Though several of the more popular orchids will survive in the home, conditions are rarely ideal, so if you want to grow a wide range of these exquisite plants you really need a cool greenhouse or conservatory. To widen the scope to include tropical types, a heated glass frame is an essential piece of equipment.
Orchids are members of the Orchidaceae family. There are some 30,000 species, coming from almost every country in the world, making this one of the largest families of flowering plants. Their naturalvary from high up among the leafy canopies of tropical forests, through floors to heathland, grassland, marshes and even semi-deserts.
Some species are terrestrial (ground-dwelling) with swollen stems called pseudobulbs, some have climbing stems, others live epiphytically (without damaging the host) on branches and trunks of trees. Epiphytes have specially adapted roots.
Orchid flowers are wide-ranging in size, shape and colour. Most of them are specially adapted for pollination by insects and other animals, and often there is a very specific relationship with just one type of pollinating creature.
The seeds are dust-like and are produced in vast numbers — in the wild, seed is wind-dispersed — but they may not germinate under artificial conditions, so gardeners mostly use vegetative methods of propagation, such as takingor division of the . Commercially, orchids are often increased by a special micro-propagation technique under laboratory conditions — this is known as meristem tissue culture.
Hundreds of modern hybrids and a wide range of natural species suitable for amateur gardeners are available from specialist nurseries. Beginners should choose between Angraecum, Brassia, x Brassolaeliocattleya, Cattleya, Coelogyne, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Laelia, x Laeliocattleya, Lycaste, Miltonia, x Odontioda, Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis , Pleione, Vanda and x Vuylstekeara .