How to Cultivate Cool-Growing Miniature Orchids in the Hot Zone 🌡🥀

Tomas Bajza at Queensland Orchid International (2)

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The Impossible

Over the years, many orchid growers encountered at least one (or many) orchids that they fall in love with, but then they read that it is impossible to grow in their growing zone. It is always very disappointing and discouraging that we can’t grow something that we admire so much!

It is of course much easier to grow warm-growing species in the cold zones, as far as we can create some humid conditions and use heating so that they will grow and most likely bloom too. However, to grow cold-growing species in the hot zones is much more challenging, and the mind of many growers has already “engraved” this to be something impossible to achieve.

The Know-How

Surely, there are many sophisticated ways in which one can succeed. For example, you can create a cold-growing vivarium with some heftier amount of money and hours of work. Many growers succeeded in transforming the wine chillers. As cool as it is to create cold-growing vivarium from the wine chiller, it requires extensive research, knowledge, and fair amount of working hours. To make this work, you will have to rewire the interior, install fans and appropriate lightings, and create the bottom container for all dripping water and so on. You will need to make sure that everything is water-resistant, and there won’t be any electrical issues in the future when everything runs on a daily basis.

But what if you just do not feel like going through this headache? Should you give up on your cold-growing orchid dream?!

To all of you who have enough courage and do not like to “listen” to what is said or written, I say, “DO NOT GIVE UP!!!”

How I Do It

I live in Miami, and have a huge crush on hundreds of cold-growing species, especially miniature ones. My love for Lepanthes, Masdevallia, Dracula, Telipogon and cold-growing PNG Dendrobiums leads to years of trying, during which I have many failures, but also many successes with those orchids. Most importantly, it is all done without any complicated setups! AND YES, IT IS POSSIBLE!

But let’s start from the beginning. I live in Southern Florida, so this research and tips are generally based on my experience and my growing zone. I would like to suggest that anyone inspired by this to compare the weather in their zone to the average weather in Miami.

The Temperatures

At the very beginning, we must talk about temperatures. Orchids are usually separated into three main growing temperature groups: Cold-growing, Intermediate-growing and Warm-growing. There are a few extra specifications, like cool to cold, or warm to hot, but we can stick to the main three. Generally, cold-growing temperature ranges are between 60F-70F (16C-21C) during the day and 50F-55F (10C-13C) nights. Intermediate-growing temperature ranges are between 70F-80F (16C-27C) during the day and 55F-65F (16C-19C) nights. Warm-growing temperature ranges are between 80F-90F (27C- 33C) during the day & 65F-75F (19C-23C) nights.

Yes, our climate is extremely hot during the late spring, summer and early fall in Florida. Beyond the warm-growing zone, in the hot-growing zone, our daytime temperature exceeds 90F (33C) and occasionally even over 100F (38C), and our night temperature stays between 75F-85F (23C-30C), but during the rest of the year, we do experience a drop into the intermediate temperature range, and even a dip into the cold-growing temperature range in mid-winter. And this is what many growers do not realize!

Judging by this, many cold-growing orchid species can take daytime temperatures in the 70s F, tolerating up to 78F (25C). The issue of concern is the needed night-time temperature drop, which is an important requirement for most of the orchids to thrive and most importantly, to spike and bud.

What You Can Grow in the Hot Zone

I grow and bloom in Miami cold-growing species like Dendrobium vexillarius, Dendrobium cuthbertsonii, Dendrobium subacaule, Dendrobium garrettii, Dendrobium hellwigianum, Mediocalcar decoratum, Lepanhes martineae, Lepanthes niesseniae, and even Dracula niesseniae or Constantia microscopica, to name a few! So, how do I do it?

The most important point is to learn and understand the temperature and cultural requirements. Yes, during the hottest months, I do have to keep most of these orchid species inside the apartment in the air-conditioned living room, where temperatures are steady at 76F (24C) during daytime, and 69F (20C) at night. However, once the outdoor daytime temperature falls down to the mid-70s F in autumn, all of my cold-growing species go “camping” outside, and stay there till spring. This way, they experience intermediate temperatures during autumn and cold-growing temperatures during winter. In the majority cases, these five cooler months are enough for my cold-growing orchids to initiate spiking and budding. Many of them bloom during the time they are outdoor, even during summer when they are moved inside the apartment, all owing to the fact that they have had a chance to experience mild daytime temperature and big night temperature drop in the outdoor environment.

Some of the species, even those that are claimed to be “cold-growing”, can actually stay outside year round in our extremely hot weather during summer, like Constantia microscopica, Mediocalcar decoratum or Dendrobium garretii and Dendrobium gregulus.

The Light Levels

There is a very important aspect that we must consider when growing these orchid species outside year round — “TEMPERATURE VERSUS LIGHT RATIO”! There is also a very easy explanation — the hotter it is, the shadier we must grow them. In the winter we do the opposite — the colder it is, the sunnier we grow them.

This basically means that during the summer heats, we shall move all cold-loving species into shade, and they will require high humidity and excellent air movement. This will allow them to survive even the hot temperatures that we experience in summer. You can use extra fans and misters to achieve the cooling effect in the summer heat.

During winter, when temperatures are low and the sun is weak, we move them to bright light and keep them drier. The combination of lower day temperatures, drier period, less fertilizer, extra light levels and large night temperature drops make them all happy and spiking!

The Power of the Knowledge and Dedication

It took me several years to master this yearly cycle and realize what I can and can’t grow using such method. And I am very happy to say that I can grow nearly any orchid, as long as I make sure that I do not expose the orchid to temperatures that are too high or too low.

Of course, this is not for everyone, as many growers do not have patience or space to shift orchids from the outside to the inside. In that case, I suggest reading blogs online and finding out whether someone grows your chosen orchid species in the hot zone year round.

For example, I was told that I can’t grow Mediocalcar decoratum or Constantia microscopica in Florida, but only after trying, I found out that what I was told is not true, and that both of these orchids (as with many other cold-growing orchid species) can grow fantastically well outside all year round without the need to move them inside during summer.

It is all about research, willingness to try, and in some cases, even failure! But it is the success and reward in the form of spikes and buds that will make this extra labour so much sweeter!

Wishing you all the best of luck! Let’s hope that this article will ENCOURAGE YOU TO TRY!

Yes, it is possible to grow cold growing PNG Dendrobiums in hot Miami – here are a few of the new buds starting in our hot summer – first pic Dendrobium subacaule with 2 new buds, second picture Dendrobium Flower Baby ‘White Tips (Victoria reginae x cuthbertsonii cross) first bud in my care, last two pics Dendrobium cuthbertsonii red with two buds (third blooming in past 12 months).

One of my favorite! Took just a few months break from spiking. This micro baby can bloom nonstop for some 10 months! Cold growing species that does grows perfectly in Miami inside & in the glass orb together with Lepanthes telipogoniflora 😉

One of the easy growing Masdies, blooms year round in the small glass orb. Mosses are thriving on the hygrolon mount too.

10 thoughts on “How to Cultivate Cool-Growing Miniature Orchids in the Hot Zone 🌡🥀

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  7. Hello, I am so glad I came across this article. I am also in a hot zone and trying to grow a drcula gigis in an indoor terrarium. The hardest part I’m having is temperature control. What do you recommend including in your set up to keep the humidity up and temperature down

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Brit. Humidity in Florida is easy, when my cold growers are inside for hot summer months, I do keep them in the living room sitting in various vases with live sphagnum moss, that provides sufficient humidity. I am lucky enough to have late fall and winter months with many cold fronts passing so our night temps are much much lower in the winter, and I do throw all my cold growing species outside from late October till some April. As mentioned, even in the winter, our humidity is still high so no issues with that. I do not know what temperature drop you could provide for your plants between day and night in your terrarium?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Brit! On ✿❀ Queensland Orchid International ❀✿, the article entitled “🐒 Monkey Orchids and Chinese New Year of 2016 🏮” is a special treat for those who admire or seek the fragrant orchid named Dracula simia and other closely related Dracula species, including Dracula gigas, to which you referred as Dracula gigis. The complete post has been expanded to include cultural requirements. If there are any information and good sources that I should include, elaborate on or refer to in the article, please kindly let SoundEagle know. Thank you.


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