By Sue Hynes & Suzy Massey
Orchids benefit from humidity. The optimum range is 40% – 70%, not an easy thing to achieve in Maine during the winter.
Most of my orchids are mounted and hang from windows, so I have humidifers set near the windows with the mist pointed toward the plants. I figure it’s a win-win; the people in the house need humidity as much as the orchids do. The humidity level in our living room stays around 40%, while in my office, a much smaller space, the humidity is closer to 50%. We would use humidifiers even I didn’t have any plants.
After years of buying replacement filters for our old humidifiers, I replaced them with a kind that doesn’t need a monthly filter replacement, which has worked well. They were more expensive initially, but I am saving money over the long run by not having to buy replacement filters.
Humidity trays are easy to work with and much more effective than misting. The humidity trays provide consistent, high humidity whereas misting only increases the humidity level for about 1/2 hour.
You can purchase humidity trays with grids, specifically designed for orchids. The grid’s help prevent orchid pots from sitting in water, which is deadly to most orchids. Kelly’s Korner orchid supplies, an online store from New Hampshire, is a good place to find these trays. However, they cost about $15 each.
I use humidity trays with fish tank gravel in the bottom. Shown in the picture is the Perma-Nest 1020 tray, which I purchased from the on-line Greenhouse Megastore. These trays are built from heavy duty polystyrene plastic, so they do not bend and crack. Use at least a half inch of gravel in the bottom of each tray to provide humidity. I purchase 10 pound bags of fish tank gravel at Walmart. These trays cost about $9 each.
For a less expensive solution, costing about $2 each plus gravel, you can use the thin, black trays, WITHOUT holes in the bottom, which you can purchase from most local greenhouses. Put about half an inch of gravel in the bottom of each tray. Beware, however, you cannot move these trays easily. They tend to bend and crack, and then they will leak. However, if you’re on a budget, these trays can be a great solution as long as you handle them carefully.
At least once a year, clean your trays and rinse the gravel. This will help prevent disease and pests.
Suzy Massey has been a member of the Maine Orchid Society since 2006. Sue Hynes has been a member since 2014.
If you have questions about growing orchids, you are always welcome to attend a meeting and take advantage of our members’ knowledge and experience.