Thread: living space
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Old 17-02-2003, 03:15 AM
Ted Byers
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Default living space

"Dan Russell" wrote in message .. .
I have thought about growing an orchid for years now but am afraid of utter
failure mostly because of my living space.... I live in a very dry and warm
(22C, 72F) apartment with south-west exposure. However, the temperature
outside is very cold (-20C, -4F) and I cannot place plants on the windowsill
due to this ( I live in northern Ontario). The only place to get orchids in
my town is at the local Home Depot, but I can make a trip to the Niagara
Peninsula where orchid dealers are abundant. What plant would you suggest
and is it even worth trying given my living space?

You are probably not all that far from me. After all, I am much
closer to you than I am to Niagara. It would take me a good hour and
a half just on hwy 11 and hwy 400 just to get to the northern edge of
Toronto, and you know how much further Niagara is than that. You
don't say just where you are, but if you can make a day trip to
Niagara, it would probably be worth while just to come to Orillia for
dinner, and then take in a show at the opera house here.

Actually, you might want to take in the SOOS meetings in Toronto (the
first Sunday of every month at Edwards gardens), since they are
preceded by a sale, and there you can find a huge variety of orchids
available. The meeting proper starts normally at 2PM, but the plants
are for sale beginning at 12:30PM. Go to for more
information. You will want to pay particular attention to events
scheduled for March and April (especially the show the first weekend
in Toronto - instead of buying anything at Home Depot, save up to
splurge at the show in Toronto at that time ;-), that will be
something to see since SOOS is hosting both the mid america orchid
congress and the canadian orchid congress, so there will be a huge
collection of vendors that we'd be hardpressed to find so conveniently
in one place).

I woke up to -20 C this morning.

I have been battling incredible dyness myself, and a couple of my
catts and phals are suffering some stress from it. But none have yet
died this winter, and by the time next winter comes around, I should
have some growth chambers built.

Actually, if your windows are properly insulated, you should be able
to maintain orchids there. If not, get an appropriately sized pad
(either a heating pad, or even some rubber or styrofoam would be
effective, and place your plants on that on the sill. If you have a
black surface on whatever you use, you will get the benefit of passive
heating. Or you could use black pots (paint them black if you can't
find some). But you need to consider this ONLY if the sill is too
cool. I have not found a need for such measures.

I am keeping a number of phalaenopsis, cattleyas, and dendrobiums
happy (apart from a little stress due to dry air for the past few
weeks), and I just added a couple epidendrums (one of which blasted a
whole inflorescence because of the dry air). I intend to build some
growth chambers this summer, so that humidity won't be a problem next
winter. Having a southwest exposure, you have a near perfect
situation to growth orchids, at least that is once you deal with
humidity issues. With such an exposure, you will probably need
supplemental lighting only in winter to deal with short days, and in
summer only if you get significant shade. Note, for a short time, you
can compensate for low humidity by watering more frequently. But I
would solve the humidity problem for the sake of my own health as well
as for the plants. I am going to have to add a humidifer to our
furnace, since for the past couple days, even with my humidifer going
full blast, the humidity was only 30%! I know, from the folk at SOOS,
that my orchids won't really thrive until I get the humidity up. That
said, I have been able to bring them to rebloom and produce new growth
despite the humidity issues I'm battling.

I have no doubt that you can keep a wide variety of orchids happy
indoors where you are, as long as you get to know the plants. After
all, I have been able to keep mine happy, and if I can do it, so can
you. While with effort, you and I could probably maintain ANY orchid
that can be maintained in a greenhouse, I would suggest you start off
with dendrobiums and cattleyas. I have yet to kill a dendrobium or a
cattleya. But I have killed several phalaenopsis. Even though my
first cattleya was terribly ill when I got it (because I was ignorant
of what to look for or who not to buy from when I got it), it is well
on its way to full recovery! And I have learned just recently that
there is quite a variety of hardy orchids that you and I could
maintain outside, the most notable being several species of
cypripedium (look at the site I mention in the thread with the subject
line "Just curious, for now"; that will show you just how recently I
learned of this!). I know in an apartment you're not in a position to
grow stuff outside, but this is something to keep in the back of your
mind for future reference.