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The Proper Relationship Between Orchids and Fungus

The orchid relies on its’ relationships with other organisms to assist in the overall health of the plant. One of these is fungi. They rely on them to assist in the germination of seeds and can form a partnership for the whole life of the plant.

The ones which grow on trees form a relationship not only with the host, but with the fungus they are reliant on. It makes you wonder what the implications would be for the plant if it didn’t form this marriage.

Where Does This Fungus Exist?




The fungus lives inside the root cells of the plant and this marriage of orchid and fungi results in a dual organism known as mycorrhiza. The roots provide an ideal growing environment for the fungus, as it is devoid of competition and it is thought that the flower provides the fungus with vitamins.

Parts of this fungi penetrate the root wall and has contact with the soil, which is rich in nutrients such as cellulose and other carbon compounds. This mixture is then broken down by many microbial guests into a soluble form which can be used by the flower.

How It Affects The Growth of Your Flowers

The millions of dust-like tiny seeds can begin to germinate without the presence of this specific fungus. However, the process is only complete once it has infected the embryo. The marriage between these plants and fungi is necessary at this point because the plant is unable to absorb nutrients from the soil and the tiny seed does not have any food reserves to sustain growth.

Once the flower matures, there is still a reliance on the fungi to maintain the partnership, as some species lack chlorophyll, so the dependency on each other can last throughout the lifetime of the plant.

The Phantom Orchid

One specific plant found in North America, in only four states in the United States and in the south western area of British Columbia, Canada, is called the Cephalanthera austiniae or Phantom. It’s found mainly in old growth forests and is known to associate with one fungal family only.

They form associations with several species of trees, but it is not presently known which species are connected to this particular tree partnership.

This flower is a totally white orchid and even though it has a flowering stem, it primarily lives below ground and only sends the flowering stems above ground when the conditions are suitable. The plant produces a low number of flowers which may occur primarily because of the climatic and pollinator limitations. If the growing conditions are severe then the species may be able to survive in a dormant state until the conditions improve.

In British Columbia, the Phantom plant occurs mainly in a coniferous forest, but it has also been found in forests dominated by the big leaf Maple Trees. This species has shown a tendency to live in sites with little or no competition.

Things To Keep In Mind When Cultivating These Plants

Recent studies have shown that even though some forest cover might be variable, there seems to be a preference for limestone sites. It has even been found adjacent to a limestone quarry in British Columbia, on heavily limed compost heaps and old shell middens. However some populations have no apparent association with limestone.

The partnership between the orchid fungus can last a lifetime, and divorce can be lethal to these plants. Scientists have tried to imitate the relationship between the two, without success, which is a reason why so many species are now endangered. No-one has been able to replicate this wonderful partnership and if the fungi should die during experimentation, no amount of watering or fertilizing could save a dependent flower.

Some Simple Tips To Know About Orchid Flowering

Everyone wants their orchids to have flowers, but not only that, to have them when they want them to have them. This, for the most part, is totally impossible with these plants. There are all kinds of articles written on how to make plants open by controlling their water, light, temperature, humidity levels and proper nutrients.

But for orchids, there is very little research to support any correlation between these factors and when with flowering or blossoming. Although, you can definitely increase the chances of your plants blooming by using and setting up proper conditions.

Blooming Can Take Some Time

Some of them do not bloom the first time for anywhere from four to seven years. This makes it a little hard to predict at all when a plant might bloom. The floral industry has done a lot of studies of poinsettias and lilies, and then been able apply certain formulas involving temperatures and light so that now they can get poinsettias to bloom at Christmas and lilies to bloom at Easter.

The Most Popular One You Need To Get Your Hands On

These plants are the second most popular types sold at garden shops. But what is interesting is that out of 25,000 different kinds of plants, seventy-five percent of all of them sold are Phalaenopsis. This family includes fifty different species. They originated in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Asia and the South Pacific. Of all the ones available, members of the this family have had the most studies done on how to regulate their process of blossoming.

How To Get Your Phalaenopsis To Blossom

Most of the species in this family of orchids need to be exposed to cool temperatures to promote spiking. While some scientists thought that shorter periods of light also contributed to blooming, now most of these claims have not been supported, as cool air temperatures were also present. What studies have shown is that the Phalaenopsis species begins to open when plants have day/night temperatures of 77/68 or 68/59. The buds may die if the daytime temperatures exceed 82 degrees.

Some Recommendations to Consider

Scientific research on many of them has proven that several of the recommendations given to growers to initiate bud opening are misconceptions. One example is to reduce nitrogen when plants are not actively growing. The varieties that are capable to grow outside in all types of habitat from tropical forests to prairies and even deserts have flowers, whether they are growing on rocks, trees or the ground.

There is no fluctuation in nutrient levels to stimulate this production. When you withhold nutrients you only cause stress to the plant, which is not healthy and is not going to sustain flowering. You can always try planting them in their natural habitat to help them bloom.

A Few More Orchid Flowering Tips

Other tips often given to produce blossoms is to give your plant Epsom salts. There is also no scientific evidence behind this theory. Both magnesium and sulfur, which are in Epsom salts, are involved in the metabolic functions of plants but there are no facts to suggest that these will help them or any other plant to bloom.

As far as petals on orchids go, some studies have been done on Cattleya, Cymbidium, and Dendrobium plants suggest they can be manipulated to grow by providing certain day and nighttime temperatures along with less daylight for some species. Overall though, there is very little research done on this process as compared to opening in other plants.




Learn the Language of Your Orchid Leaves

When we look at an orchid, we are amazed by their beautiful delicate flower and their exotic appearance. However, perhaps the most amazing thing about this plant is not the flowers, but its’ leaves.

This part of the plant can tell a story. They will tell the observer if the flower is healthy, receiving adequate amount of light and water. They will even tell you if the plant is too cold or hot. To fully understand an orchid, you need to understand the language of the foliage.

Relationship Between Light and Leaflets:

The exact light requirement of these plants will depend on the variety that you have. However, if you’re not certain of your variety, all you need to do is carefully monitor the blades of your plant. The first thing that you need to know is the normal appearance for the plant. In ideal conditions the foliage of the plant should be light, bright green in color. Any variation in this color could indicate that they are missing one of its’ basic requirements.

Dark Green Leaves:

Dark green petals are a sign that your plant is not getting enough light. They may still appear to be healthy, and new growth may be occurring; however in low light conditions your plant may not flower.

To meet their light requirements, move them to a sunnier area, supplement the natural light with florescent light or open up those curtains.

Sunscreen Required

If they are turning yellow or have a red hue, then ouch, your orchid may be getting sunburn. The easiest solution to this problem is to reduce the amount of light that your plant is receiving. Although most of them like the sunlight, they prefer the light to be filtered. Add a light curtain to the room to filter the light, limit the amount of artificial light, or find an area in your home which offers a bit more shade.

Another hint to finding the right amount of light is by looking at the types of leaflets that your orchids have. Ones with thick, leathery leaflets with a wax like covering tend to like a bit more light. If your flower has long, thin, blades it may require a shadier environment.

Wrinkly Orchid Leaves are Not a Sign of Aging:

If the foliage of your plant are wrinkly this is a sign that you are not meeting the watering needs of your plant. The plant could be getting either too much or too little water. So how will you know what to do? Check the roots of the plants. If you have an expansive root system, and they seem to be dry, firm and white or tan in color, you may need to water them. If the roots are mushy, you’ve over-watered your plant and its experiencing root rot. Trim off the rotted parts, remove as much growing medium as possible and replant the plant in dry growing medium.

Hint: When watering any of them avoid putting water on its foliage. This part of the plant does not like to get wet. If the water accidentally splashes on them, dry them off right away.

It’s Too Cold in Here:

Have you ever seen foliage with sections that are black and rotted? Some assume that rotting means over-watering, but in this situation, that is not the case. The orchid is frost bitten. This could happen from being too close to a cold window or a dramatic drop in temperature. If you notice that the temperature around your plant is becoming chilly, remove the plant from this area. Cooler temperatures can seriously damage or even destroy your plant.

Disease and Insects:

If you see any other types of distortions to the leaflets of your plant, these may be early signals of a disease or an insect problem. Bring a photograph of your plant to your local garden center, and they will help you to diagnose if the plant has contracted a specific illness.

The leaves are natural story tellers. When maintaining these organisms, closely observe this part of the plant and try to decipher its’ individualized story. No two plants are exactly alike, but by understanding their communication method we can help each one flourish. With these simple tips you should be able to determine what your flower needs and what is ailing your beautiful plant.




How Orchid Roots Help in Producing Magnificent Blooms

Orchid roots are the most important part of the plant, because the strength of them is going to determine how bountiful your blooms are going to be. They are known as either fine or thick-rooted depending upon the type it is. An example of a one of the finer plants is an Oncidium, while the popular Phalaenopsis is thick-rooted.

Trimming The Base of Your Plants




You should trim this part of the plant whenever you repot it. You can just use your hands to remove any old planting mixture that might be intertwined. You will easily be able to tell the difference between the brown, dead parts of the plant or even the mushy ones and the nice, green healthy ones. Be sure to cut off all dead and rotting debris. The goal is to have air circulating continually around them. This will enable the plant to have more flowers and longer lasting ones. Always repack the pot with fresh new planting media.

How These Plants Work in Their Natural Habitat

When you think about the roots of your plant, consider outdoor types. No outdoor varieties grow out of the ground in the way that a regular flower or vegetable plant does. In the rain forest for example, they are found growing along trees with their base attached to the tree bark. Some of them grow as lithophytes along rocks, while others spread out along the ground. But even these ground-dwellers have shoots that run along the ground and not into it.

All of these outside types receive water from rain but none of them have roots that reach into the water and draw it up into the plant. The base of these plants soak up rain water that is passing by and a skin-like covering on this part allows them to store water for when it is dry. They can get very dry and shrivel up but will do it all again the next time there is rain. High humidity in a tropical environment can give moisture to the orchid base but they are never in water.

Over Watering Can Be Avoided by Using These Simple Steps

That is why so many of them die from being over-watered. Many people think that they should water their flowers once a week like they do most of their other plants, but this, for an orchid is very unhealthy. That’s because they do not drink up the water. Just like the outside plants they have little hairs on their core which take in the water they need when they are dry and thirsty. But any water that is not immediately absorbed by the plant is not going to be absorbed at all.

Problems That Can Arise

This water is going to sit in the planting medium and make the plant unable to get the oxygen it needs. Then the plant will rot and it will get sick and die. Plants do dry out at different rates, but basically what your flowers need are one day of a little liquid water and then 20-29 days of humidity without watering. By then the base will be dry again and they can use a little more water. This is something to think about in winter. In the heat of summer they need to be watered more often but still try to not overdo it.

Selecting a Good Medium That Will Provide Support for these Roots

The kind of pot and potting mixture you use is going to help determine how fast your particular variety dries out. Sphagnum moss retains a lot of moisture while bark only holds a little. That is why fir bark is a good choice for many of them. The planting medium should have lost all of its liquid water and most of its absorbed water before the roots should be watered again.

The example that is often given of lifting your orchid to see how heavy it is really works. Then lift an empty pot filled with just planting medium. If it is time to water your blossoms, the weights will be similar. If your plant is heavier, wait. And, remember that it is better to give them too little water than too much.