Dry Conditions


In January, in Ontario, my furnace is running almost constantly and the air in my home is extremely dry. Although I struggle to keep the humidity up using all the normally recommended methods, there are times when it drops below 40 percent. Can you recommend species, entire genera or hybrids that will do well under my conditions (which surely must be shared by many others)? - Gerard Brender


First, if you are managing to keep your humidity in the 40 percent or higher range, you will be able to satisfactorily grow all but real cloud-forest types. Second, a good place to look for such plants is your local AOS Affiliated Society, where you will meet other local growers who have discovered some of the best solutions to similar problems. I am sure that you will understand, though, that it is nearly an impossible task to list all satisfactory orchid plants for windowsill conditions. That would both be limiting and a disservice to plants that may be good, but were, for whatever reason, not on the list A much better solution is to look at your conditions and try to match them with orchids that might naturally grow in such seasonally dry conditions.

There are many quite a few orchids come from areas where rainfall is quite seasonal, and the winter is normally a dry resting time. Look for plants from monsoonal regions or plants that grow in drier climates. For example, I have seen Aerangis verdickii growing in open woodlands in Africa where it might not get any moisture but nightly dew for more than six months. Brassavola nodosa and various Schomburgkia (now Myrmecophila) species grow in dry areas. Plants with seasonal growth, pseudobulbs and hard foliage are better candidates that those without one or more those features. Just a few of the types that would do well for you are Indian dendrobiums, hard-leaved oncidiums, many cattleyas and some of the African angraecoids from drier areas. -Ned Nash