Give Your Orchid Plant A Rest!

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Blooming, Care and Culture, Growing Indoors, Growing Outdoors, Propagation

Many terrestrial orchids undergo a long dormant season when their pseudobulbs or tubers wait underground until conditions favorable for growth return. The season may be unfavorable because it is too hot or too cold, but it is nearly always dry.

Similarly the epiphytic orchids with pseudobulbs and succulent leaves are structurally adapted to withstand a period of drought. This often coincides with lower temperatures. Except for the species which grow in swamps or in equatorial or cloud forests, where some rain falls in every month, orchids need to dry out and ‘rest‘ at some stage during their normal growth cycle.

In cultivation this is very important. It is of no use; and indeed may be harmful, to continue to give water and fertilizer to dormant plants. At best it will only produce weak growths that do not flower. The resting period may only be a few weeks. In the Indian Dendrobium species, for example, the resting period is recognizable at its start by the withering of leaves, and at its end by the development of new shoots. As soon as a new pseudobulb begins to grow, plants should be watered freely again; in the resting season either no water is required or only enough to prevent excessive shriveling of the pseudobulbs.

In many Mexican orchids, especially those at high altitude, the dry season lasts for several of the winter months and plants often flower during this period. The days are short and, with less light and lower temperatures, growth is minimal. Nevertheless, plants must be maintained in a humid environment, particularly at night, or they will become too desiccated. If the leaves begin to fall or pseudobulbs become wrinkled, a little water can safely be given.

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