Cures for the Lures of Orchids

Orchids are not only among the most exquisitely beautiful of flowers, but they’re also the most diverse. As a family, they boast over 30,000 species and over 200,000 hybrids with new descriptions continually adding to these numbers. In Mexico alone, there are over 1,200 native species and endless exotic imports, many of which are available for purchase. In Puerto Vallarta, we have an enviable climate that allows us to grow orchids outdoors that our counterparts in more northerly regions can only sustain as houseplants or in specialized greenhouses.
My first bit of orchid advice is more of a heartfelt plea: no matter how tempting, please never buy orchids from street vendors! By doing so, you encourage the growth of a black market that depletes wild populations of native plants that are endangered and protected by law.
Orchid seeds are smaller than those of any other flowering plant and measure in at roughly the size of a speck of dust. In nature, only a few seeds in a million have the luck to land upon the right conditions to prosper. Humans are only able to cultivate these seeds in laboratories with sterile conditions and specially-formulated medium. Plants sold from someone’s wheelbarrow or the trunk of one’s car didn’t get there by lawful or ethical means: They are poached from our forests.
If you are keen on growing native orchids, we have many to choose from at the Vallarta Botanical Garden where we propagate responsibly from our legally – registered laboratory. Another responsible grower who we highly recommend is Sandro Cusi of Orquideas Rio Verde near Toluca. His company maintains an online catalog on their website, www.orquideas.com.mx and they provide mail order service.
Phalaenopsis or “moth orchids” (native to Asia) with their showy, prolific and long-lasting flowers are an excellent choice for beginner orchid growers as they are known to be among the easiest to care for. If you’d rather cut your teeth with a native orchid, species of the Cattleya and Encyclia genera would be my top recommendations.
Every last species of orchid has its particularities, but, generally speaking, studying the cultural requirements at the genus level can help guide you through the care of most orchids available for purchase.
One of the best free sources for such information is the website of the American Orchid
Society www.aos.org. In addition to a bank of printable cultural sheets in multiple languages, they also maintain a list of frequently asked questions followed by spot-on answers, and a host of other resources.
Those looking for orchid events here in Mexico may also wish to visit the page of the Mexican Association of Orchidology (or AMO for its Spanish acronym) www.amo.com.mx.
Are you a veteran orchid aficionado with stories of your own to share? Or maybe a budding orchid novice with burning questions that you haven’t yet found answers? Please post these on the Facebook page, “Vallarta Garden Club.” Not only does sharing your gardening experiences allow others to avoid repeating what you may have learned the hard way—it can often make for some very entertaining reading!
Author’s warning: Orchid collecting can be taken to extremes and should begin with caution and moderation. If you find yourself or a loved one depleting your financial reserves to support orchid cultivation habits, it is time to seek professional advice, or enjoy orchids on display elsewhere such as out at the Vallarta Botanical Garden!

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