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Those of you lucky enough to visit the Far East this year, where tissue culture orchids are often sold at airports, have a wonderful opportunity to pick up some beauties.

These baby plants, grown in sealed tubes of special gel, should be potted up as soon as you get them home. Leaving them in tubes for too long reduces their chance of survival.

Orchids are divided into two main groups:

  1. Epiphytic. Grow directly on trees or rocks, and sustain themselves by clinging and aerial roots through which they extract moisture from the atmosphere. Those requiring a temperature range of 18-27°C are the most suitable for Pakistan but need a temperature controlled climate, as well as shady conditions in summer and direct sunlight in winter. They also require a moist atmosphere, so spray them with warm water on a daily basis; twice a day when natural humidity is low. Epiphytic orchids can be grown in soil-less compost made from coconut fibre, charcoal and moss, or wired on to trees that have a cracked bark for them to grip.
  2. Terrestrial. Cultivated in good quality, free draining compost mixed with leaf mould and gravel, terrestrial orchids are more temperature tolerant than epiphytic ones but still require warmth in the winter when temperatures drop below 18°C. They grow well in pots, but if grown indoors, will not tolerate air conditioning or even fans.

Both groups may die in winter; when in a dormant stage they need little, if any, water. Flowering time is usually from spring to autumn. When left on the plant, orchids can last for weeks; they also make good cut flowers over a long period of time if their water is changed regularly.

— Zahrah Nasir

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on July 17, 2011