Growing orchids easy with a few adjustments

KENNEWICK -- The other day while shopping at a local garden store, I saw a beautiful blooming orchid plant in someone's cart.

I surmised that it was going to be a gift for some lucky person or someone might have been treating themselves. It was definitely a more creative and exotic choice than a traditional potted plant or bouquet of flowers.

Did you know one of the newest gardening trends is growing exotic indoor plants, like orchids, ferns and succulents?

Did you also know that you can grow orchids at home even if you aren't an expert at growing indoor plants and profess not to have a green thumb?

You don't need a green thumb to grow orchids, but you do need enough light.

Orchids can survive without lots of light, but to flower they need a good amount of light. A place where they can get sufficient natural light in an east, west, or south facing window will work.

If you lack this type of situation, you still can grow orchids using fluorescent lighting.

The orchid that I saw going home was a pretty big one, but smaller homes and size limitations for many home growers have led orchid breeders to produce miniature orchids. The miniatures vary in size from less that three inches to more than 12 inches in height. These more diminutive plants allow home gardeners to easily find spots for them on windowsills or small plant stands.

Orchids also do best with higher humidity than you'll find in our local homes. However, you don't need to buy a humidifier or a greenhouse to make them happy. You simply group the plants and place them on trays filled with moist gravel, raising the humidity in the immediate area of the orchids. It's simple.

While easy to grow, orchids do have some different growing requirements than the typical indoor plant.

Luckily, we have the South Central Washington Orchid Society, a local group of orchid enthusiasts who like to share their excitement about orchids and help us learn to grow them.

In fact, today and Sunday the South Central Washington Orchid Society is holding their annual Orchid Show and Sale at The Manor at Canyon Lakes (2802 W. 35th Ave. in Kennewick).

You can stop in and ask the hosting members about growing orchids, plus there will be information sheets available on growing orchids. Admission is $3.

They're also holding two classes today, Orchids 101 at 1 p.m. and Everything You Wanted to Know (About Orchids) but Were Afraid to Ask at 2:30 p.m. Even if you can't make the classes, you can stop by, ask questions and pick up the information sheets. There also will be hundreds of miniature orchid plants available for purchase.

This show and sale gives you a great opportunity to explore the wonderful world of orchids and find miniatures that are right for your space and growing conditions. I'm so excited about the show. I'm planning on stopping by and buying one or two miniature orchids to try.

I have some perfect window sills with good light that should make it easy.

I know the members will help me find the orchids that fit my growing conditions to assure my success.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.