Hawaii boasts many beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs, but none more beautiful or exotic than the orchid. According to experts, the first orchids existed with the dinosaurs over 100 million years ago. There are at least 35,000 known species, and they live in many different environments, including Hawaii’s diverse mini climates, on all continents except for Antarctica.

For centuries, people have admired the orchid as a symbol of love and beauty. In several ancient cultures, orchids were considered so special that only royalty was allowed to own or wear them. Luckily for us, mere mortals are now accepted orchid owners and growers.

Orchids are not hard to grow, but they do need the right conditions to keep them healthy and to persuade them into re-blooming. They need a balance of light, air, water and food to grow and flower well.

Light: Without enough light, your orchid may not bloom. How much light is enough? The foliage should have light, somewhat yellow-green foliage (but not too yellow or reddish, that means too much light). Darker foliage means it’s not getting enough light. Depending on the type of orchid, most will grow beautifully in a sunny window. If placed outside, orchids will need a little more shade. Once the plant blooms, place it anywhere out of direct sunlight.

Air & Media: Orchid roots, and eventually the entire plant, will die without air. This is the reason they are not usually grown in soil, but rather in commercial grower’s mix, tree fern fibers, sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, cinders, peat moss, fir or redwood bark chips.

Air movement is a must—with Hawaii’s gentle trade winds and breezes, it’s no wonder orchids thrive here. Good air movement also prevents cold or hot spots, which can make it more difficult for orchids to grow well.

Water: Orchids should be watered just as they begin to dry out. How to find that out? The best way is to insert a finger into the potting mix. If in doubt, wait a day! If it’s almost dry, take it to the sink and let tepid water run through it for a minute or so. This will also flush out the salts that naturally accumulate. Be sure to let the plant drain completely. Use a paper towel to blot the water from the crown (where the leaves join in the center) to avoid crown rot. It is best to water in the morning or mid-day to allow it to dry before night.

Temperature & Humidity: Orchids thrive in Hawaii because the temperature and humidity is perfect for them—above 60°F at night and between 70° to 80° or higher during the day. Most home temperatures are acceptable for growing orchids.

Fertilizer: Any balanced orchid fertilizer (look at the numbers on the container, 20-20-20, etc.) can be used once or twice a month to fertilize your orchid, unless it’s in bark, in which case it needs more nitrogen: use 30-10-10.

Pests: Orchids occasionally have insect and disease problems. Mealy bugs, scales, and aphids can simply be washed off.

With a little luck, your orchid will flourish and add a touch of elegance to your home or garden!

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