Choosing an Orchid Window

Choosing the right location for your orchid window may be the most difficult task of growing orchids in your home. I did it by trial and error, carrying my first few plants around from window to window, until they seemed to be doing well. Thus the orchid windows are in our bedroom. When the fragrant ones are blooming, that’s actually a big plus – a very relaxing way to fall asleep.

Though many books offer advice with regard to whether a specific orchid should go in an east, west, or south window, I’ve found that guidance didn’t help me at all. Our south-facing windows are the sunniest only in the leafless seasons, when our 90-foot tall trees are not casting afternoon shade, the sun is low in the sky, and we have our acrylic storm windows up. It’s not only what kind, but how much (how intense) sun you get.

Once again, it’s Phalaenopsis to the rescue. These orchids have thick leaves that begin to turn reddish when exposed to too much hot sun. When experimenting to find your orchid window, try one of these resilient specimens first. At the first sign of sunburn, either snatch it out of the window and try another more shady location, or simply set it farther back from the sunny window, perhaps on a table or plant stand. Once you know where Phalaenopsis grows well, all you need to find out about other specimens is whether they need more light or less light than Phalaenopsis.

I’m reluctant to tell you that, depending on the season, whether it’s daylight savings or standard time, whether the storm windows are up or down, whether the trees are in full leaf or not, I run into the bedroom between 11:00am and 1:00pm and move the Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedelum and the Odontoglossum/Oncidium hybrids off the window sill and onto the night table, where there is bright light and some mild sun. I haven’t had the hybrids long enough to know what they want, but I’m not taking any chances. The Dendrobium Nobile stays on the windowsill when the storm windows are up, or the trees are leafed out, but not otherwise. Rhynchostylis stays in the window, hanging beneath another pot, year ‘round.

If this sounds like too much work for you, I can only guess it’s because you haven’t yet experienced the thrill of actually keeping an orchid alive and having it bloom the following year. It’s an orchid-lover thing. But be forewarned, they begin to grow on you.

I’d love some comments from other orchid enthusiasts who have been successful with any Dendrobium, or who have been successful in getting Dendrobium Nobile to flower.

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