How to grow orchids: expert tips

Posted: 5am 09 Apr 2022

Many people believe orchids are hard to grow, but Redcliffe District Orchid Society’s Lionel Kirby says it’s easy once you know how.

Lionel gave Moreton Daily a tour of his garden, where he’s growing more than 1000 plants in two large greenhouses, a covered patio area and open orchid nursery, ahead of the Society’s Autumn Orchid Show.

The show is on April 29 (8.30am-4pm) and 30 (8.30am-3pm) at Scarborough Bowls Club, corner Scarborough Rd and Sunnyside Rd.

Admission is free to the event, which will offer orchid plants and supplies for sale, expert advice, a CWA craft table and more.

Passion for orchids grows

Lionel says his collection started with a couple of plants given to him by a friend in 2014.

“You just kind of keep adding to it over the time and you can’t help but add to it because they’re so darned beautiful,” he says.

“I kept buying them and I used to buy ones that were already in flower, so I knew what they were. I bought some each month … thinking the chances are they’ll flower next year at the same time. You end up with something flowering all the time.

“You keep adding to (the collection) and they you start working out different varieties. There’s cattleyas, dendrobiums (soft cane and hard cane) … many different types there are too many to think about.

“People do say it becomes an obsession, but it just grows. You get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It keeps your mind active.”

Lionel’s skills have grown with his collection and he now crosses and breeds varieties himself.

“It’s the sheer beauty of the orchids. There’s such a huge variety in them and they’re not hard to grow. People think they’re hard to grow, but they’re not hard to grow,” he says.

Tips for growing orchids

  • Pot them in a bark mix that’s very open (bark, perlite and charcoal is ideal). They like to get wet, but they like to dry out.
  • If you want to grow them properly, you’ve got to fertilise them. They’re like people, they’ve got to eat.
  • Spray for fungus once a month.
  • Do not overwater. Three times a week in summer, twice a week in spring and autumn and once a week in winter. If it’s raining, don’t water at all and give them a chance to dry out.
  • Ensure they are in a position, where they will get the equivalent of 50-70 per cent shade cloth. Some will grow on or under trees which replicate the same conditions.
  • Re-pot your plants at least every two years to refresh the growing medium.

“Most people kill them because the bark gets too old and it gets all clogged up and when you water them it stays wet for longer and the roots rot and they die,” Lionel says.

Overwatering is also a killer or hot, direct sun.

“I lose one, now and again. We’re not infallible,” he says. “I don’t lose too many, I keep gaining.”

Get advice from the experts

Lionel says becoming a member of an orchid club was a great way to learn more about growing the plants and also a way to meet people with a common interest.

“We meet once a month and the whole thing about the club is people come along and we try to teach them and help them grow their orchids,” he says.

In the meantime, if you’re keen to know more, head along to the Redcliffe District Orchid Society’s Autumn Orchid Show on April 29 and 30.

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