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Growing Tips
How to Grow Orchids in Tropical Climates

Where to Grow Orchids

In tropical and subtropical climates, shade houses are usually used in growing orchids. Shade houses are used where the problem is too much heat and light rather than cold. The usual black nets are commonly used on poles made of metal or bamboo or other materials which are available to the grower. These have the advantage of being easy and cheap to construct and very flexible for the growers budget because he can have a numerous selection of materials which will fit his budget.

Greenhouses are used if the orchid collector will be growing intermediate and cool-growing orchids. Temperatures have to be controlled to cooler conditions than the normal tropical temperatures. Temperatures required can be as low as 13 deg C or 55 deg F for intermediate orchids and 10 deg C or 50 deg F for cool-growing orchids. This is essential to mimic the natural habitat of these type of orchids.


Few orchids enjoy strong light so shading is necessary for tropical countries like the Philippines.  One should know the degree of shading needed by the type of orchids one grows. Example: less 10%, 20%, 50% light intensity.


Epiphytic orchids come from areas with good air movement in their natural habitat. So it is essential that good aeration is present in one’s garden or shade house. This also helps prevent problems with fungus and leads to better growth to the plants. Sometimes when there is a lack of good air movement in a garden, it is advisable to provide a fan or fans ideally positioned, so that the moving air does not directly blow on the plants. It is needed just to move the air in the garden.


Humidity is not usually a problem in tropical countries. Almost all orchids like high humidity that’s why most orchid species come from tropical or subtropical regions. One should just be aware of the orchid’s needs depending on the type of potting media that is used. For potted orchids using more porous media like charcoal, more watering is required because it dries up fast. This is also true for mounted orchids. But if the media used is black moss or sphagnum moss in pots, a water check should be done especially during the rainy season before administering watering. Too much water can cause rot and fungus which is deadly to orchids.

In Pots, Baskets, or Mounted?

Epiphytic Orchids

Epiphytic Orchids also known as air orchids can be grown in pots, baskets or mounted on a piece of wood, bark or tree fern.

Pots to be used for orchids should have additional holes to improve drainage, though adding drainage material such as charcoal, volcanic rocks, or similar media to the bottom  of the pot is also effective. One has a variety of media to choose from to use for potting orchids. In tropical areas, charcoal, osmunda, black moss with perlite, coconut husks, are some of the most popular media to use. It will just depend on what type of orchid will be potted.

Baskets are good for plants that have a creeping habit like Bulbophyllums, also orchids that have pendulous flowers spikes like Coelogynes, and those which have vigorous roots like Vandas. Media can be used to anchor the plants in the baskets, but for Vandas, the basket is usually empty so as to provide more air for its roots.

Mounts are good for smaller plants that need drier conditions. Use mounts made of cork or wood like Madre Cacao, Star Apple, Pine wood,or any other wood preferably textured so the roots can easily attach to it. Do not use wood from sour-fruiting trees such as Mango, Santol, etc, since the roots will not attach well to it.

Always make sure to plant the orchid firmly in the pot or on a mount so it will attach itself faster to the media. If the orchid is not stable and the roots keep moving, it will not be established well.

Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial orchids are also known as Ground orchids. Different types of porous compost are usually used for different types of terrestrial orchids, but the essential fact to remember is to keep from over-watering the plants. Clay pots are usually a better solution since one can be less problematic because clay pots dry their media faster and drains well.



General Care of Orchids


There are three classifications of orchids if it will be based on the temperatures they require to grow well. They are the warm, intermediate and cool-growing orchids. It is of course a lot cheaper to grow warm-growing orchids in tropical conditions. Warm-growing orchids require a night-time minimum temperature or 18 degrees Centigrade or 65 deg Fahrenheit, and ideally, a daytime maximum of 27 deg C or 80 deg F.  During summer months where the temperature rises to as high as 35 deg C or 95 deg F, additional shading may be needed and other cooling methods such as spraying and frequent damping down. It is best, not to let the temperature rise above 30 deg C or 86 deg F in the shade house or garden.


When in doubt, don’t.” More orchids die from over-watering than under-watering. A lot of factors contribute to the amount of watering one applies to their orchids: type of orchid, temperature, ventilation, potted or mounted, pot size, pot media, and condition of the plant. The grower should be aware of his plants needs. There is no substitute for a grower’s eye so a personal touch is very important to understand how and when to water orchids well.

It is best to water plants early in the day for leaves to be dry by nightfall.


Orchids have low fertilizer requirements. It is better to buy fertilizers specially formulated for orchids since they have trace elements which are not found in other fertilizers. Application varies depending on the grower. Some use a ‘once a week’ regimen while others use a ‘three times a week but more diluted solution’ regimen. Whatever system is used, the pots should be watered out regularly to prevent salt build-up.

Foliar application is preferable. The fertilizer solution is sprayed to the plants’ whole body and roots. Remember to dilute the fertilizer and for large quantities of solution, keep it well stirred to avoid over-concentration of the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can burn or scorch the leaves or even kill the plants outright. Apply fertilizers more during active growth, like when new shoots are coming out.


Repotting is necessary when: a plant is outgrowing its pot, if the media has broken down, or whena there has been no new growth for some time. Dead roots and pseudobulbs should be removed. And don’t use a pot that is too big for the root system of the plant.

Pests and Diseases

Controlling Pests

Pests can be controlled with chemical pesticides. They may be systemic or contact in their action. Systemic pesticides are absorbed by the plant and kill the pests that feed on the plant, other insects are unaffected. Contact pesticides are applied to the whole plant, they kill any pest that they get in contact with but those that are hiding may escape unharmed.

Any pesticide that is bought should be used according to its instructions, and kept away from children and pets. When applying pesticides, choose the day when there is no wind or spray with the wind blowing away from you. Better also to apply pesticides late in the afternoon so that the insects are active and the temperature is no longer high. Pesticides and high temperatures can burn your plants. Use the proper safety equipment like gloves, masks and proper clothing and take a bath after application.

Preventing diseases

Fungal diseases like leaf-spotting and bacterial rot usually occur due to over-watering. So prevention is better than cure. Do not over-water! For fungal-spotting, remove damaged leaves and spray the plant with a fungicide. When a plant has bacterial rot, it is usually too far gone to save it. But sometimes it might still be saved. Spray fungicide once a month for preventive measures and after heavy rains during the rainy season.