Not everyone grows the standard tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in the greenhouse …

There are gardeners who love to grow exotic flowers, and orchids are one of many plants that fall into this category. Your greenhouse is an ideal place to grow orchids because of the special conditions of temperature, humidity and light that can be controlled in a greenhouse environment.

When dinosaurs roamed the earth, 120-million years ago, a magnificent flowering plant came into being – the orchid. Evolution led to the demise of many plants and animals, but the orchid flourished, thriving on every continent except Antarctica.

Orchids have adapted to live in all kinds of environments – in mountains, bogs, grasslands and rainforests. At least 35,000 orchid species now populate the planet and experts believe there is always a possibility that unknown species are still waiting to be discovered.

For centuries, the orchid has been a symbol of luxury and beauty.

To the early Greeks, the orchid represented virility, and the Chinese called it “the plant of the king’s fragrance”. Serious orchid-collecting began in the 18th century, but because of their rarity at the time, only a few botanists and wealthy amateurs could enjoy them.

In 1818, William Cattley became the first person to bloom an orchid, an event that changed the flower world forever. Forests were stripped of millions of orchids, putting many on endangered species lists.

A single orchid sold for thousands of dollars. This practice has since been banned and species are now bred and cultivated specifically for market sales.

The orchid family is the largest plant family in the world and you can find them growing from Arctic regions to the equator.

To grow orchids in your greenhouse, I would start with an easier variety such as the dendrobium orchid. These orchids grow on a long stem (spray) and the most popular colours are the purple varieties or the white ones with burgundy “throats”, but the growers always seem to come up with new, exotic and stunning colours.

Start with a potted plant that you have purchased either recently or one you have received as a gift this past winter. Now is the time to experiment growing these plants in your greenhouse. Then in the fall, bring the pots in the house and continue to grow these plants by a window for fall and winter blooms.

Orchids are mainly grown in the tropics and tolerate both wet and dry conditions. During the wet season, the plants make new leaves and bulbs, and during the dry season they are resting.

Flowering occurs during the rest period.

Orchids like a humid condition, which can be maintained in and around the plant by placing a saucer of stones or pebbles beneath your potted orchids and keeping the stones moist. As the moisture evaporates, it will provide humidity directly to the plant.

They also like a fluctuation between day and night temperature of 10 to 15 degrees, but don’t let the greenhouse temperature drop below 10 degrees.

Daytime highs can be as much as 28 or more, but orchids do not need high light so a north or shady side of the greenhouse will do them just fine.

Orchids do not need a lot of fertilizer. In fact, they are happy with a fish fertilizer once a month and are grown in a mixture of shredded bark. This material is coarse, which allows for fast drainage and good ventilation so that roots can dry out between watering.

Potted plants will grow nicely in the summer, but don’t forget that, come August, when the night temperature in your greenhouse drops below 10, you should bring the plants in the house.

Orchids certainly look exotic and are stunning to look at, but don’t let that fool you. With a little care and lots of humidity, they should do well in your greenhouse during the summer, which will initiate the flowering process for winter enjoyment.

Ingrid Wilcox operates Lubbock Garden and Floral Consultant and offers gardening, greenhouse and flower-arranging workshops. Contact her at ingrid@northwestel.net.