Can I grow my garden orchids in pots on a terrace or balcony?

Published : 09/07/2017 11:23:03
Categories : Growing

Can I grow my garden orchids in pots on a terrace or balcony?

Can I grow my garden orchids in pots on a terrace or balcony?

Many of you have asked us if it is possible to grow garden orchids in pots on a terrace or balcony. This is indeed possible, at least for certain varieties. It should be noted that for the best results, however, growing garden orchids in pots demands more care than when they are planted outside.

Below are some important tips for successful growing in pots.


Provide a sufficiently large pot

The orchids produced by Phytesia are real perennial orchids, meaning that like all perennials they alternate periods of vegetation (development of stems, leaves, and flowers) and periods of dormancy. During the winter dormancy, perennial orchids persist in the form of bulbs (Pleione), pseudo-bulbs (Bletilla), tubers (Dactylorhiza) or underground rhizomes (Epipactis, Cypripedium), while all above-ground vegetation wilts and disappears before resuming its development the following spring.

When the orchids are planted in good conditions, year by year the underground system develops to form larger and larger beds. However, it takes a minimum of 2 years before you have spectacular flowering.

Since the underground organs can grow to a length of several tens of centimetres after a few years, it is important to provide a pot that is large enough not to hinder the orchids' growth (diameter of 30 to 40 cm).

In general, garden orchids like soils that stay cool and moist. The most delicate period for orchids is often the summer as it is important to avoid dry conditions during a particularly hot season. The higher the volume of soil, the more stable the soil conditions will remain. The substrate will heat up less quickly and will also dry out less quickly during a hot summer.


Keep the substrate cool and damp especially during periods of extreme heat

When garden orchids are planted outside they also benefit from morning dew and the freshness of the soil (garden soil heats more slowly than the substrate in a growing pot).

For these reasons, orchids planted in pots will require more maintenance and especially watering. The substrate must be kept damp essentially in summer, but also during a hot spring or autumn. The substrate can never completely dry. You will have to water regularly in summer, therefore, and provide a substrate that retains some moisture (see our 'Orchid garden substrates' news).


Avoid direct sunlight

For the reasons mentioned above, we also do not recommend placing orchid pots in direct sunlight. On the contrary, choose a corner of your terrace or balcony that stays relatively cool during hot summers. A little morning or late evening sun is a good alternative.


Choosing the right varieties

Not all varieties of orchids develop in pots in the same way. In general, bulb (Pleione), pseudo-bulb (Bletilla) or tuber (Dactylorhiza) species will develop better than rhizome species (Epipactis, Cypripedium). 

The Bletilla, for example, grows very well in pots provided that the pot is large enough (the pseudo-bulbs grow quickly and the new stems develop over the years). Be careful, however, to keep the substrate moist in summer and to avoid excess humidity in winter. If necessary, cover the pots in the winter to prevent water accumulating.

When the Pleione is grown under the same conditions it also develops well. However, they are more sensitive to frost and will require protection in winter from excess water and/or hard frosts.

Dactylorhiza can be kept in pots but usually require moist soil all year round. They are still capable of withstanding limited dry spells in summer.

The rhizomes species (Epipactis, Cypripedium) generally require more attention because the delicate rhizomes are more sensitive to dry conditions. These orchids often grow less vigorously in pots than when they are planted outside. They need to be watered very regularly during the growing season and will not withstand even a few days of dry conditions ... When planted outside, however, they benefit more from the freshness of the soil and the morning dew so that maintenance is considerably reduced.


Remember that perennial orchids need cold weather during the winter

Even if you keep your perennial orchids in pots, remember that these plants need cold weather during the winter dormancy period and that their development will be disrupted if they are not exposed to the cold, resulting in less vigorous plants.

Among the different species, winter protection is only strictly required for the Pleione (more sensitive to frost). They can be stocked in winter but always in a cool room (ideally at a temperature below 5° C). The Bletilla can also be protected, but only in very cold regions.

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