important. Fertilizing is as for the other plants in your collection. During the growing season, every other watering is recommended so as to flush between applications. If you have a plant that actually goes dormant, then a very scant amount of moisture is required and no fertilizer.
Potting-- We suggest that repotting be done when the new roots emerge. This way the plant will re-establish quickly. If you repot during any other time, there is a good risk that you will lose the roots and spend much time trying to get your plant to recover. Many different medias are available so use what seems to work best for you. We use an all purpose mix of fine and medium fir bark and perlite for many of our plants. Keep up with your potting as mix should remain fresh. But just because you have a new orchid doesn't mean you should always repot it right away. Timing is key.