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Once considered a hobby for the wealthy, orchids today are well within the reach of any
plant enthusiast and are now available at a fairly reasonable price. There are approximately
25000 species of orchids, having their own unique characteristics and charm. Unlike parasites,
orchids are epiphytes, which means their roots cling onto rocks and trees without harming the
host plant in any way.
Orchids are very sturdy plants. With proper information, guidance and right growing
conditions, they can be relatively easy to grow and look after, probably as easy as any other
houseplant. You need not do too much to enjoy their beauty. All they basically need is the right
proportion of water, air and fertilizer.
If left undisturbed, orchids are virtually immortal and quite difficult to kill. It is best to
obtain an orchid plant from a specialized orchid nursery. This is also the best place to gather
valuable information and advice on orchid care. A healthy looking plant with dark green leaves
and good root formation would be the best specimen. Plants with yellowing or brown leaves
should be avoided.
Orchids have often been dubbed “The Queen of Flowers.” Their exotic blooms and
intriguing habits make them very desirable ornamental plants.
Ranging from modest to opulent, orchids are available in virtually every color of the
spectrum, from pale pastel to bold bright reds and yellows. As their spikes rise gracefully above
the rest, it is not surprising to see them command the attention they so rightly deserve. The
fragrance is an added bonus: some times heady, at others subtle. Their irregular framework,
naturalistic appeal and colorful flowers are instrumental in setting the mood and creating a strong
interest statement, guaranteed to enhance and brighten up any décor.
Orchids are slow growing plants and some basic guidelines are applicable to most orchid
varieties. Good air movement is essential to keep their roots healthy. They thrive when there is a
steady moist breeze. But do remember to keep them away from direct air conditioning. Most
orchids enjoy full morning sunlight, but require partial shading between 12.00 noon and 3.00
Water daily once or twice, depending on the season. Orchids grow best when their potting
medium is allowed to dry out between watering. Hence, early morning is always advisable.
Water thoroughly, but avoid excess. This is one of the most important factors in orchid care.
Orchid compost contain little nourishment and hence require feeding with a balanced
fertilizer containing 20:20:20 N: P: K (Nitrogen: Phosphorous: Potassium). Dilute one pinch
(2grams) in one liter of water and spray over the leaves and roots of the orchid plant. Feeding
should be undertaken every seven to ten days.
Orchids are slow growing plants. Repotting once every two years in early spring is,
however, recommended. When the plants have outgrown its container, it is definitely time to
transfer it to pot one or two sizes larger than the original one. The container should have a
number of holes to assist good drainage. A potting mixture of charcoal pieces, bricks, moss etc,
is required to assist anchorage of the roots. Containers such as hanging baskets, coconut shells
and wire hangers, which allow the air to reach the roots, can also be used. Long flowering spikes
with heavy blooms would be best carefully supported.

Spray regularly with an organic insecticide at least once in a month. Spray underside of
the leaves as well as the potting mixture.

Scope for floriculture in Kerala state

Kerala is known as God’s own country and the climatic conditions are well suited for
orchid cultivation. High humidity, moderate temperature and good rainfall, is ideal for orchid
growing. But one has to choose the right kind of species such as sun loving, cool growing or
intermediate varieties.
Arachinis, Asocentrum, Renanthera, Vanda and their hybrids need full sun for free
flowering. Shading, if any, suppresses flowering. On the other hand, Dendrobium, Oncidium,
Phalaneopsis etc cannot tolerate direct sun.
A temperature of 18-20 degree C gives good flowering in Oncidium ,Phalaneopsis,
paphiopedilum, cattaleya etc. Arachinis Vanda, Renanthera, need 21-32 degree C during daytime
and 18-21 during night.
The popular varieties suitable for cultivation in Kerala include the famed Arenthera
Aneeblack and Muhammed Hanif. There are also dendrobium varieties such as Sonia 17,
Nagoya Pink, Kasium white etc.

My role in Orchid cultivation.

My interest in orchid cultivation developed accidentally, having enrolled as a member of

Kerala Cut-flower Producers Society at the insistence of Mr. A. Sukesan Pachalloor, the then
President of the society. Thereafter, I began attending the society’s monthly meetings regularly.
The society was publishing a monthly bulletin. In that bulletin along with the activities of the
society, there are some useful and informative articles written by experts in this field. By reading
these articles and interacting with society members I became more interested in orchid
After gaining theoretical knowledge I started some practical work, cultivating some
plants as a hobby in my residential area. I erected small green houses on the building terrace and
in front of my house. Every thing started in a modest way, but systematically, with a small
number of plants. To start with, I purchased some Anthurium and Dendrobium from the
Federation of Floriculture, a Kerala Government undertaking at Anayara, Trivandrum.
With the initial success in cultivation, my interest doubled. The next step was to get more
information and knowledge. I visited the club members’ farms in different places. However, I
was not satisfied with the information gleaned, so I arranged to get some good books such as
Orchid Growing in the Tropics, a book from orchid society of south east Asia (Singapore),
Growing Orchids, the complete practical guide to orchids and their cultivation, published by
Hermes House, London. I also obtained a few Indian books published in Kerala by S.T. Mercy
and Bobby Dale.
By that time, my house and the compound were full of orchid plants and there was no
scope for further development. I was confident that I could extend my hobby into a business.
Bearing all this in mind, I purchased a plot admeasuring 52 cents at Vazhathottam,
Kolliyoor,Trivandrum in July 2003. Infrastructure like compound fencing, digging a well,

erecting a green house and small preparation shed was set up. The next step was to get good and
healthy plants. The orchid plants are very costly and I did not have enough funds to start in a big
way. So I thought of bank loans. When I approached the authorities, they had so many
conditions! Since I was unable to fulfill them, I decided to start in a modest way with the
available resources. The plants grown in my house premises were shifted to my farm. The
collection of plants were Anthurium(200), Dendrobium (100), Arachinis (300), Aneeblack (200),
All these plants were properly planted in my farm. I make regular visits to my farm.
Unfortunately, all my Anthurium plants were destroyed by my neighbour’s poultry. They
ate away the fragile portion of the Anthurium plants, which was a huge loss of the money and
effort I had put in. So I decided to concentrate on one or two varieties.
The variety I choose was Arethera Aneeblack and Arachinis(Spider) and purchased them from
private growers. At present I have about 2000 plants, which get me about 500 flowers monthly.
Now the real problem was how to sell the flowers, something all small orchids growers in
the city face. The Indian government has come up with so many schemes with subsidies to
promote orchid cultivation, but all these are a futile exercise. The politicians play a major role in
collusion with Agriculture officers and all the schemes land in the wrong hands. There is no
follow-up from the authorities. So the real small growers are left with the problem of how to
dispose the flowers they regularly produce.
As a retired person, I feel proud that I am utilizing my time and energy in a fruitful way.
But orchid cultivation is not just for the retired; even for those in service and the educated
unemployed youth- it will be a boon.