Even beginners can successfully grow orchids if they take the time to learn about the differences between the major families of these wonderful plants, as well as their varied requirements.
Orchids originate within a tremendous variety of environments which differ from one another in many respects. As a result, you will find that some species produce their flowers early in spring, others in summer and yet others during the dull days of winter. Their times for beginning their seasonal growth also varies; nevertheless, for convenience, feel free to rest all of your orchids over the winter. The majority will then begin to push up their young shoots as soon as the days lengthen and the sun gains increased power.
When orchids are in their growing periods (as opposed to their dormancy), they must be treated differently with respect to heat, based on where they originated. East Indian orchids love heat. Inside, keep the temps surrounding the plants at 65 degrees Fahrenheit during night and 70 during day. In the outdoors they will thrive at up to 75 degrees in the early spring. During the hottest parts of summer they will tolerate temperatures as high as 85 or 90. Just be sure to shade the plants from the direct rays of the sun at these times.
Therefore, this type of orchid must be well supplied with atmospheric moisture at all times. Mist often and copiously! You can also splash water over the paths and tables in your greenhouse or other growing area. If you can do this every day, it will result in a nice moist heat to rise and constantly surround your plants.
Brazilian orchids actually come from a cooler climate, one in which the air is not nearly as moisture-saturated. They of course require less heat and less moisture but they do need a considerable degree of warmth during their growing season. The same may be said for the majority of Mexican-originated orchids. They should be heated artificially to approximately 60 degrees at night and 65 or 70 by day during the spring. As the days lengthen, temps may be allowed to increase. During approximately May through August the night heat may range between 65 and 70 and
by day from between 70 and 85.
Then there are the so-called cool orchids, which ideally should be kept in a separate growing area. These plants' native habitats are the Andean countries of South America, where they are found growing high up. These must be grown at lower temperatures. You might try a range of 45 to 55 degrees during the winter, and 50 to as high as 65 during the summer. Wherever you grow them, you should see that they are well shaded from the sun most of the time. Too much heat is a mortal danger to cool orchids!
There are many other groups and subgroups of orchids, too many to go over them in a limited space. If you want to learn more, the best and most thorough guide to modern orchid growing, hands down, is Orchid Care Expert by Nigel Howard, which may be downloaded on the web. There are many books on the subject of orchids, but Mr. Howard's wonderful guide will provide a thorough immersion in the subject. Also, visit the Orchid Secrets web site, which has a growing library of postings on many aspects of orchids.