Mountain Orchids

Decorative TerrariumOftentimes, having the means to keep up humidity, maintain a specific temperature range, or grow in a poorly lit area can mean the diference between cultural success and failure.  

Terrariums, Wardian Cases, Orchidariums, or simply covered containers can go a long way toward managing the culture for certain genera or species.  They allow for retaining humidity and, when used with artificial lights, allow one to grow in areas that couldn't be utilized otherwise.

Of course, not all plants are suited to tightly enclosed environments.  Many orchids demand some degree of air movement and thus do best in semi-open cntainers, or "Orchidariums" (typically outfitted with fans for air circulation and ventialtion) (see boottom of page).  In contrast, there are many genera of tropicals that appear to need little such ventilation - even to the poiint of growing quite well in nearly air-tight containers (rain-forest Begonias and some Gesneriads, for example).

Various ContainersSuitable containers can be had in many sizes & shapes. They can be home-made (of glued-together glass or arcylic), store bought and purpose speciifc (vases, aquariums, seed starting trays, etc), imagined vessels ( how about clear salad bowls?), or even "foundlings" (such as the glassware one runs across at yard sales and / or second hand shops). 

Regardless of their origin or original purpose, some basic traits should be met in whatever container is chosen:  it must be more or less clear, easy to access for cleaning and maintenance, rigid enough to support carrying/moving.  Ideally it should allow for at least some emans of ventilation should one happen to overwater or it otherwise develops excess condensation. This latter consideration can be as simple as propping open a lid, or cutting/drilling a hole, but one must keep in mind and allow for the potential.  

Simple Terrariums

Lighting depends upon the subject to be grown.  However, in most cases one will find artificial lighting to be most suitable. Natural lighting varies considerably and any direct sunlight can overheat most containers in just minutes!   Most forms of artificial lighting are "cold" in the sense that hours of illumination will still not overheat the contents.   In fact, for those who use a basement as a growing space, the minimal warmth that such artificial lights emenate is usually considered a benefit to the plants and containers.  

Most Orchids will require a fair degree of illumination to grow and flower well.; with typically a minimum of two (or even 4 tubes) of T5 type flourescents being required.  Most other "tropicals" (Begonias and most Gesneriads) will do just fine with far less (about half).   I've even grown many plats quite well with just a single T5 tube as long as there is natural ambient window light coming in from nearby to supplment the artifical.

With most of these types of plants being more or less of Equatorial origin, they are often attuned to long days.  As such, most growers will run their artificial lights on timers that manage a 12-16 hr length of day.  Running less at certain times of year may help encourage flowering in certain cases.   Whether one runs artificial lights during the day, or during the night (reversed day), can be a choice to help manage termeraturein the growing area. If natural summer time heat is tending to become too much, then running the lights at night and keeping in the dark during daylight hours may minimize any heat build-up that may occur.

Whether one plants directly into the container, or retains individual plants in their own pots within a ocontainer is somewhat a matter of personal choice.  However, planting directly into the container usually results in a more stable growing environment (needing less watering and less overall attention).  

Media to use is also very much a matter of personal preference.  Sphagnum moss is a common medium with natural anti-fungal properties that many growers find beneficial.  However, fertilizing plants grown in moss is a "delicate" matter - and overdoing it even a little can quickly lead to an overly-acid medium.  In contrast, underfertilizing has its downsides rooted in simple poor nutrition. Non-moss mediums typically are some sort of peat-based mixes with other granular ingredients added to boost porosity (perlite, vermiculite, coco fiber, bark, etc).   Every grower is likely to have his/her own favorite "recipe" and no one formula is the best answer for all.  With this in mind, it is highly reccomended that eavery grower experiment a little to find out what works best with regards to their own watering, fertilizing, and other associated cultural practices.


Additional Reading:

For growers serious about results: Acme Orchidariums   

Now you can reproduce nearly any environment and grow amazing plants!

Acme Orchidariums - Now you can grow it!
These "Orchidariums" are fantastic for growing just about any plant
that benefits from a controlled atmosphere.