By William Mills
Phalaenopsis and Bromeliads
Epiphytic plants live in the cracks and crevices of other plants gaining their moisture and nutrients from the air instead of from their roots. In their natural habitat of tropical rainforests they start high in the tree canopies eventually sending roots down their host tree to the forest floor.
Two commonly found at local garden centres and florists are Orchids and Guzmania.
Orchids are perennial herbs which live for several years and are grown for their visually stunning flowers and scents used in perfume manufacture. Phalaenopsis are the most popular orchids houseplants. They adapt well to central heating growing in clear plastic pots containing tree bark chips. If more is needed specialist orchid compost is best.
Orchid flowers can last for over three months, wiping them with a damp cloth will stop any dust blocking out the light, and as they fade they will need sniping back. If flowers fail to develop from an otherwise healthy plant a drop in temperature for about a month can kick start the process as orchids are capable of flowering all year around.
Guzmania, also called The Glory of Ghent, has brightly coloured thick waxy leaves which minimise evaporation.
These hardy bromeliads native to South American rain forests are relatively easy to look after. Because they have limited root systems a robust pot base is best to prevent the heavy foliage from toppling them over, but it should also be compact enough for regular lifting and turning. Guzmania collect water in the centre of the plant between their thick stocky leaves and this needs tipping out every few weeks to prevent it going stagnant. They need misting several times a week during the summer growing season, however when this is over they will be quite content left alone and with a limited supply of light as the days draw in.
The onset of autumn heralds the seasons change. It is time to start bringing in plants when any night time temperature is likely to drop below 4c. Potted plants left outside for the last of the sunshine benefit from having bubble wrap bound around their root area. I gradually reduce the amount of fertiliser with each watering and start bringing them indoors at night. Plants need a period of rest until the shortest day after which artificial lights can be used to encourage growing again.