Dendrobium orchid

Dendrobium orchid
Dendrobium orchid from my collection

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing orchids outdoors in the summer

Living in a temperate climate, it can be challenging to grow many kinds of orchids, as the showy ones that we like to keep as houseplants often have tropical origins. However, with a little ingenuity, it is quite possible to grow a wide variety of orchids even in cooler climes. One thing you want to do is to take advantage of the late spring and summer when you can put your orchids outdoors to benefit from the natural lighting and relative warmth of the season. I have found that this can make a big difference to the overall health and blooming potential of my orchids. And while it possible to go all out and spend a lot of money on climate controlled greenhouses and special grow lights for orchids, there's a lot you can do even without spending much. Consider my simple home-made planter shelves that I put together to put my orchids out in the backyard during the summer:

My home-made plant shelves for orchids
All it took was six milk crates (two in the front, four in the back) with the ones in the back stacked two deep to form a step. Then I straddled the space in between the two sets of wooden crates with 2 x 4 wooden planks (two per step) that I bought at Home Depot, and I was all set! The milk crates cost nothing, and the 2 x 4s cost less than $3 apiece for an 8 foot beam, which I had sawed in half so I could use the two halves side by side on each step. This was way cheaper than the stepped plant shelves on sale for over a hundred dollars in some cases!

Here are more view of my orchid plant shelves, from the top and front:

Home made orchid plant shelves
Another view - my home made orchid plant shelves
Lastly, I wanted to make sure the orchids were getting enough natural light without getting burned (most commonly grown orchids like bright light, but not direct sunlight, especially in the hotter parts of the day). So I bought some shade cloth from a local garden and draped it over my planter benches. The shade cloth's shade rating is 50%, which seems about right based on what I have read in various web forums regarding requirements for shade cloth for orchids (they mention in the 50 to 65% shade range as I recall). I have my planter shelves facing southward to catch the morning sun.

Using a shade cloth for orchids

 And there I have my orchid greenhouse on the cheap!


  1. Beautiful pictures and information. I had a heap of orchids and went away for 4 months and forgot to take the saucers out from underneath.
    My house sitter did a great job watering my garden but the orchids rotted because they had too much water. My fault, but was so disappointed I have only got 2 left now.
    My New blog

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