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Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to Make an Orchid Terrarium

Photo by Lauren Linn
Miniature Orchid Display at the 2009 Santa Barbara Orchid Show

I get quite a few questions and comments about creating and maintaining orchids within a terrarium.  I must admit my personal efforts in this arena have been dismal, but I have a collected a couple resources that may share more expert knowledge than I can provide:

What: If you have a finicky orchid in your care you can search the vast and details postings of the OrchidBoard Discussion forum for a post to address your woes.
Who: OrchidBoard is home to some of the most detailed discussions on the care of specific orchid varieties.  However, membership to the forum is easy to obtain so you don't exactly know who is giving you advice.  
How: Note that I mentioned "search the forum."  As an unregistered guest you can search the discussion forums, but they are not 100% user friendly.  Expect to be asked to enter a captcha phrase to reveal your search results.
Bonus: OrchidBoard issues a gorgeous fundraiser wall calendar every year.

What: Cloud's Orchids is primarily an orchid retail site.  However, buried in their website is a comprehensive how-to guide on orchid terrariums which provides an excellent overview on the factors you'll need to consider when keeping an orchid terrarium.
Who: I presume the anonymous author of the article is Claudio, owner of Cloud's Orchids Nursery and a former American Orchid Society competition judge. 
How: Here's a pro tip that makes sense: 
"I would avoid using soil, sand or gravel as a substrate for your tank. It is difficult to do any maintenance once these materials are in place, and they can easily sour the environment. I would sooner use a layer of egg-shell crate to serve as the base to build on. This will provide air below the pots, and keep the plants above any water that accumulates on the bottom. Then if you ever need to do some house-cleaning, it is easily removed and the tank can be scrubbed before setting it up again."
Bonus: Claudio also provides a list of orchid genus recommended for terrarium environments.
"Miniature candidates are masdevallia, pleurothallis, promenaea, dracula, ornithocephalus, aerangis, angraecum, bulbophyllum, barbosella, leptotes, sophronitis, dendrobium, psygmorchis, etcetera, along with anything identified as a "twig epiphyte" in books.
You will also find compact candidates from the genera mentioned above, along with paph species, cochleanthes, phal species, jewel orchids, etcetera. Unless the mature size is clear in a description, it is always best to ask your plant source whether or not the plant is suitable for a small/medium/large terrarium."
Sound off: Have you ever kept an orchid terrarium?


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