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New UF DVD dispels myth that orchids are difficult to grow

By:
Chuck Woods (352) 392-0400

Source(s):
Bob Black rblack78@bellsouth.net, 352-335-7152
Tom Sheehan tsheehan@ufl.edu, 352-376-9673

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growing orchids just got easier, thanks to a new University of Florida DVD that provides a complete guide to producing “the world’s most beautiful flowers.”

The “Growing Orchids: Easier Than You Think” DVD, featuring two orchid experts at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, includes interviews and hands-on demonstrations. The disk also has information on selecting appropriate containers, plant media, fertilizers, watering requirements and other tips. Total run time of the DVD is 54 minutes, with a 21-minute segment on easy-to-grow varieties and a 33-minute guide for growers.

“Once just a hobby for those with the time, money and patience to care for exotic plants, orchids are now the fastest growing segment of the nation’s $13 billion floriculture industry, and Florida’s warm, humid climate is ideal for these flowering plants,” said Tom Sheehan, a professor emeritus in UF’s environmental horticulture department and one of the nation’s leading orchid experts.

He said the DVD, which dispels the myth that orchids are difficult to grow, was recorded at the American Orchid Society Visitors Center and Botanical Garden in Delray Beach, Fla.

When a few basic cultural requirements are met, growing orchids in the home environment can be a rewarding experience, Sheehan said. The species and hybrids of six orchid genera are the most popular because they’re easy to grow and produce beautiful flowers: Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, Vanda, Cattleya, Oncidium and Epidendrum.

When it comes to habitat, orchids can be terrestrial, epiphytic (those that grow on other plants) or lithophytic (those that grow on rocks). The habitat dictates the type of growing medium to be used, Sheehan said.

Over the past few decades, the popularity of orchids has increased dramatically, thanks to new and improved cultivation and propagation techniques that allow commercial growers to produce large numbers of plants at affordable prices for the consumer, he said.

No longer a luxury item, orchid prices are comparable to other potted flowering plants, Sheehan said. With more than 25,000 identified species and 120,000 registered hybrids, they are the largest group of flowering plants.

While orchids are common in the tropics, they also grow wild under different conditions on every continent except Antarctica. In the United States, orchids are native to every state – including Alaska where “arctic orchids” have been identified.

“Often described as the most beautiful flowers in the world, orchids have a distinct and undeniable mystique,” he said. “Beauty alone cannot explain our fascination with these flowers. When it comes to variety, complexity and elegance, orchid plants are unlike any other.”

Sheehan, who appears on the DVD with Bob Black, another professor emeritus in the UF environmental horticulture department, said orchids – next to poinsettias – are now the leading potted flowering plant produced in Florida, generating more than $23 million in annual farm sales.

UF orchid research dates back to 1957 when Sheehan began studying proper fertilization methods for using bark as an orchid growing medium. He also began using tissue culture to multiply clonal varieties and tested foliar application of fertilizer on orchids. He remains active in national and international organizations and orchid societies.

“Orchid mania” has spawned hundreds of orchid societies across the nation, Sheehan said. In South Florida alone, more than 20 societies meet every month. The American Orchid Society has nearly 20,000 members worldwide. And there are orchid shows throughout the year, including the world famous Miami International Orchid Show sponsored by the South Florida Orchid Society.

The DVD costs $25 (plus tax, shipping and handling) and is available through the IFAS Extension Bookstore at http://ifasbooks.com. Call 352-392-1764 or 800-226-1764.

Sheehan and Black are also the authors of a new book, “Orchids to Know and Grow,” that will be released later this year by the University of Florida Press.

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