KOCHI: The road to success is paved with thorns... However, many floriculturists, especially those growing orchids, in the city have shown that though there are thorns on the way, the fragrance, in the end, makes up for it. Though many of these floriculturists began growing orchids as a hobby and on a small-scale, today they are owners of successful businesses. According to a floriculturist, orchids command a good demand in the cut flower market and this has prompted many to take up its cultivation. This, in turn, has increased the demand for orchid seedlings and plants. One of the advantages that orchids have over other flowering plants is that they don’t need soil to survive. They can flourish even in air conditioned apartments. The only things that these plants need are charcoal, perlite, sphagnum moss, styrofoam and coconut husk.
These plants give maximum returns with minimal investment. Dendrobium is the most popular orchid in Kerala. It is cheap, can withstand sunlight, has better flowering and budding frequency. Hybrid varieties of dendrobium attract customers with their fragrance and colours. “We grow different varieties of dendrobium, mostly hybrid. These are imported from Thailand. Dendrobium flowers have huge demand and bring in profit. However, in order to receive maximum returns, these plants need to be taken care of properly. Even the watering techniques matter since if done wrong a new plant will die within a couple of days,” said Sunil, owner of St James Nursery.
If the price that a sprig of orchid commands is an indication, it can be safely said that cultivating these plants is very profitable. The price for an orchid ranges from Rs 100 (for common dendrobium) to Rs 1,000 for cattleya walkeriana blue. Phalaenopsis is the second most popular orchid in the city. A warm house plant, it is also the beginner’s orchid. “It is difficult to care for plants indoor. However, phalaenopsis easily grows indoors and this is primarily why it very popular in Kochi.
They can be grown inside one’s apartment and all the carer has to do is make sure the plant is placed at the window facing East. Water it regularly when not flowering. Once the plant flowers, it needs to be watered only every other week,” said a prominent orchid cultivator in the city. Surprisingly, vanda, an orchid that needs to be cared for a lot is popular in the city. The plant which flowers twice a year has a spicy smell. Cattleya, mokara and tolumnia are other popular orchid varieties grown in the city.
Due to an increase in demand for the plants, floriculturists have taken the online route to make their businesses more visible. They deliver plants all over the country for reasonable charges.
Though quite fond of orchids, plant lovers show hesitation to venture into full-scale cultivation due to pre-existing misconceptions. Root rot is what they fear the most. It is primarily caused due to over watering. Knowing the plant and a thorough knowledge of cultivation techniques will produce healthy plants. Hence, the golden rule to be a good cultivator is to know the plant and its needs.
Tip for largescale cultivation
When grown on a large-scale and that too in the open, infrastructure assumes importance. The plants will need protection from pests and direct sunlight. So the cultivators will need to invest in a proper greenhouse where the plants can grow. The watering should be done according to the climate.