Orchids add an exotic touch to a home or garden. Some bloom on leggy green stems, while others burst with color on gently arching stems. You'll know your orchid has reached maturity when it finally produces these colorful blooms, but it may take a few years if you're propagating orchids from seeds. Understanding your orchid's growth process can help you set up an appropriate environment to encourage its development, both before and after it reaches maturity.
When grown from seeds, orchids take several months to begin developing leaves, which are almost unnoticeable at first unless you inspect the soil with a magnifying glass. Their roots appear later. If you're propagating orchids from backbulbs -- meaning you remove old pseudobulbs from a mature orchid to create new plants -- the roots and fresh leaves typically appear in three to four months.
Orchids reach maturity when they begin to flower, which typically occurs after five to seven years of growth from seed. However, this maturity can hit in as little as three years or as many as eight years, depending on the variety of orchid. When growing orchids from backbulbs, this maturity can hit earlier, as the foundations for growth already exist. For instance, Cymbidium backbulbs generally produce their first flowers two to three years after planting.
Flowering means a plant is mature and can propagate naturally via pollination. In the case of orchids, this pollination process requires pollinators such as moths, bees, flies and birds to dig the pollen from pollen sacks and transfer it elsewhere. This makes orchids smart choices for gardeners with pollen allergies, as the pollen remains contained deep in the flowers.
Encouraging Healthy Growth
Though you can't necessarily speed up the maturing process, you can provide orchids with a healthy environment to encourage strong growth and blooms that return year after year. Each orchid variety has unique needs, but typically tropical orchids prefer bright, indirect sunlight, 40 to 60 percent humidity and weekly watering. When you notice leaves developing during the growing season, apply a diluted fertilizer every other time you water; this encourages growth and flowering. Once a month, flush the potting soil with water, sans fertilizer, to prevent salt build-up.
- University of Illinois Extension: Growing Orchids
- Gardener's Supply Company: How to Grow Orchids
- Michigan State University Extension: Propagating Orchids
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Orchids and Their Pollinators
- American Orchid Society: Propagating Cymbidiums by Backbulbs
- Better Homes and Gardens: How to Grow Orchids Indoors
- University of Hawaii: Orchid Care for the Novice--An Orchid's Perspective
- Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images