Orchids in Idaho

Orchids hanging on a Japanese Maple

As an avid orchid collector it was never an option to leave my orchids behind in Washington. They were coming with me, even though many of them left an ideal greenhouse home to live outside exposed to hot summer sun and constant desiccating winds. It’s turning out to be a challenge to grow these orchids while camping in a trailer in the middle of a field where water is in short supply as we have yet to drill a well. It’s a good thing that orchids are tough plants. As the largest family of flowering plants, they have adapted to live in every climate of our beautiful earth and exist on all continents except Antarctica. While most live in the tropics, there are quite a few that are native to Idaho, as are detailed in this excellent article published by the Idaho Native Plant Society. I am growing epiphytes which attach to trees in nature, but sticks in my case. I also have a few terrestrial orchids which grow in soil. Most of the orchids growing in temperate climates are terrestrial.

The struggle for me has been to keep my orchids hydrated. I rinse them, soak them and mist them but the water evaporates in a snap with our recent heat wave. I’ve experimented with placement and am still trying to find the best spot. Most recently I’ve put them in and behind this tree to provide a bit of shade.

Brassavola nodosa Likes warm conditions with plenty of light (welcome to Idaho!) Also needs humidity and frequent water (oops!) with fertilizer during active growth. I haven’t fertilized since Spring, time to get back to the basics. This plant bloomed profusely winter and spring and even now has a fragrant flower! What a beauty!

Epidendrum (Dinema) polybulbon is native to Mexico. I can give it plenty of light and heat, but not the moisture that it craves! I hope it doesn’t wither away in our high desert. The picture was taken when I bought the plant in February at the NWFGF in Seattle. I love the orange/white starlike flowers. It’s not looking quite so juicy now.

Laelia sincorana is from Brazil and another newcomer to my collection. I like this miniature and look forward to the lavender blooms. Laelia can take full sun with warm conditions, but also can withstand drying out! A winner for Idaho! Hurray!

Vanilla pleniflora I have in a pot. It actually seems to like the heat, I’m trying to keep it well watered. We had some temps in the 30’s in May and the tips died back. Masdevallia amabilis also in a small pot. It’s been inside our trailer by a window. I keep it moist in a small jar and it looks good! Pleurothallis I have two and they are both struggling. So much so that I transferred them to my mom’s house in Utah to try and revive. I had them inside and they started to drop leaves. It was hard to give them the right amount of light and keep them evenly moist. One of these is my very first orchid and I’ve already revived it several times over the years. I hope it can fight back to health.

All this goes to show that growing tropical plants in Idaho is a challenge, but not impossible. I’m hoping to build a greenhouse in the next year and fill it with orchids, old and new! What orchid challenges do you have?

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