An orchid is to your conservatory what your conservatory is to your home. The crowning jewel. Everyone admires the exquisite jewel-like beauty of color and form manifest in hundreds of orchid species, but many of you are reluctant to grow them because you’ve heard that it is difficult to do so. Fear not.
Successful orchid cultivation is simply a matter of understanding which species are best suited to the environment you are able to offer them. We have a friend who claims they thrive on neglect. He has no dedicated heat source in his conservatory, and more than one hundred orchids rely on whatever heat transfers from the open interior wall window and door. At times, on a cold Pennsylvania night the temperature inside dips to the 40’s, yet he’s presented with a seemingly endless array of blooms. He waters at regular intervals and feeds occasionally. Nature does the rest. Though we don’t necessarily advise you to try this method, it seems that the orchids receive the light and warmth they need from this south-facing room during the day and the very cool nighttime temperatures mimic the contrast that orchids enjoy in some of their native high mountain habitats.
Having a conservatory gives you a leading edge in providing the two most important criteria for growing orchids. Light and Temperature. Few plants other than cacti thrive in direct sunlight, but orchids do vary in their light intensity requirements. Brassavola, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Laelia. Oncidium, Phragmipedium, and Vandas name a few that can be successfully grown by the beginner in medium to high lighting, with temperatures spanning 55 at the low end to an ideal high of 70–conditions typically available in the conservatory.
Humidity and air circulation are also factors to be considered, but are most critical only in the immediate area in which the plants are displayed. Often the necessary humidity levels can be created by the use of one of several styles of water trays. Be careful to make sure that the pot is not sitting directly in the water. Orchids dislike having wet, soggy “feet”.
Contrary to what you may have assumed, you do not need to turn your conservatory into a sauna. Orchids grow best in 40-70% humidity—a huge range that is usually achievable, but in part will depend on the climate in which you live, and the conservatory heating and cooling (HVAC) system designed for your comfort as well as that of the orchids.