Gardening Magazine

Easy Orchids

By Gardenamateur

Orchids are difficult to grow ... right? Wrong! Some orchids are so easy to grow they barely need any help from me to do their thing. Just a bit of water, an occasional feed of liquid orchid food, and a sheltered spot that gets a bit of sun, but not too much. Mine are nestled up against a side fence, so they get no afternoon sun at all.

And they're flowering now. In preparing to write this little blog posting about my native orchids, I discovered a couple of things I didn't know previously. The first is that they are both closely related, even though one is a tiny little guy with flowers less than one inch wide and the other one is big, bold with "can't miss it" sprays of many yellow blooms. They're both dendrobiums.

Easy orchids
This one pictured above is the little person, formal name of Dendrobium kingianum, common name of native rock orchid. Small but perfectly formed ...
Easy orchids
And this big yellow personality is Dendrobium speciosum, with a few common names, including rock lily and Sydney rock orchid. But I think of it as the Sydney Mardi Gras orchid.
Easy orchids
This is the first time the big yellow orchid has flowered, even though it's been in our garden for the last three years. Now, if I had done my research more thoroughly back then, I would have learned that if you buy a young plant then you are going to have to wait a few years for it to flower. For a while I wondered if I was doing anything wrong, as each year the little rock orchids flowered their heads off and the much bigger plant did nothing. It looked healthy enough, but it just didn't produce flowers. This year was its big debut, and what a spectacular entrance it has made.
Easy orchids
I have several pots of the smaller rock orchids, including this white one, and they flower very reliably every year. Two years ago I repotted them all, as they were multiplying quite prolifically and getting overcrowded, and all the transplants have survived the experience.

So, what's the second thing I discovered about these orchids? Well, it seems that these are regarded as two of the easiest native orchids you can grow. Perfect beginner's orchids. And that explains a lot!

I think both forms look wonderful, and the fact they are hardy and do well even in the care of an absolute beginner makes them even more marvelous in my eyes.

Now, I should give credit where credit is due, and mention two Australian websites which are a good source of information on native orchids. One is this page on Angus Stewart's website, and this page at the Australian Orchid Nursery website, which is all about Dendrobium speciosum.

If you are looking for something to grow in a line along a fairly boring fenceline on the western side of your garden, then give orchids a try. Contrary to popular belief, many orchids are not difficult to grow at all. In fact they are remarkably tough, easy-care potted plants. As well as these native dendrobiums, look out for the cymbidium orchids, another excellent choice for beginners.

Buy your orchids already potted up and they should do well in that original pot for the first few years at least. Your local garden center or major hardware chain will stock special orchid foods. I use a liquid feed that I mix up with water and apply from a can, but there are dry granules which you mix up with water, and slow-release pellets which you scatter around every few months. I find the liquid feed easiest, and I feed my plants whenever I remember to do it. I guess that's about once a month.

All the other stuff about them special potting mixes, etc is true, but it mostly has the effect of making people think orchid growing is difficult. It's not. Just buy a plant already potted up, plonk it in a good spot and you're nine-tenths on your way to success.

Good luck!

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