“Should I move my orchids outdoors for the summer?”
That’s a question I hear over and over this time of year – and my answer is always the same – YES!
Orchids thrive on the bright light, hot days/cool nights, and abundant humidity outdoors. Compare that to the hot, stuffy windowsill they’re sitting on right now and you’ll see why they would be happier outdoors.
Even if you have a first class growing area under lights, you’ll find that your plants will do better outdoors. They’ll love the gentle breeze, extra humidity, and cool evening temperatures.
So I encourage you to consider moving your plants outdoors for the summer – no matter where you’re growing them now.
Not sure where to begin?
Make a Plan
Once you decide to move your plants to the great outdoors, a little planning is in order.
- Study your outdoor growing area to see how much sun/ shade it gets throughout the day. The ideal growing area should be shaded most of the day – with only a couple of hours of sun in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Get supplies for outdoor growing before moving your plants. What type of growing area are you planning? Will it be a bench, plant stand, or mini greenhouse? How will you be setting up your plants? Individual pots or grower trays? (Get answers here.) How about nutrients?
- Setup your growing area so your plants will be on benches or hanging from trees. Don’t leave them on the ground because they’re a delicacy to slugs and cutworms. (If you use bench, a simple method to prevent unwanted creatures from getting to your plants, is putting a pan of water under the legs of the bench. Crawling insects can’t swim so they won’t get to your plants.)
- Start slow. Plants need time to acclimate to outdoor weather. Start with total shade outside for all plants. Then, gradually move the high light plants into more sun. Burn spots on the leaves can happen quickly (and they’re unsightly and they never go away). Think of your first day at the beach after a long winter.
Can I Move All My Orchids Outdoors?
Technically, any orchid will benefit from growing outdoors. Which plants you’ll want to move will depend on your growing area however.
Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Encyclias, Oncidiums – they all enjoy being outside and need little (if any) protection from the weather (be careful with the sun though – more on that below). Phalaenopsis also do well outdoors but they’ll need some protection from the elements. Moving Paphiopedilums outdoors is best left to those who have experience with outdoor growering.
What About All Those Bugs Outdoors?
You’re right, nature has blessed us with all kinds of bugs and insects in the great outdoors.
The good news is healthy orchids have a natural resistance to insects so they shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve had (a lot) more problems with insects on my plants growing indoors than outdoors.
There are only 4 types of insects that might be interested in your orchids – aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites. Between natural predators and the weather (rain and wind) these insects have a difficult time establishing themselves outdoors and they shouldn’t be a problem.
A regular spray of Neem Oil every 4-6 weeks will control any insect population you might incur.
What About Growing Outdoors with Hydroponics?
Our hydroponic system is perfect for outdoor growing! It’s all about the LECA pebbles in our system. They’re a sterile ceramic that won’t compact or deteriorate in any type of weather outdoors. And they don’t attract insects. More on LECA and outdoor growing here.
With a few simple adjustments our system turns into an outdoor growing machine!
I’m Uneasy about Exposing My Plants to the Weather
It might be a little scary if you’re moving your plants outdoors for the first time. Protecting them in a mini greenhouse might be the answer. I’ve grown plants outdoors in all kinds of weather with a mini greenhouse. The key is finding a greenhouse that has a shade cloth covering instead of the usual plastic covers. Avoid those plastic covers at all costs! Your orchids will cook on the first hot day!
Shade cloth provides shelter for the plants and at the same time allows for good air movement over the leaves. Here’s a link to a mini greenhouse that I’ve used (and like).
We used to sell mini greenhouses but unfortunately we no longer carry them. I’ll describe how I setup our mini greehouses in the next post.
In the mean time, think about giving your orchids a vacation outdoors this summer. Your plants will thank you – you’ll see the difference!