Wardian Cases and Orchidariums

Orchids are sometimes grown in an enclosed container, variously called a Wardian case, orchidarium, or terrarium. They are especially helpful if you live in a dry climate and have trouble providing enough humidity, or are growing plants that like a lot of humidity, such as pleurothallids. Learn how to build an orchidarium and use it to keep your orchids healthy.

I really like this person's orchidarium setup.

The basic idea is to get an aquarium or terrarium from a local pet shop (found in the fish and reptile sections, respectively.) Put a few inches of water in the bottom, and immerse a fogger in it. (Foggers create an ultrasound vibration that produces mist.) Place your orchids on a mesh shelf above the water. (I use eggcrate, which can be found in the lighting section at a home improvement store; it's the square mesh you see over fluorescent lights.)

You may want to add supplemental lighting; see growing orchids under lights for details.

You'll want a lot of air movement inside; computer fans work well for this. It's also good to have a fair amount of air exchange at the top of the orchidarium, as this lets the plants obtain plenty of carbon dioxide by day and plenty of oxygen by night.

Adjusting the timer on the fogger, to change the humidity, can also affect the temperature. Adding more fans can speed evaporation and keep it cooler. If you want to adjust the temperature more, you can add an aquarium heater or chiller to the water. (Chillers are somewhat expensive, sadly, and most are designed for aquariums with a LOT more water than we're dealing with here.)

If you adjust the fogger's timer appropriately, with a misty period in the morning for a half hour or so, you can have it "water" your plants for you, which is nice when traveling. But doing this increases the risk of mold and other orchid diseases, so don't do it all the time, just experiment enough that you know how to set it when you're traveling.

An orchidarium can also be used as a habitat for herps (reptiles and amphibians) such as poison dart frogs or anoles. Choose animals that like a similar climate to your orchids, and set up the environment (now called a "vivarium") in a naturalistic way to provide a comfortable setting for your pets. Also learn about the creatures you intend to keep and what their needs are!

Show Me YOUR Orchid Growing Area!

Show off where you grow your orchids, with pictures and descriptions! Whether it's a window, a greenhouse, an area outdoors, an orchidarium, or a special climate-controlled room in the basement, I'd like to know how you've set up your space for growing orchids. What were some of your main considerations in setting it up? Other readers will appreciate your story! (And many orchid growers enjoy boasting about their setups.)

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