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Inside This Issue 1 Coming Together in a Crisis 2 Bird-Watching for Beginners What Is Gardening Good For? 3 3 Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day in Atlanta Sticky and Sweet Pork ‘Ribs’ 4 How to Help Your Epiphytes Thrive
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All About Epiphytes How to Care for Your Orchids, Air Plants, and Ferns
Perched high in the trees in the rainforest, epiphytes reach for the drops of water that splash down from above. The plants take what they need and let the rest drip down to the forest floor. While these organisms originated in the wild, epiphytes like orchids, air plants, and staghorn ferns have become popular houseplants because of the unique, delicate greenery they bring to your space. Epiphytes are part of the Bromeliaceae family, a group that also includes terrestrial species like pineapples. The leaves of the plants in this family are arranged in a rosette, or circular shape, and they have tiny scales that help the plant absorb moisture and protect itself from harsh sunlight. Unlike many plants, epiphytes don’t take in all the water they need from their roots. They also absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. Their roots don’t grow in the dirt, either. Instead, they help these plants cling to the trees or other plants they naturally grow on. If you've ever seen a tree with another plant growing off of it at a botanical garden in a warmer, humid environment like Florida, that tag-along plant is an epiphyte.
Because they are unique, your epiphyte houseplant needs specific care to thrive. Submerge the leaves of smaller air plants in a shallow bowl of water once a week for an hour (times may vary depending on your area’s humidity). Then, remove the plant from the water and let it dry upside down to remove excess moisture. If you choose to house your orchid or staghorn fern in a pot, use a soil specifically made for them and add some sphagnum moss to keep the roots aerated. Mist your plant every couple days and provide the leaves with a more thorough watering once a week to achieve the level of moisture they would receive in the rainforest while allowing the roots to breathe. You can also mount your epiphyte on a wood panel, as some orchid collectors do. True enthusiasts are very careful to match the wood with the type of tree the plant would grow on in the natural world, but driftwood, cork, and large pieces of bark work well too.
Caring for your epiphyte properly will help your plant thrive and allow you to enjoy the tropical beauty of these unique organisms.
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