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Orchids Listed

These very beautiful plants have tended to suffer from a bad press. There seems to be a general impression that they are very difficult to grow, requiring dedication, patience and special growing conditions. Some do but many are easy-going plants that most gardeners can succeed with.

Probably the most limiting factor in your choice of orchids is the severity of frost your garden experiences and the amount of winter rainfall. There are a few very hardy orchids but most of the more commonly grown genera are somewhat frost tender though few require sub-tropical conditions.

Winter rainfall is an important consideration if you intend to grow the hardy terrestrial orchids such as Pleione orCymbidium outdoors. Too much rain combined with cold weather will cause rotting.

The native orchids are seldom cultivated except by dedicated enthusiasts. They are mainly hardy plants but seldom do well in cultivation. Some species have very precise growing requirements.

Doubtless you will be able to grow a wider range and achieve greater success if you can build some sort of green house or other protective structure. This doesn’t need to be anything very elaborate. A simple lean-to structure attached to a garage will be perfectly adequate in most cases.

Orchid Cultivation

Growing Conditions

Orchids vary considerably in their demands. Some need the conditions that only a heated greenhouse can provide, others will grow outdoors under normal conditions, most fall somewhere between the two extremes. Enthusiasts don’t baulk at the power bills that growing warm temperature orchids bring but most of would find them too expensive. However a wide range can be grown with minimal heating or even in an unheated frost free greenhouse.

Cymbidium, Cattleya, Odontoglossum, Paphiopedilum, Coleogyne and Lycaste are some of the more tender genera that can be grown without having to use too much extra heating. They get by perfectly well with winter minimums of 10°C and will tolerate lower temperatures for short periods. Cymbidium and some Coleogyne species can be grown outside year round in frost free areas.

In many ways the hardy outdoor species are more difficult to grow. Not because they can’t tolerate the cold but because of other seasonal factors, such as humidity levels and rainfall. The most commonly grown is Bletilla striatabut it is seldom a spectacular plant. Pleione is a more interesting genus. Often grown in alpine houses these hardy terrestrial orchids may be grown in gardens if special attention is given to drainage and siting.

Orchids generally require bright indirect light. Most will tolerate direct sunlight for a few hours a day but not through glass. Many orchids will tolerate poor light for extended periods but their flowering will be adversely affected.

Maintaining the humidity above 50% is important, below this orchids will suffer, 65%–90% is preferable. The easiest way to achieve this in a greenhouse is to spray the floor and other surfaces with water. The evaporating moisture will raise the humidity. In winter lower humidity levels are preferable; the plants are not so active at this time and lower humidity will lessen the prevalence of fungus diseases.

Good ventilation is also important in preventing fungus diseases. Those inexperienced in greenhouse growing tend to close all the vents in winter to keep in as much heat as possible but good ventilation is just as important as maintaining the right temperature. When temperatures rise in summer adequate ventilation is the best means of avoiding overheating. As a rule a greenhouse should have a vent area roughly equal to a third of the floor area.


There are several styles of greenhouses available to the home gardener. Which you choose will be dictated by the conditions you wish to maintain and the price you can afford to pay.

In the long run the commercially made metal framed glass is house is the cheapest to run but the initial outlay is high. Plastic skinned tunnel houses are a cheaper alternative but they require re-skinning every five years or so.

The cheapest alternative is an entirely home built greenhouse and in many ways it’s also the most satisfactory. Doing it yourself means that you get the size and design that you want. The work involved shouldn’t tax even a mediocre carpenter.

The construction doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. A simple wooden framework will be quite adequate. 100mm × 50mm timber is heavy enough for the main structure with 50mm × 50mm for intermediate support and bracing. Anything lighter than 50mm × 50mm is likely to warp excessively. Use only ground treated timber, H4 grade or better.

Painting the woodwork white will reflect more light but most greenhouses are bright enough. Painting or staining will, however, extend the life of the timber.

Very few of us are competent glaziers so plastic skinning is the preferred covering. Use proper horticultural film of at least 140 microns but preferably the 200 micron grade. Rigid fibreglass or polycarbonate sheeting is a longer lasting alternative but is expensive for all but very small structures.

Secure the plastic with 50mm × 12mm battening strips. Where the plastic meets the ground either secure it to a partially buried wooden beam at ground level or leave some surplus that can be buried. This should eliminate drafts at ground level, which can be very damaging.

Unless you have a proper double skinned or double glazed greenhouse you will need to add extra insulation in winter. The bubble plastic used in packaging is effective but better still are the horticultural grade infra-red reflecting plastics. These can be stapled to a wood framed house or taped to a metal frame.

In most parts of the country some form of winter heating will be necessary. Electricity is the easiest to use and probably the most economical as electric heaters can be run off simple thermostats for maximum efficiency. Kerosene, natural gas and coal boilers are alternatives but they require careful setting and maintenance, are often expensive to install, and may produce poisonous fumes.


The traditional terracotta pot has long been favoured for orchids. These have the advantage of being porous, which means there are no drainage problems and the roots are kept well aerated. Unfortunately terracotta pots are expensive when compared to plastic and they are easily broken, consequently plastic is now the more widely used material.

Most pots are suitable just as they are but make sure they have adequate drainage holes. Extra holes are easily made in plastic pots either with drills or a heated metal rod, such as the tip of a soldering iron.

Hanging baskets made of wire or interlaced wooden strips are alternatives to traditional pots. Unlike the hanging baskets used for regular plants these are usually not lined. Instead a very coarse soil mix that will not fall through the holes is used. If necessary a thin lining of sphagnum moss will keep the mix in place.

Epiphytic orchids can be often be grown in pots with very coarse potting mix but are better grown in the hanging basket type container. This is because their roots can reach the air more easily. Some epiphytic orchids resent being confined in containers, these are best grown on slabs of tree fern or other bark. Until the roots gain hold the plants will need to be firmly tied to the support with a strong but unobtrusive thread.

Potting Mixes

Orchid mixes are very coarse and open compared to the more familiar potting mixes. Those unfamiliar with this type of soil wonder how it can possibly retain enough moisture for plant growth.

The answer is in the nature of the orchids grow habit. Most orchids have a conspicuous food storage organ known as a pseudobulb. The plants can survive for considerable periods on the reserves stored in the pseudobulb. The roots serve to recharge the pseudobulb and operate best in well drained and aerated soils. Too much moisture or too little air will rot the roots and ultimately the pseudobulb.

Orchid roots actually attach themselves to the soil material and so bind the soil to the plant. Anyone that has ever tried to clear the soil mix from Cymbidium will be familiar with the way the roots grasp the larger chunks of bark or fern fibre.

Most modern orchid mixes are made from composted bark. Regular bark based mixes can be used if they are sieved to remove the very fine material. The fine sievings can be used as seed raising or cutting mixes for other plants.

Even this mix may retain moisture for too long so add some coarse bark or polystyrene bubbles. Experiment with these materials until you have an extremely free draining open mix.

Watering and Nutrients

The mix should not remain obviously wet for more than a day or so after watering. Prolonged or repeated periods in wet soil will lead to rotted roots.

Watering is not so much a matter of how often to water but how quickly the plant dries out between waterings. Epiphytic orchids usually need to dry out within a day or two of watering or they may rot. Terrestrial orchids tend to prefer soils that retain moisture longer.

Your soil mix consistency will go a long way to avoiding any rotting problems. Keep the mix open and coarse for epiphytes and a little more dense and moisture retentive for terrestrials. Once you have the right soil consistency when to water is generally quite apparent. This all seems more than a little vague but it’s really a matter of experience.

Although orchid soil mixes may seem to be very lacking in nutrients most of the common genera will thrive in them, however, like any plants they will eventually need feeding. There are a number of pre-mixed orchid fertilisers available and most are quite satisfactory provided the directions are followed. Do not overfeed orchids; they are quite easily killed by that sort of kindness.

Enthusiasts will blend their own fertilisers but most home gardeners would be better to stick to a commercial formula. If you do want to make up your own mix it pays to thoroughly research the particular plant’s requirements.


The easiest method of propagation is division of the clusters of pseudobulbs. This eventually has to be done even if you don’t require more plant as an orchid in an overcrowded pot will eventually cease to flower.

Some orchids will produce stems with aerial roots. These can be removed from the parent plant and grown on. Orchids with rhizomes rather than obvious pseudobulbs can be divided or pieces of rooted rhizome can be removed and grown on.

Growing from seed is another method but requires care. Orchid seed is generally very fine and seldom germinates well if sown on soil in the usual manner. The accepted method is to sow the seed in sterile flasks on a nutrient enriched agar jelly.

The exact make-up of the nutrient solution varies from genus to genus. If you wish to try this method contact your local horticultural society or orchid society for details of some of the more common formulas.

Tissue culture is widely used in commercial orchid propagation. Cultured plants are available from specialist growers.

Pests and Diseases

Orchids grown indoors are subject to the same pests and diseases as most greenhouse plants. You will probably be familiar with aphids, slugs, snails, mites and scale insects but mealy bugs are less commonly seen under normal garden conditions.

Mealy bugs have an unusual appearance. They are covered with a white powder and fine white hairs. They feed by sap sucking and leaf rasping and may be quite debilitating if present in large numbers.

Probably the most common disease is sooty mould caused by a fungus that grows on the honeydew secreted by feeding insects. The cure for this involves first removing the insects and then spraying with a fungicide, such as mancozeb, to halt the mould.

Most other fungus problems, such as root rots and leaf spotting, can be traced to poor growing conditions, especially overwatering and poor ventilation.

Orchids may also become infected with viruses. These often appear as unusually marked patches on the leaves, flowers or stems or may simply result in stunted growth. Nothing can be done to cure virus infected plants so if badly affected they are best got rid of.

Orchid Selection

There are hundreds of orchid genera, many very closely allied to one another. The following is a selection of a few of the more commonly grown.


The ‘Chinese Ground Orchid’ (B. striata) is a hardy deciduous species. Remarkable for its ease of cultivation rather than its flamboyance. Will grow in any moist garden soil in light shade. Magenta to purple flowers from spring.


Spectacular and reasonably tough plants. They are easy for beginners and often represent the next step afterCymbidiumCattleya is a mainly epiphytic genus and develops large pseudobulbs that enable the plants to withstand some drought. They prefer to dry out between waterings and prefer lightly shaded conditions.


A large genera many of the species of which are fairly hardy and may be grown outdoors in genuinely frost free areas. Most need cool summer temperatures and are an ideal choice for a shadehouse. They prefer light shade and shelter from winter rain. Usually flowers from late winter.


Without doubt the most widely grown orchid genera. Tough and adaptable Cymbidium is the ideal choice for the beginner. Plants are available in a huge range of colours and flower patterns. Able to tolerate extended periods with overnight temperatures of 5°C and drought tolerant. It’s very hard to kill a Cymbidium but they do so much better when looked after.

Capable of being grown outside year round in many areas. Medium to high light levels are preferred. The soil should be allowed to dry between waterings in winter but should be kept moist when the plants are in active growth. Feed regularly. May flower at any season but usually from late winter to late spring.


There are native species but those commonly grown are exotic. They require reasonably warm nigh temperatures; preferably not below 12°C. Most develop conspicuous pseudobulbs and produce their flowers on long canes.


The common ‘Crucifix Orchid’ (E. ibaguense) is the best known of this genus. Most species will tolerate some frost and are good in shadehouses. Not spectacular but unusual. The aerial roots are a feature. Rather tall but excess growth with aerial roots can be removed and grown on. No pseudobulbs.


Mainly epiphytic orchids that will tolerate cool conditions. Most species will grow outdoors if frost free. Prefers light shade and should be allowed to dry between waterings. May be grown on bark slabs. Many of the species flower in autumn and winter.


Easily cultivated epiphytic orchids. Their culture is very similar to Cymbidium. They prefer cool summer temperatures and will tolerate winter lows of 5°C. Allow to dry in winter but keep moist in summer. Some of the species are deciduous. The long strap-like leaves can become untidy and are easily damaged.


These epiphytic orchids prefer low to medium light levels and high humidity. Best in cool even temperatures; winter lows of around 5°C to summer highs of not more than 23°C. Some species do well outdoors in genuinely frost free areas. They prefer even moisture throughout the year but must not be overwatered. This genus does not produce pseudobulbs.


Often grown in pans in alpine houses and capable of standing some frost. The flowers resemble Cattleya but the plants are considerably smaller. Fully dormant in winter. Plant in gritty soil and water and feed once actively growing.


Not too demanding but intolerant of very bright conditions. Able to tolerate overnight winter temperatures of 8°C or slightly lower. They like cool daytime temperatures. Often better in a shadehouse over summer. Allow to dry in winter but keep moist when growing. May be grown on bark slabs.


A very complex grouping of related genera. They require bright conditions and winter lows of not less than 10°C. The flowers are spectacular and freely produced on healthy plants. Miltonia is a closely related genus. Many intergeneric forms exist.


Commonly known as the slipper orchid due to the flower’s prominent pouch. Easily grown but many require warm conditions with temperatures above 15°C. The tougher species will tolerate 8-10°C for short periods. Day temperatures should be below 25°C. This narrow temperature range is the main barrier to success. They prefer low to medium light and should be kept moist throughout the year.


The ‘Moth Orchids’ demand warm temperatures with winter minimums of 15°C although they will tolerate 12°C or lower for brief periods. They prefer low to medium light and high humidity. They need plenty of air at the roots and are best grown in baskets in a very coarse mix.


Often tall plants with very prominent aerial roots. Some species will tolerate winter lows down to 8°C but most are more tender. They prefer bright light and plenty of summer moisture but they should be allowed to dry over winter. High humidity is preferable. Stems with aerial roots may be removed and grown on as new plants. The best known species V. coerulea is autumn to winter flowering and one of the hardiest.

Water Orchids

Orchids have moved to rapidly become beloved amongst houseplants due to their gorgeous blooms and their array in kind, colors and sizes. Like any other type of plant, orchids call for the proper growing environment in order to flourish.

Giving your orchid the precise quantity of water is only the initial part of offering your orchid the correct growing environment. While the amount of water essential for your orchid can differ amid dissimilar species of orchids, it is imperative to do research for your particular plant. However, it is useful to comprehend orchids in general and from where the come.

You’ll find orchid plants typically in tropical areas around the earth. Vast amounts of rain fall in the areas where many orchid plants are found. Also, it can be incredibly humid in their local habitats. As a matter of fact, the ultimate humidity level for most orchids is right around 80%. Taking into consideration that a room that is kept at 80% humidity would be exceedingly uncomfortable and unbearable for most human beings, one needs to find other strategies to maintain orchid’s health and happiness. One trouble-free way to humidify your orchids is to give them with a stable supply of rain water. Orchid owners should buy a orchid pot, deep saucer and a few bags of pebbles. You should dispense the stones into the saucer. Now, position your orchid pot on top of the pebbles that are within the saucer and then you can water the pebbles. You should make certain that the water doesn’t ever touch the actual orchid pot. By doing all of this you’re able to set up a synthetic high-humidity environment around the orchids.

It seems that one of the prevalent missteps people make when taking care of their orchids is over-watering. By and large it is understood by a few owners that when the potting soil looks dry as a bone the plant requires to be watered. This is so not true, especially when dealing with orchids. Even though the potting bark may seem to appear dry, the bark itself holds humidity. The general rule of thumb for watering your orchid plant once every seven days or every other week, scarcely. When one is growing an orchid plant in their home, be sure to let the potting bark dry out entirely prior to watering them. Some species of orchids have been known to grow on the trunks and branches of trees. In their local habitats it’s completely ordinary for their roots to dry out before being given any water again. You’ll find that orchid plants need to be fertilized but in moderation as well. You can purchase orchid fertilizer at most garden shops within your local area. By creating a good schedule for fertilizing and watering your orchid is an outstanding way to warranty that you’ll be able to take pleasure in these exotic flowers for an extensive time.

You will find that orchids will prosper in your home atmosphere if they are given the right care together with the right total of potting bark, just the right quantity of water, and the correct amount of sunlight and if they are fertilized sporadically. Even though they are quite stunning, they can also be unpredictable. However, by understanding how to care for them appropriately, orchids are not that complex and you can grow these exotic and striking plants.

Travis Waack is a gardening enthusiast and flower lover. His website offers simple, yet effective easy to follow directions for raising beautiful, healthy orchids. Travis’ Free E-course “Orchid Tips & Secrets” is packed with tips and techniques for the orchid enthusiasts. Subscribe for FREE by visiting us at http://www.orchidinformationsecrets.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Travis_Waack

Orchids and Japanese Gardening

orchid_gardenCombining the Traditional Japanese Garden with Tropical Plants creates a beautiful retreat. Japanese gardens are elegant, deceivingly simplistic and aesthetically pleasing. The subtle shifts in colour and form tend to calm the spirit, taking us away from the busy pace of the modern world. This can even be at a subliminal level. Your mind’s eye may know the garden has placed a gossamer veil of peace around your psyche, but your body may take a while to catch on.

But it will. Spend time among the carefully placed rocks covered with velvety textured mosses, quiet ponds filled with koi fish or even next to an imaginary river made of seemingly flowing pebbles and yes, your body will eventually get the message.

It is not surprising that those who have the skill, patience and creativity to create a Japanese garden would use those same skills to nurture delicately scented orchids. Nor is it a surprise that the fragrant orchid and Japanese garden design elements can be elegantly wed.

Morikami Park, in Palm Beach County, Florida, is home to a Japanese garden with a tropical twist. Named after George Sukeji Morikami, who immigrated to the United States in 1906, the 200 acre property has expanded from a small, traditional Japanese garden and pavilion to a garden setting with almost a mile of pathways.

It has the traditional bamboo stands and tiny islands connected by zigzag bridges, as well as a “Contemplation Pavilion” that urges guests to just relax and enjoy their surroundings. The twist in this garden is that some of the traditional plants have been replaced by tropical ones, including orchids.

Instead of Japanese maples, which won’t grow in Florida, black olive trees were pruned and shaped to mimic this garden staple. Strawberry guava trees and slash pine were also trimmed to show off their elegantly shaped trunks and limbs. Fig trees form a wall, blocking out the sounds and sights of neighbouring homes.

The creator of this marriage of Florida plants and classic Japanese design is Hoichi Kurisu. Ever mindful of long held traditions, he has created a bolder, brighter colour palette that is more in sync with its tropic locale.

Adjacent to Morikami Park is a recently purchased parcel with a large greenhouse maintained by the American Orchid Society. Inside is a 15 foot high waterfall, its tiered layers covered with orchids of every colour and shape. Outside is a three and a half acre formal garden that is home to over 3,000 orchids that are growing in trees, among perennials and shrubs that line the pathways and alongside tranquil ponds.

In the wild, orchids attach themselves to tree branches in the forest canopy. They are epiphytes, getting their nutrients from the air. In this garden, orchids have been attached to the trees using wire and liquid nails. This means that you not only have beauty at your feet, but are greeted with an array of colour and hints of fragrance from above.

A Hardy Little Orchid

orchidA number of years ago I was asked to re-design a very large semi-shaded patio area. The house was huge and the patio ran the entire length. The client specifically asked for unusual perennials to interest her garden club friends. Because of the close-up viewing from the patio, used primarily for entertaining, I decided that each clump of perennials needed to be a small intimate cluster, not a large mass as we used in the background. And, based upon previous experience with this client I knew that whatever we put in needed to be easy to care for and just about fool proof.

I ran out of plant ideas before I filled the entirety of this huge space. At that time I was barely familiar with the perennial Chinese terrestrial orchid (Bletilla striata); but from everything I had read, it seemed like a good choice. Hardy Chinese Ground Orchid was reported to be very easy to grow, shade tolerant and appeared to be handsome even when out of bloom. And, having a perennial with blooms that looked like true miniature orchids certainly would get the attention of the garden clubbers. The light sweet fragrance was an added bonus. I decided to try a small grouping.

I happened to go back to this garden in late spring about three years after we installed the plants. In three years, the seven hardy orchids had expanded to a solid yard-wide clump with over a hundred flower stalks – truly a spectacular sight.

Since then I have had several more successes with hardy orchids (and no failures). I particularly like the white variety – the form we are featuring today. Hardy Orchids add a touch of class to the woodland garden or any partially shady nook. I have no idea why they are not better known.

Bletillas are the easiest of all orchids to grow. Bletilla striata Alba features sprays of about a dozen lightly fragrant, pure white flowers that appear for about 6 weeks in late spring. The blossoms resemble miniature cattleyas, but with unusual pleated tongues. Its ribbed, palm-like arching leaves flutter in the slightest breeze and make an excellent backdrop for the white blooms. Bletillas are superb, unconventional additions to the garden. They reach a height of approximately 18 inches, and they have a preference for partial shade in compost-enhanced, well-drained soil that doesn’t dry out in summer. They can be grown in containers and also as indoor houseplants in a sunny window. As such, they bloom in February.

Cultural Instructions

Hardy in Zones 5 (with protection) – 9.

Place the tuberous roots just below the soil surface.

Choose a semi-shaded location.

Plant in compost-enriched, well-drained soil.

Water regularly in dry periods until established. To ensure good bud-set, pay particular attention to summer watering.

Fertilize in early spring and late fall with Cotton Seed Meal and Kelp Meal. (Holly-tone can be substituted for Cotton Seed Meal after the first year.)

Cut foliage back to the ground in late fall or very early spring.

Mulch well for winter in Zone 5.

Growing Orchids

orchidIf you are a serious orchid grower, you know too well that eventually your plants will take over your house, so building a greenhouse for orchids is a great idea. If you are a beginner grower and are seriously thinking of giving your plants a permanent home, you probably have a lot of questions – will controlling the environment as well as the climate benefit your orchids? Is it easy to use a greenhouse? The answer is yes.

Today, there are lots of folks out there using greenhouses and are quite successful at it. Your orchids will definitely thrive, and may even bloom more frequently for you!

Here are some great tips for those who want to build a greenhouse for orchids:

1. The ideal greenhouse runs from west to east to take advantage of available light. If you are building a greenhouse specifically for your orchids, you don’t need the glass to extend right down to the ground. The orchids will be grown on staging so light from below is not necessary.

2. A brick base will keep the greenhouse warmer. If you choose to put up a greenhouse with situ and glass slides, you can close it with a polystyrene panels or similar materials to aid insulation. An earthen floor is better than a cemented one, it will be easier to keep wet and provides a better atmosphere for the orchids. Low light, ground hugging plants including ferns and brightly colored impatiens can be panted in this floor area. It looks attractive and helps maintain humidity.

3. An open slated staging is ideal for the orchids and tiered if the area permits. This allows for free air movement. You can also choose to put up a sheet staging with gravel which is kept wet. Greenhouses come with sufficient ventilation in the roof, and for orchids, it’s beneficial to have bottom vents as well. Used together they give a good flow of cooling air in the summer. On hot days the door can be left open to prevent overheating.

Before you buy a greenhouse for orchids you have to understand that it’s essential to control both light and temperature. I’ll give you more useful tips on greenhouses on my next article.


Caring for Your Orchid

Lyndas_OrchidCaring for delicately scented Japanese orchids is a bit different than for most other garden flowers. They are epiphytes, which mean that rather than growing in soil, their roots are exposed to the air. In the wild orchids grow on other plants, using them for mechanical support. Orchids are not parasitic. They get their nutrients from the air and are sometimes called aerophytes, or air plants. Most Japanese orchids have white blossoms, but they can be found in subtle shades of pink and yellow.

The easiest way to grow them at home is to use a small flower pot filled halfway with coconut fibre. Bonsai planters will work as well, but since most of these are shallower, you must take more care with watering.

After wrapping the roots of the orchid in sphagnum moss, place the orchid in the flower pot, making sure that the crown, or top, of the orchid sits above the rim of the pot. Water just enough to dampen both the coconut fiber and the moss. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then pour the excess water out of the drain tray. It is important for the moss to be kept moist. (Do not leave your Orchid standing in water as it will drown)

If you have decided to go with a bonsai planter, you may have to adjust your watering schedule to make sure the moss in the bottom of the tray does not dry out. Using a deeper bonsai planter dish tends to hold moisture longer than a shallower tray.

Orchids like plenty of light  (but not direct light) and prefer temperatures between 24 to 30 Celsius during the day. Night temperatures should not get much below 18 degrees Celsius. Japanese orchids are more robust than most other varieties and will tolerate slightly cooler temperatures.

Use lukewarm distilled water to mist your orchids once every other day during the spring and summer seasons. Avoid tap water since it may have chemicals that might harm the plant.

Fertilize your orchid once a month from early spring until the autumn. Fertilizing is not necessary in winter since the plant won’t be actively growing. Liquid or water soluble types of orchid fertilizer are advised. Fertilizers may cause salt and mineral build up in the bottom of the flower pot. Changing the coconut fiber once a year prevents this build up from harming the orchid.

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