I am going to start telling you about some of the other fun orchids you can grow rather than the same old things you always see in every store. Yes, there really are a lot of different orchids other than Phalaenopsis
s, and Cattleya
s. For example, if you are cramped for space but want blooming orchids, I have just the one for you!
You might want to try an Equitant
. Because the flowers look like little ladies with the big full skirts just like the Oncidium
s, these little jewels were, of course, included in the genus Oncidium
for many years. The species has recently been moved to their own genera called Tolumnia
because it has much smaller blossoms than the other Oncidium
s and for other reasons.
Of course, like everything with orchids, just moving the orchid from one genus to another may not be that simple. The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) currently does not accept the name Tolumnia so they continue to list them under Oncidiums -- despite the differences. Interestingly, all hybrids are still labeled as Oncidiums rather than Tolumnia. Will the new genus be eventually accepted? Who knows? No matter what you call them, however, these little dolls are a delight to own. To keep the confusion to a low level, in this article I will refer to our little ladies as Equitants.
These miniature orchids originally make their homes in the Caribbean islands. They are warm growers and love high humidity. The local climate of the particular island where they live determines the amount of water they need. For example, T. guianese is from the very dry area of Hispaniola while other species are found in the Bahamas where it rains almost every day.
In the early 1950's W.W. Goodale Moir began crossing the species he collected in the West Indies. His little orchids were often referred to as "Moir's Weeds." For over 25 years he bred his little orchids making many exotic crosses. Finally in 1970 other breeders joined him and the large scale hybridization of these little ladies began.
Equitants are very robust growers and will bloom in showers of bright colorful blossoms ranging from bright sunshine yellows and golden browns, to vibrant reds and oranges. The little "skirts" are decorated with many patterns of stripes or polka dots. In a breeze, the blossoms look like a group of swinging square dancers all in a row along the inflorescence. One of my favorites is the hybrid Oncidium 'Dancer' X O. 'Golden Lur'.
Their leaves look like triangles rather than flat like most leaves and form a fan-shaped arrangement. This shape was adapted by the plant to survive in the drier environments found on their native islands. The leaves hold water which is used by the orchid as a water reserve during short dry periods.
The cultural requirements for Equitants are really quite simple. The two main requirements are giving them water when they need it and providing consistent air movement.
This is the most important step in growing Equitants. They need to have water available when needed by the plant. Even though the leaves will absorb some water for the plant to sustain it for short dry periods, they have no large pseudobulb water reserve.
Equitants must be watered well then allowed to dry out. The leaves and roots must not be wet by night. If kept wet, the roots will soon rot away killing the plant. They enjoy rain water if you are able to supply it. A daily misting is also something that many of them are accustomed to. Let the plant dry before watering again. If they do not receive enough water, the leaves will turn brown and the little orchids will soon die.
Mounted plants need to be watered every day or every other day. Potted orchids depend on the type of media used to determine the frequency of watering. Watch your orchid. They will tell you if they are happy. Are the leaves full and firm or are they wrinkled and shriveled?
This is very important for the health of your Equitants. A breeze moves the humid air around the plant where the roots can extract the moisture between waterings. Provide plenty of air movement around your plants. A small fan is a welcome addition to your growing area, not only for the little Equitants but for all orchids.
These little orchids can be grown in a windowsill, under lights, or in a greenhouse. In areas where the weather permits they can, of course, be grown outside as well. Bright diffused light is needed. The morning sun is wonderful but protect your little jewels from the hot afternoon sun. If you are growing under fluorescent lights, you should also use an incandescent light to create the needed light spectrum to insure blooming. If the leaves start to turn red (a sign of burning), decrease the amount of light they are receiving by increasing the distance between the plant and the lights, or provide shade from the hot sun.
If they are still wet, you can water again using a good balanced liquid fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended strength. Never fertilize a dry plant. Fertilizing twice a month will benefit the growth of your orchid. When new growth matures you can change to a bloom boosting formula 10-30-20 to enhance the flowering.
The temperature range is from the high 60's F during the night and the high 80's oF during the day. Avoid prolong exposure to temperatures below 60 oF or above 90 oF.
POTTING OR MOUNTING
You can mount your little Equitants using fishing line or other material to secure them to the mount. Use Sphagnum moss or cocoa fiber as padding around the roots.
Cork slabs and tree fern plaques work well or even moss plant poles are good supports... especially if you are cramped for room. A moss plant pole will let you mount many of these little orchids in very little space and makes for a very nice display especially when several plants are in bloom. They will also do well in tiny 1" to 2" pots filled with loose charcoal, small orchid bark, small cocoa chips, or any other fine material.
Never overpot your little orchids (overpotting is using a pot much larger than necessary to hold the orchid). Use a media that will dry quickly and not hold moisture to allow the roots to dry between watering.
Inflorescences are produced on new or older mature growth. They produce a shower of blooms 2 -3 times a year. After blooming, do not remove the inflorescent until it is brown and dead. Often the old inflorescence will branch and bloom again for you.
Try some of these little orchids and I am sure after you try one you will purchase another, then another, as you know Orchids are Addictive!