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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does the name tag mean?
A: The name tag gives you a lot of information about the Orchid in the biological world and also what you need to know to properly care for your plant.

1. Gram. scriptum and 2. Lc Aloha Case x Hunting Island

1. Gram. is an abbreviation for Grammophyllum, a family of Orchids from New Guinea, which contains the world's largest Orchid. Gramm speciosum (2000 pounds and 9 foot flower sprays), scriptum is the species name. We are informed that it is a species because of the lower case 's' in the name. Hybrids use a capitol letter.

2. Lc is the family abbreviation but here it indicates a hybrid of two families 'L' Laliea and 'C' Cattleya. The 'x' in the middle of the second name indicates that it is a 'x' cross of Aloha Case and Hunting Island. Since these both start with a capitol letter, it indicates that both parents are hybrids, and their parents may also have been hybrids. For the hobbyist you need to know the family, since most orchids in a family need about the same care. Hybrids are chosen for color, health, frequent blooming and ease to grow among others. Hybrids are usually more interesting for a beginning hobbyist.

Q: Why is my Orchid not flowering?
A: Almost always the lack of flowering is a result of improper light levels. For example Cattleya need 3500 foot candles of light to flower.  Vanda need more about 8000.  Phalaenopsis (1600) and Paphiopedilum (900-1000) need little light and more suited for indoors.  Orchids will grow well in lower light levels but need a certain minimum to flower. -- July noon sun without shade is about 10-11,000 foot candles. 

Q: What is s/h?
A:  s/h is short for semi-hydroponic.  It is the used of expanded clay products for a growing medium with a saucer of water under it.  The hydroponic rock wicks up water as needed to keep the roots in an even state of moisture.

Q: What are 'pseudobulbs'?
A: Pseudobulbs are the thick fleshy part of the plant below the leaf and above the pot surface.

Q: What is a 'keiki'.
A: Keiki is Hawaiian for baby or child.  It is a baby plant.  Many orchids will produce a keiki on the flower stem (Phalaenopsis) or on the growing cane (Dendrobiums) which can be removed to start a new plant.

Q: What do I do when the flower dies?
A: All flowers have a limited life span.  It's purpose in life is to attach an insect to fertilize it and reproduce.   When a flower is fertilized it will close up and die to form a protective shell around the seeds.  With most orchids you can cut the flower stem as close to the plant as you can get.  Phalaenopsis are the one exception.  On Phalaenopsis it is possible for the stem to branch and get a few extra flowers.  They are not as large or numerous as the original.  Many growers cut the stems to allow the plant to put its energy into new growth.  The choice is yours.

Q:  What is the difference between seed crosses and mericlones?
A:  Seed crossings are a natural mixing of pollen and seed.  It can be from the same plant (called selfing) or two different plants (hybrids).  A natural immunity makes seed grown orchids virus free even if the parents are infected.  Mericlones are produced by taking a piece of growing tissue and 'cloning' it in a lab.  These are true clones, an exact copy of the parent with all its good and bad features.  Seed crossing are an attempt to improve characteristics of the Orchid, whereas clones keep the plant true to the parent.  Seed crosses can vary greatly in color even from the same seed pod.  For more examples Go to  Seed Variations Tutorial.

Q:  Can I grow orchids from seeds?
A: Yes but it is difficult. Seeds need to be grown for the first year or two in sterile conditions. This requires special equipment. It is possible to improvise but not for beginners and not as a means of increasing the size of your orchid collection. If you feel the need for the challenge, then it is possible. There are companies that will take your seeds and produce the sterile flask of seeds for a reasonable fee.

If you live in warm climates like Florida you can try this trick.  Take the seeds when the pod is about to open and sprinkle the seeds on the top of a palm like a pygmy date or cabbage palm.  Those nooks and crannies sometimes have the fungal spores necessary to feed the seeds and will produce orchid plants.  You have nothing to lose and it will be fun if you succeed.

Q:  Then how can I make more plants?
A: The easiest method for a hobbyist to increase the number of their plants is to divide a plant when it gets too big. You simply cut the plant into smaller pieces, retaining at least three pseudobulbs on each division. Paint the cut with an anti-fungicide (household cinnamon works fine) and re-pot separately.

Q:  Why have so many names been changed?
A:  Scientist are constantly refining their knowledge of plants especially with the use of DNA.  As the evidence shows that plants have characteristics that show them to be more properly aligned with a different family they are move (renamed). 

One of the most popular orchids for hybridization was L. purpurata.  It was reclassified a couple of years ago to Sophronitis.   Now it has been reclassified again to Cattleya.  Since there are hundreds of hybrids with purpurata in their family tree, everyone has to be reclassified many times requiring a new name for the hybrid family.