An orchid needs nutrients, water and sunshine, just like any other plant. These elements are vital to the health of the orchid. It is important to consider the quality of sunlight they receive for growth and health too. Not all orchids love to receive the same intensity of light. This varies from species to species.
Orchid Location and Light
In the tropical regions of the world where there is thick lavish forest the light is generally reduced. So ideally they enjoy conditions similar to the tropics, of well defined sequence of sunlight and shade. This is why it is best to place your orchids facing the east window of your home for indoor plants or on the east wall of the house for outdoor plants. Therefore avoiding the strong afternoon sun and receiving only the cool morning sun of the eastern window has to offer or the shade of the east wall if your orchid is out doors. Generally the perfect amount of sunlight for your orchid, depends on your species, hybrid or type. This would normally amount to a duration of twelve hours of day light, without the intense afternoon sun.
Orchid Species and Light
First of all you must find out what orchid you have and gather details of all its requirements. This information is necessary in evaluating the amount of sun and shade of your particular orchid. A good approach for obtaining the essential information is to ask the person you bought your orchid from. Another method is by searching for the information on the internet of your orchid. Before purchasing it is best to inquire which species of orchid suits you. Depending on the species you choose some will flourish when receiving plenty of sunlight. Others may wilt in ample sunlight with little shade.
Orchid growers have two basic methods to tell apart the require light a species needs. Orchids that are soft growing tend to flourish in the shade. While hard growing orchids flourish in the strong sun. Soft growing orchids have the pleasure of being healthy growing plants but their blooms are less frequent and smaller. The hard growing orchids will create more blooms with less plant. These plants tend to have yellow leaves and stunted growth.
When growing orchids indoors light is a very important factor to the development of flowers and good healthy growth of the plant.
People tend to think that their orchids indoors receive plenty of light as much as they would in the wild. But this is not the case. For most of the light indoors is of very poor quality and people may think that their orchid is getting sufficient light while in fact is not.
Light intensity is measured in foot candles (fc). On a bright sunny day in summer, the intensity outside may be as high as 10,000 fc. While the light indoors furnished by a window may have an intensity of just 100 fc, well insufficient for growing orchids.
The light intensity for orchid requirements has been divided into three classifications.
Classification Intensity foot-candles (fc)
Medium- light 2000-3000
High- light 3000 and more
So the minimum light is 1200 fc which is 10 times more than 100fc provided by a window alone in the home.
To grow orchids indoors you would need to consider near or on a window sill. The best location in the northern hemisphere to grow indoors would be on the south facing window, followed by the east, west and finally the north facing window. In the southern hemisphere it would be on the northern facing window, followed by the east, west and least best the south window.
Dark green leaves are an indicator that the plant is not receiving sufficient light. Or if the orchid failed to bloom is also an indicator of poor light. Yellowish-green or red leaves show that too much light is being received. Sun burn from direct sunlight or excessive light causes the leaves to blackened or appear yellowish green, sometimes a tinge of red are indicators of too much light exposure or sunburn. To judge whether the plant is receiving too much bright intense light just feel the leaves with your hands, if they feel warmer than the surrounding air move the orchid to a place with less intensity.
For your orchids to receive the light needed indoors sometimes artificial light has to substitute for sunlight. Natural light provides the full spectrum of wavelengths of light (color of light). From this full spectrum of light available only a selected portion is used by the plant.
Orchid’s leaves and all other plant leaves utilize only two fundamental wavelengths of colors. These are the blue and red light of the spectrum. The blue light is called cool white light and the red light is called the warm white light. The cool white light is used by the plant to promote growth of leaves and the warm white light is to promote flowering.
Not all artificial lights provide both cool and warm light. They only provide one or the other or something else. Some fluorescent lights can emit both cool and warm light.
An alternative inexpensive method for orchids to grow and bloom under artificial light is to use a combination of incandescent and fluorescent light. By this you will be able to provide the necessary cool and warm white light for growing orchids indoors.
The Incandescent Light
The incandescent light bulb is the most common and inexpensive of all. It is most suitable for radiating the warm white light (red-orange light of the spectrum) wanted by the plant. But it should not be placed less than two ft (60cm) from your orchid otherwise you will burn the leaves. These lights need replacement after 5 months.
The Fluorescent Light
The fluorescent light is suitable for radiating cool white light needed by the plant. This type of light does not burn the plant since the majority of the electrical energy is converted to cool white light and not to warm white light as heat. They come as tube, twisted or compacted types. The twisted and compacted offers a more concentrated light. After two years of usage fluorescent lights need to be replaced because the light intensity emitted deteriorates with time.
There are also wide spectrum fluorescent lights that emit both cool and warm light that is they include red –orange spectrum of light.
Combined Incandescent and Fluorescent Lighting for Full Benefit
As mentioned before an alternative inexpensive method for orchids to grow and bloom under artificial light is to use a combination of fluorescent and incandescent light to provide the necessary cool and warm white light for growing orchids indoors. To do the job you will need four 4ft long fixtures with four 40-watt fluorescent tubes and one incandescent bulb will supply the minimum mixture of cool and warm white light necessary to grow orchids.
High Intensity Discharge Light (HID)
High intensity discharge (HID) lamps are the best but are the most expensive of all. The most likely time, you may consider using this type of lamp is when your orchid requires light intensity higher than those produced by fluorescent or incandescent lamps. They produce light at intensity greater than 3000 fc. They are very efficient in comparison to incandescent or fluorescent lamps; produce higher light intensity for the same amount of radiated heat or less radiated heat than the other two.
HID lamps come generally in types of High pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH) and a combination of the two.
For optimum gorgeous blooms it is essential to understand what kind of species your plant is. The important roll the amount of light plays on your species whether it is natural light or artificial light from a grow light of incandescent, fluorescent or other kind.