Patience a virtue for thriving orchids

Posted: 10am 21 May 2021

Patience and persistence are useful – but not essential – when it comes to growing orchids, according to Redcliffe District Orchid Society member Margie Beckett.

“I had a flowering orchid given to me for our 25th wedding anniversary – we’ve now been married 47 years – and it didn’t flower again until we moved up to Caboolture a few years ago,” Margie laughs.

“It was on its last legs, and then it flowered.”

Margie says while orchids are hardy, they are quite particular about being kept in the right conditions to thrive.

“I have grown up on the Peninsula and that’s where I lived most of my life, but then we moved to Caboolture and there’s a temperature difference of about three degrees each way.

“Cymbidiums like a cooler climate and I’ve found they’re flowering a little bit better up here.”

One plant at a time

Margie’s passion for the exotic blooms was sparked by one plant about 40 years ago and her collection grew slowly while she was working.

“You might go along to an orchid show and something catches your eye and you buy one, then you buy another one.”

With more than 60,000 species grown across the globe, orchids are the largest genre of flowering plants.

As she started learning more about growing orchids, Margie expanded to raising them from seedlings, as well as hand pollinating.

“You have to be patient – a Dendrobium might take three years from the time you pollinate and a Cattleya takes seven years.”

Now, she has about 700-800 different orchids across three orchid houses.

“My largest house is 12x6m and covered with solar weave to I can control how much water they get, whereas the other two houses are open to the elements.”

Go easy on water in winter

Margie says while winter is reasonably low-maintenance for orchids, a dose of fish emulsion can help prepare them for growing season in spring.

“With my orchids I water them once a week because if you water too much you haven’t got as much sunlight and they don’t dry out as quickly.

“They need to dry out otherwise funguses can grow.”

Orchids also need good air flow around their roots, or they are at risk of scale, aphids and mealy bugs, she says.

“You’re trying to replicate what they like in the wild – sometimes you don’t have success so you need to move them around and change their potting mix.”

Orchid Show scheduled for September

Margie says preparations are in full swing for this year’s Orchid Show, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was our anniversary show because last year we turned 50,” she says.

Members are readying their orchids for this year’s show, scheduled for September 18 and 19.

“A lot of orchids only flower once a year – hopefully when you want them to,” Margie says.

Top Tips

  • Well-drained potting mix is essential
  • Water less in winter
  • If an orchid doesn’t thrive, try moving it to another spot
  • Tackle pests such as aphids and mealy bugs with white oil
  • Fertilise with a fish emulsion

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