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One of the things that makes growing orchids such a worthwhile endeavour is the challenge of learning about perhaps the largest family of plants in the plant kingdom. Orchids are purported to have more than 30,000 species surpassing even the huge family of Compositae. It is because of this large size consisting of so much variety that makes orchids so special. Luckily for the grower, orchids have been separated in sensible groups of Genera. As an aside, this sensible Linneaen grouping is being challenged today by genticists using DNA. In the future, we may see a divergence of science and horticulture. What is for sure is that there are types of orchids for every persons tastes.It is easily seen how orchids played such a strong role in the 'Natural Craze' for in Europe in the mid to late 1800s. During this time when all things natural were extremely popular, orchids played a leading role. It was at this time that many now famous collectors were sent to the unexplored regions of the world to collect and return any new species of plant of animal. It is difficult today to understand the enormous numbers that these collectors sent back to Englant and Europe.Litterally, hundreds of thousands of these plants may have been collected to send home only to have most die on the trip home. Remember this was a time when it took months to cross the oceans. It is fascinating to read of the experiences of these collectors like George Ure-Skinner, Benedikt Roezl, Carl Roebelen, and Gustav Wallis. It is this strange fascination that we can attribute today's hobby to. It was also responsible for orchids becoming a fascination of all people.
Today, there is a renewed interest in growing orchid species. For most of the twentieth century, both commercial and hobby growers aspired to create better flowers with devoted lines of breeding. A judging system was put in place to recognize these improvements. For reasons unknown to us, there is a movement now to return to time when only species existed in collections. For some, there is no interest in anything but species. Since the collection of orchid species was unsustainable, we are fortunate today that commercial nurseries are able to propagate species of horticultural merit for the amateur. We are fortunate also that there are some great foreign nurseries that are qualified to export orchids to America. Now it is easy to appreciate the enormous variety the species orchids exhibit, from the very smallest miniature to the large and showy. The growing of species can not only astound one with their complexity, but challenge any grower with their cultural needs. We think that this diversity is what makes the orchid hobby so wonderful. Every day may present an unbelievable flower or a new challenge of culture. One must remember that orchids come from everywhere on the planet except the arctic regions. All these factors will lead the grower to the study of the orchid family, to attain a better culture of the plants and hopefully an appreciation of the history of orchids, No plant family can offer the same interest level.
Temperature-- Immediately, one must learn more information about any specific species to learn about it's culture. This may be most important to the cultivation of orchid species. The range of epiphytic orchids is from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer. Also, they may range from sea level to thousands of feet in the Andes and Himalayas. These factors can result in a wide variety in temperature range. Simple rules can aid the grower. Most orchids will thrive under moderate daytime temperatures in the 70-80 degree range. It is the night temperature that varies the most. Cool types prefer 50-55 degrees, intermediate types prefer 55-65 degrees and warms types prefer 65-70 degrees. All plants withstand a general cooling in the winter season.
Light-- This control can also vary greatly for different species. As a general rule, bright filtered light will be best. After a period of time, you can appraise the light level and make some adjustment. As one raises the light load, one must increase the humidity. Be sure that you are providing the necessary amount of light, otherwise your plant will weaken.
Humidity and Air Movement-- A general rule for humidity levels is to keep it around 50 percent. As temperatures increase, you should increase the humidity level. Some genera also enjoy higher light levels, so be careful to monitor the temperature as light and temperature increase. During the winter dormant season, some lessening of the humidity may make good culture easier. Be aware of the conditions when humidity is high as disease may appear. Avoid this by keeping the condition fresh by good ventilation.
Water and Fertilizer-- Perhaps with some species, this can be one of the most important factors. Many of the rain forest species require high water quality. This may require Reverse Osmosis or Deionization, depending the quality of your local water source. Some species enjoy misting and if the quality of your water is not good, high levels of calcium deposits may result. It may be a good idea to use a lower and more constant application of fertilizer with Species. Use any balanced formula. If you use treated water, make sure your fertilizer has a source of calcium.
Potting-- The media that is used must match your cultural practices. There is a wealth of options open for media. This may include fir bark, graded by size, charcoal, tree fern, sphagnum moss, coconut husk, and many inorganic compounds. Match the size of the roots to the media. Also, experiment to find what may be best for your style of growing. No matter what media you use, remember to keep it fresh. Many species prefer to be mounted. We like cork slabs as they last the best.