How to Graft a Phalaenopsis Orchid to a Tree
Matching the Natural Climate. Where Orchids Thrive.
Grafting is a horticultural process where the tissue from one plant is inserted into the tissues of another to form a symbiotic union. In the case of attaching an orchid like the Phalaenopsis Orchid, also called Moth Orchids because they resemble a moth in flight, to a tree, the grafting is more of a binding process so that the orchid can establish its root system and live in conjunction with the tree. It is common to see this process in the gardens of a tropical climate. If you live in Southern California or Florida, this addition to your landscaping is ideal.
In the case of a Phalaenopsis Orchid, the flower is not parasitic. The orchid does not consume the tree to survive. Instead, the Phalaenopsis Orchid uses tree bark, like that on a palm, to lodge its roots and collect matter necessary to thrive. The root system survives on decaying leaves and insects. Orchids take in water through mist or rain trickling down the tree. Some orchids do not like direct sunlight. Direct sun can burn and even kill your prized orchids. Light should be filtered and indirect. This is why orchids grow well attached to trees because the tree offers shade to protect the plant. There are species of orchids that thrive in direct sunlight. The Schomburgika Tibicinus or the Flute's Player Orchid is one of those species that can handle bright sunlight. It is important to research the species intended for your landscape.
Orchids do great in a climate that matches their natural environment, so a subtropical climate like Southern Florida and the Florida Keys is perfect. You will want to match the climate they prefer in your garden before undertaking the project of attaching an orchid to a tree.
How to Graft or Bind an Orchid to a Tree in Your Garden
First you need to inspect the root system of the orchid you want to bind to the tree. Remove any dead roots and loosen the root system so air circulates freely. Wrap the roots loosely in sphagnum moss. Spritz the root bundle with a mixture of water and orchid fertilizer.
Choose the tree that you will graft your orchid to. You want to choose the side of the tree that faces south. By placing your Phalaenopsis Orchid in a south facing direction you protect the plant from cooler north winds. Trees like the oak, palm, mango trees and avocado trees are good choices since their bark is rough and will support the flowers well.
Using a sharp and clean knife, make a slice in the bark of the tree. You are creating an opening for the orchid to support itself. Think of this cut in the bark as a pocket to nest your Phalaenopsis Orchid. Remove the top half of the sliced bark while keeping the bottom half of the bark attached to the tree. Place the orchid into the pocket of the bark that you have created and tie it securely to the tree with nylon or natural string. The string supports the orchid until it can establish a secure footing in the tree. Check the tightness of the string periodically. You may need to loosen the string to allow for better root growth. Once the orchid has rooted itself firmly, remove the string. You can place the orchids on tree trunks, the fork of a branch and trunk, or in the branches of the trees.
Experiment with the orchids in your tree gardens. What works best in one area may not take as well in another. Springtime is the best time to graft orchids to your trees. This way the plant has the whole summer to establish itself. Mist and fertilize your orchid plantings on a regular basis to keep them healthy.
Whether or not your decide to graft an orchid to a tree, remember that orchids can be grown quite easily indoors as well. For avid gardeners in cold weather climates, the orchid is a perfect flower to grow inside. They require very little attention and are gorgeous additions to the home. Orchids make great gifts. They are great for birthday gifts, housewarming presents and for Mother's Day.