While many orchids need protection from weather extremes in winter, they often thrive when placed outdoors in the summer. In the wild, they grow typically in humid jungles, attaching their roots to tree branches for support and soaking in the filtered light beneath the canopy of trees. The key to keeping them healthy and blooming in your backyard garden is to mimic this natural habitat, making sure they receive regular misting and watering as the summer heat increases.
Orchids typically prefer bright, indirect sunlight, which means summer sunlight sometimes can be too intense for them. While a sheer curtain drawn across the window can protect indoor orchids, outdoor orchids need more natural protection. An ideal setting for them is on tree branches where they'll enjoy filtered light, particularly at midday. To do this, attach orchid roots to tree branches with cotton string, which will decompose naturally over time. Another option is planting them in pots and placing them on the ground under a canopy of trees.
Though you probably don't have to worry about frost damage in the summer, monitor outdoor temperatures to ensure your orchids remain healthy. Most orchids appreciate temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees F by day, which makes summer in a Mediterranean climate optimal. At night, they need a temperature drop of 10 to 15 degrees F, which they usually receive naturally outdoors. They also can tolerate warmer temperatures as long as they receive plenty of air flow, so give them space from other plants to enjoy the breeze in case you experience exceptionally hot days.
Humidity is one of the trickiest aspects of orchid environments to manage, especially when orchids are growing outside where you can't make adjustments easily. They typically prefer humidity between 40 and 60 percent -- average for a home, but not necessarily every backyard. An easy way to raise humidity is to mist them each morning, giving them time to dry by nightfall to prevent fungus.
Watering and Fertilizing
During the summer bloom period, water orchids every week while applying a balanced fertilizer diluted to one-quarter strength. About once a month, skip the fertilizer and flush the orchid roots with water, letting the water drain to avoid rot, to get rid of accumulated salts in the soil, which can burn the roots. You also can water an additional time or two during the week if you notice the soil drying out, as being outdoors in the sun and wind can zap your orchids of moisture faster than indoor conditions do.
About the Author
Ashley Mackenzie has been writing professionally since 2009. Her travel, consumer-related and instructional articles are regularly published online. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature and history.
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