Choosing the Right Kind of Orchid (An Introduction to Orchid Keeping, Part 1)

Aranda Chark Kuan 'Orange' Photo courtesy of JM
Keeping orchids can be a relaxing hobby. Here are a few things to think about before you get started.

By Yvette Tan

Orchids are a beautiful addition to any garden. They have a reputation for being hard to care for. Though in reality, depending on the species, this exotic plant can be fairly easy (or at least not difficult) to grow.

“Growing orchids is not for everybody. There are some specific requirements,” says JM, an agricultural consultant and orchid enthusiast who is a member of the Orchid Society of the Philippines. “But we are fortunate that because the Philippines is a tropical country, we don’t necessarily have to build greenhouses. What we use are net houses. Basically, shade houses siya and exposed siya sa precipitation, sa rainfall, sa bagyo.”

Make use of the Philippines’ tropical climate (and make your plant parent friends in other countries jealous) by trying your hand at growing orchids. Here are some things to consider as you adopt your very first plant.

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Aranda Noorah Alsagoff ‘Pink’
Photo courtesy of JM

Some Orchid Types

There are thousands of orchid types. Here are a few:

Cattleya – Hailing from South America, the Cattleya is often called the “Queen of Orchids.” Its big flowers are most commonly used to decorate corsages.

Dendrobium – This genus is from different parts of south, east, and southeast Asia. These orchids can adapt to a wide range of habitats and tend to grow quickly during the summer.

Phalaenopsis – Also known as the moth orchid, Phalaenopsis is one of the most popular among orchid newbies and experts alike. It can be found in the Himalayas and parts of Southeast Asia, specifically Palawan and Zamboanga in the Philippines.

Trichoglottis – The name from the Greek tricho (hair) and glotta (tongue), in reference to the species’ hairy labellum, or lip. This is the part of the orchid that attracts insects for pollination. Trichoglottis are native to parts of Asia and Australia.

Vanda – This is one of the most adaptable and showy of orchid genus. Found in East and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia and New Guinea, Vandas are known for their fragrant, long lasting, and colorful flowers.

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Grammatophyllum scriptum
Photo courtesy of JM

Beginner-Friendly Orchids

There are so many beautiful flowers to choose from! What kind of orchid is best for the beginner? JM suggests Dendrobiums. “They’re not too difficult to take care of and they flower profusely, so you’re rewarded for your efforts,” JM says. “However, if you have a large garden and you have tree trunks, I suggest you take care of quarter terete or semi terete vandas because they require minimal care. You just have to mount them firmly—the word is firmly—on tree trunk or driftwood and you have to water them profusely.”

But what about those lovely Cattleyas? “Cattleyas are lovely orchids because the flowers are big. However, the intervals between flowering might be longer compared to dendrobiums because each Cattleya bulb will give you one flower only. You’ll have to wait for other shoots to produce flowers,” JM says. “Whereas for dendrobiums, it normally starts to flower at the tip, gradually receding downwards for the second, third, fourth flowering. Plus the growth is faster, and they are easy to source. Most garden stores would have dendrobiums for sale.”

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Hybrid Papilionanda Hilo Rose
Photo courtesy of JM

Seedlings or Flowering Plants?

Most beginners start their orchid journey when they buy or are given a flowering plant. “But in my case, since I have a limited budget, I opt for seedlings,” JM, whose fascination with orchids began at age eight, says. The “risk” with starting from seedlings it that there is not sure way to know what the flowers will look like until they bloom “because of certain factors like genetics or mislabeling.”

Not knowing what your flower will look like, of course, is also one of growing from seed’s greatest appeals. “What’s exciting about seedlings, other than the price, is that they can turn out to be more than what you expect. Because just like people, di porke’t magkakapatid kayo, magkakamukha kayo. Even clones have different features.”

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Guarianthe auriantiaca ‘Golden Dew’
Photo courtesy of JM

Seedlings also have an easier time adjusting to its environment, unlike an already flowering orchid, which will have specific requirements depending on how they were raised.

On the other hand, it may be years—no that’s not a typo—for a seedling to bear flowers, depending on what genus of orchid they are. “For Dendrobiums, seedlings can take two to three years. Vandas can take three or more years. For Cattleyas, it can be four to five years,” JM says. “There are varying measures kung gaano sila katagal mag-flower from seedling. And what’s also fun about seedlings is that you can readily propagate them. Although mas-maliit pa sila, if you cut them in two, chances are mabubuhay both sections. Sa mature plants kasi, other than mas-mabagal sila lumaki since mature na sila, it might be difficult to reestablish the cuttings.”

Newbies might be better off starting with flowering plants. “For flowering orchids, you see the product right away, and if you give the right conditions, they will consistently give you the right quality of flowers.”

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Aranda Chark Kuan ‘Orange’
Photo courtesy of JM

Read Part 2, where we talk about how much shade and water your orchid needs, and what to pot them with.










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Yvette Tan
Yvette Tan is Agriculture magazine's managing editor Agriculture.com.ph’s web editor. She is an award-winning writer who likes to eat, travel, and listen to stories about the strange and supernatural. She is dedicated to encouraging people to push for sustainable food sources and is an advocate of food security, food sovereignty, and the preservation of community foodways.

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