Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Valentine's Day is today up and what better gift than a truly red orchid? There are many choices, depending upon your growing conditions and interests.
A great choice is a Phalaenopsis, especially the white with a beautiful red center. Our sweepstakes sponsor, 1-800 Orchids has a beautiful one as shown in the link. Phals are the most popular orchid in the world. They will bloom for 6-10 weeks and I have had them in bloom for up to six months at a time. They require very little light and are especially easy to keep.
Slc. Wendy's Valentine is another obvious choice. This little miniature Cattleya is breathtaking with bright red petals and sepals and a lovely yellow throat. The red is so pure and bright that it is impossible to miss it. In addition, the petals have a crystalline structure which makes the flowers seem to glow.
Miniature for the Cattleyas Alliance is defined as less than 6 inches or 15 cm high. A great deal of work has gone into the breeding and hybridizing for miniature size recently because these plants are ideal for growing under lights or by a window inside. Some have smaller flowers and others are bred for large flowers on a small plant. The colors tend to be extremely bright due to their parentage -- lovely reds, purples, yellows and multicolors. When you see these tiny plants you will be amazed at the bright colors and lovely shape of the cute little flowers. Everyone should have a couple in their collection, just for the joy of enjoying the tiny flowers!
You can enjoy more plants with the miniatures since many of them will grow and flower in a 2 to 2 ˝ inch pot. Since these plants are small in size, they also tend to take less time to grow to flowering size and this, too, is an advantage. They do need quite a bit of light, so be sure to place them in a window that does receive some sun, preferably morning sun, each day.
Virtually all of the miniature Cattleyas are bred from Sophronitis parentage such as Sophronitis coccinea and are mostly cooler growing plants. They are not fond of daytime temperatures over 85o F or 29o C. Most of these tiny plants will flower on every new inflorescence throughout the year. Besides their small size, the flowers are beautifully formed and resemble their larger Cattleya cousins.
For a larger plant with beautiful red flowers, choose one of the Miltonias or Miltoniopsis, or Pansy Orchids. These plants will bloom for 6-10 weeks and provide a wonderful display. They originate in the Andes of Central America, most from Columbia, and therefore also appreciate cooler temperatures like the miniature Cattleyas. They must always be kept moist and prosper with high humidity.