Orchids in the Mojave | Nevada Public Radio

I was talking with some people the other day who were complaining about trying to grow plants here in the Mojave Desert. After the first comments – “You mean you can actually grow anything here? It’s so dry and hot, and the soil is so poor, how is this possible? »

Quite often, I feel like I’m repeating the same old message — “You can grow anything here, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.” In fact, it is not necessarily a huge a lot of effort, but it takes the challenge.

I converted part of the audience to my point of view, but then questions arose, mainly concerning plants that seem unlikely to survive here in our part of the world. One of the first questions was “What about orchids?” I smiled, because orchids seem to be among the most delicate flowers. Surprise! They are not.

It may be hard to believe, but orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, with 28,000 species.

In fact, there are orchids growing wild here in Nevada. There are more native orchids in Nevada than there are in Hawaii! Our state has 14 native orchids, including the three that grow in the Las Vegas environment. Hawaii only has three in total.


Who doesn’t love orchids? They are adorable and different. So how can we grow these plants successfully? As I said before, there are some you can find growing in the ground outside, but these are not the ones we usually grow at home.

Due to our unique and harsh environment, it’s probably best to grow them indoors, especially when you’re just starting out. And as houseplants, they are great!

Most of our indoor orchids evolved in the tropics – Central and South America, although some originated in tropical Asia. Although they come from very different regions of our corner of paradise, you do not need to invest in a greenhouse to have success with them.

Think of a tropical rainforest, where many of them evolved. Warm temperatures, around 80°F. Lots of humidity in the air, but not flooding around plant roots.

You need to provide high humidity. However, high humidity does not mean wet soil. In nature, many houseplant orchids are epiphytes – they grow on other plants, but they are not pests. They get their moisture and nutrition from the air, and they simply cling to a neighbor for support.

A rainforest, like any other forest, is usually not intensely bright. It has what we call filtered sunlight or dappled light.

And the fertilizer? They are plants, so they need nutrients. You can buy commercial orchid fertilizer. Most of them have higher levels of nitrogen, then almost equal amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Online, there are dozens of homemade fertilizer recipes. I haven’t tried any, so I won’t give any advice.

Another thing to remember is that these plants have different flowering times. Some only produce one flower stalk per year, while others may bloom every few months. It’s a good idea to know the flowering schedule to avoid disappointment.

What I personally found was that my dendrobium orchid loved life on the north facing windowsill of my kitchen. Sitting just above the kitchen sink, basking in the diffused light, enjoying the moist air and evenly moist floor. It lived for over ten years, flowering every year, with infrequent fertilization!

The Greater Las Vegas Orchid Society is a great source of knowledge. There is also a website called thespruce.com with a list of twenty types of orchids for houseplants. Pretty pictures, so if you see something you like, you can click the link and get some handy info.

So, I’m growing orchids as my new favorite houseplant. Definitely worth a try.

For KNPR’s Desert Bloom, it’s Nevada social horticulture specialist Dr Angela O’Callaghan.

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