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PROJECT Five : Orchid Greenhouse



Creating an Orchid Greenhouse

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Posted October 2nd, 2012 by Lyndsey Roth in November-December 2012

Have you ever tried to grow an orchid? Did that orchid set a bloom? Chances are good that if your first orchid was a success, you have added more to your collection. I have found orchids to be an addicting plant. An orchid grower is one of the most passionate and dedicated of all plant growers. After you see an orchid grow, you simply need more of them. At first all of your orchids come from the local grocery store or home improvement businesses. Then you start reading books and look online at growing orchids. It is at this point that you discover there is a whole other world beyond your local grocery store. There are thousands of orchids on the market and you need to find them.

Within a short time you begin taking time off work to go orchid shopping. Your vacations always entail stops at local orchid growers and botanical gardens. When you look at your windowsills there is no space left. A shower rod is hanging in your window with a screen so you can grow hanging baskets in your kitchen. By this point your significant other has had enough of the madness and tells you it is time for a greenhouse! How wonderful it would be to have a greenhouse entirely devoted to orchids.

What is an Orchid Greenhouse


What makes a greenhouse an orchid greenhouse, rather than a generic greenhouse? Simply, it is the orchids that are grown in it. The framing of an orchid greenhouse is the same as that of a palm house or a propagation greenhouse. The interior environment of the greenhouse will be constructed around the environmental needs of the orchids you grow. If you grow cymbidiums and masdevallias, for example, they need a completely different environment than if you are cultivating vandas and psychopsis species. When you have determined the temperature range to be grown, you can turn the attention to your home.


Location, Location, Location


You will need to decide where this orchid greenhouse will be placed and how large it will be. Before even dreaming about an orchid greenhouse, you need to look for southern exposure because it is the best kind of
light for orchids. If you do not have southern exposure, east or west will also suffice but you will most likely have less light than a southern location. If you only have northern exposure, your orchids will typically have insufficient light, and will need supplemental grow light.

Another early decision is deciding whether the orchid greenhouse will be attached to your home or be free standing. Both options have benefits and draw backs. A free standing greenhouse will typically supply you with more space than an attached structure and it often adds an architectural element to the home’s property. The greenhouse can be the center of a garden or be tucked away behind a hedge as a private retreat for the gardeners. The downside is that utilities will have to be run further and you will have to battle rain, harsh sun and snow to reach the greenhouse.


An attached greenhouse is the more popular choice for residential greenhouses. You simply exit the living room and step into the orchid greenhouse. It is much easier and more cost effective to run utilities because the greenhouse is touching the existing home. The downside is

that you often have a smaller space than a freestanding greenhouse. Depending on the layout of your home the greenhouse may cover light that originally came into the house from a window. With this configuration, you do not have to brave Mother Nature to reach your precious plants.

Make it Ship Shape


The most common shape for a residential orchid greenhouse is a straight eave structure. This means it is attached to the house and where the roof and wall meets it forms a point, not a curve. Older greenhouses from years ago often had a curve, which is still possible, but tends to have a higher cost because the glass has to be bent. A residential greenhouse can also project from the house to a double pitch configuration with a gable end. This adds more space than a lean-to and can often be designed to match the home’s style.


Build a Strong Foundation


After deciding where the orchid greenhouse will be located you need to consider the reality of a foundation. More than likely your orchid greenhouse will be larger than a 6’x 8’ print so it will require a foundation. The most common foundation type is a concrete slab. When talking to a contractor make sure that the slab will be sloped towards a central drain. If your slab is not sloped you will have stagnant water. It is also wise to have a French drain installed around the perimeter of the foundation for additional water drainage.


Interior Design


Inside the greenhouse there are certain elements that are needed to keep the plants flourishing. The bare necessities are heating, cooling, water and ventilation. Throughout the US, the majority of states have cold and hot spells that require supplemental heating and cooling. Each manufacturer has different types of heating options available whether it be a propane heater or a solar panel system. An evaporative cooler is a common way to cool a greenhouse. This is also known as a swamp cooler where water circulates over a sponge and the unit pumps the cooled air into the greenhouse. An evaporative cooler also adds humidity to the air. Some people will decide not to cool the greenhouse and instead empty it over summer by placing all the orchids outside under trees or pergolas. This is a viable option if you have the time to empty the greenhouse in spring and then re-fill it in the fall, as well as having a shaded area on your property.


Don’t Forget the Water


All plants need water to sustain life and your orchids are no exception. A hose hook-up and a sink with a spigot are typically sufficient watering methods. The hose will allow you to quickly water your orchids, while the spigot or faucet lets you place an individual plant underneath it and wash off unwanted pests or dust, sending everything down the drain of your sink. Another option for watering is an automatic misting or drip system. This will take care of the majority of your watering and reduce your time spent watering. An automatic system also allows you to go on vacation and not worry about the orchids being watered by your sister who kills all her houseplants.


Keep the Air Moving


As previously mentioned the greenhouse is a large glass box that will overheat. To this accord you will need ventilation. Hot air rises and becomes trapped in the ridge of the greenhouse. Automatic ridge vents will open and let the hot air escape. On the walls of the greenhouse individual windows or a grouped eave vent can be opened to bring cool air into the greenhouse. Circulation fans placed inside the greenhouse, at opposite corners, keep the air moving. Stagnant air breeds diseases so you will always want your air to move.


Additional Options


A heater, cooling, water and ventilation are all the necessities but there are plenty of other accessories that are great to have, though not imperative. A humidifier is an excellent addition to the greenhouse. Most orchid species love humidity and a humidifier will bring the level of moisture to the air that orchids desire. By having a small machine do the work you do not have to wet the floors and use the hose’s misting setting to add humidity into the air.


The orchids will need somewhere to live, other than on the floor. Benches will need to be added and there are plenty of options on the market. You can buy simple ones at a local hardware store or there are specialty benches that are specifically designed for a greenhouse. A true greenhouse bench will hold more weight than the average bench, allowing you to place your large orchids on a bench. A greenhouse bench is rust and water resistant and will last longer than other benches.


Fixed benches are the most common configuration. The benches are normally 24 – 36” deep and are table height at 30”. There are plastic, metal and wooden framework models available. The plastic and metal will do well in a greenhouse but the wooden ones will most likely rot within a few years. Another possibility is a gravel bench. This bench has a solid top that is filled with water and gravel and as the water evaporates it adds humidity for the orchids. There are tiered benches that allow you to use more of the vertical space for growing. Stanhopeas will find a home in the greenhouse with the addition of a plant hanger which permits you to raise hanging basket species. A plant hanger can be one individual support or a long tube that spans the length of the greenhouse. Potting benches are another useful, practical and desired bench type for the orchid greenhouse. The bench can have any number of items including a sink, faucet, bins for orchid mixes, and shelves for storage and hanging space for tools.


Discuss all the points in this article with the manufacturer. There are numerous manufacturers on the market which are easy to find by doing a simple internet search for “orchid greenhouse”, or “orchid greenhouse for a house.” Review their websites, see jobs they have completed and then decide what will best work for you. All the manufacturers offer different glass options, framing materials and accessory layouts. After researching the companies you will be better educated and more confident in making the final decision for your orchid greenhouse.


Want more information? Read these articles:


5 Potting Tips Your Vanda Orchids Will Love

Artificial Lighting for Orchids

Choosing the Correct Greenhouse Cover for Orchids

Growing Orchids in a Terrarium

Growing Orchids in Water

How to Tell If You Are Over-Watering or Under-Watering your Orchids

Videos : 

"How to grow Orchids" An Orchid Greenhouse Tour : Big BLOOMS, Little FLOWERS and my PICKLE Orchid

- Orchid Greenhouse

courtesy to :

Growing orchids in a greenhouse is an exciting challenge and can be a very rewarding experience. With a little planning you can build your dream greenhouse where you can show off your beautiful orchid collection to your family and friends.


In terms of orchid greenhouses…what are my options?


When you begin your research on finding the perfect greenhouse for you, you should first think about what type of greenhouse you would like to get. There are three main types:

Heating and Cooling


The temperatures in Edmond, Oklahoma range from highs as much as 105°F. in the summer to as low as -9°F. in the winter. Both of these temperatures represent the extreme records that have been set in the last 100 years. Nevertheless these extremes need to be considered when designing a greenhouse that could easily house thousands of dollars worth of orchids.


The heating requirements are easily calculated - taking into consideration the greenhouse construction, the desired inside minimum temperature and the lowest outside temperature in the winter we came up with a requirement of 17,000 BTUs/hour to maintain an inside temperature of 65°F. when the outside temperature dropped to -9°F. As mentioned before a temperature of -9°F. is an extreme, so a smaller BTU/hour heat source could suffice. In fact, at the time of this writing we haven't yet put in a heating unit. We are going to wait until the weather cools down to refine the calculations to take into consideration the brick wall that acts as a heat sink. We will do this by recording the day and night temperature gradients on the inside and outside the greenhouse as the weather cools down. This was the same approach used for determining the cooling requirements.


We determined by experimentation with misters that evaporative cooling would be able to achieve at least a 10°F. difference between the outside and inside temperatures (Fig. 4). Based on this determination and guided by the recommended air volume exchange for this size greenhouse we determined that a portable window-unit evaporative cooler capable of moving 2,200CFm would do the job. It was purchased, installed and plugged into a thermostat control that controls both the cooling unit and the exhaust louvers at the opposite end of the house (Fig. 5) shows the outside aspect of the evaporative cooler. The inside view of the evaporative cooler is shown here (Fig. 6).

(1) The first type is a Lean-to which is typically small with one of its long sides against the house to which it’s attached. Lean-to’s are generally inexpensive and aren’t as easy to control temperature-wise as other greenhouse types.


2) The second type of greenhouse is attached or connected to your home. These are typically larger than lean-to’s and are also easier to control the temperature and ventilation in.

(3) The third type of greenhouse to consider is a freestanding greenhouse which is not connected to anything. Depending on what size you would like to build, these types of greenhouses can be pretty pricy, but they do offer the best light, temperature, and ventilation control.


I’ve decided on my greenhouse type…now what?


After choosing the type of greenhouse you want to get, the next step is deciding on the perfect location where your greenhouse can get the perfect amount of sunlight. There are a few things you need to take into consideration when deciding on a spot. You will not want to place the greenhouse on the north side of your home because it will be too cold in the wintertime, and you need to be careful to make sure that the location you choose doesn’t have midday sun blocked by trees or other large structures.


Some of the ideal locations are: north-south, east-west, or southeast-northeast. If you’ve decided on a freestanding greenhouses, they do well when oriented north-south, where as lean-to’s and attached greenhouses do well when oriented east or south so that they are able to receive maximum exposure. Something else you may want to consider when finding the perfect location for your greenhouse is ease of access to a water faucet.


Temperature Control


There are several ways to control the temperature in a greenhouse. You may want to keep a thermometer inside your greenhouse at all times so that you can closely monitor the temperature to make sure that your orchids are not getting too hot or too cold. A heating system is essential if you live an area where the temperature falls below 45°F (7.2°C). There are many different heating options including steam, solar, circulating hot water, natural gas, and several others. On the other hand, unless you live in an extremely hot area or you are growing cool-temperature orchids, you probably won’t need any type of cooling system.



It is also very important to make sure your orchids are getting enough ventilation. This is important so that your orchids do not develop root rot and disease. You can achieve the proper amount of ventilation with oscillating fans, or built-in vents along the sides and roof of the greenhouse.


Other considerations…


In order to be successful in growing greenhouse orchids, you will need to provide the proper humidity levels. In order to increase the level of humidity in your greenhouse you can either install a humidity unit or install misters which work on a timer.


Displaying your orchid collection…

There are many different ways that you can display your orchids in a greenhouse. One of these ways is to get a bench to display the orchids on. These benches can be made of all kinds of materials such as plastic, wood, or steel. It is important to remember when choosing a bench to get one that has the ability to provide adequate air flow to the roots and one that also will allow proper drainage so that the orchid’s roots aren’t ever sitting in a puddle of water.


Benches can be single, double, or triple-tiered. If you decide on a multi-tiered bench you will need to make sure to keep only the orchids that are low-light on the bottom because not very much light will be able to reach those orchids. Also, a water deflector tray is important so that water doesn’t drip from the orchids on the top down to the bottom-tired orchids because this is a good way to get crown rot or spread disease.


Another way to display your orchids can be to hang them up, especially if you grow Vanda orchids which have a very long root system. You can hang your orchids from pots, baskets, or attach a mounted display to the wall using wire or mesh.


Because you are able to control the amount of light, temperature, humidity, and air movement much more easily in a greenhouse than in your home, growing orchids in a greenhouse can be much easier for many people. Growing a greenhouse orchid can be a very gratifying experience when you are rewarded with beautiful orchid blooms.

Next Steps: Where do you go from here?


A couple options:


#1 – More Free Orchid Tips!
At a minimum, I strongly recommending signing up for our 
orchid tips newsletter(it’s free!). That’ll give you some additional (more detailed) step-by-step tips you can start using with your orchids right away…


#2 – Get Access to ALL My Articles on Orchids…
If you’d like to learn everything you need to know about caring for ALL types of orchids we also have something called the Orchids Made Easy .


The Green Thumb Club includes a number of different benefits – including weekly lessons on all different orchid care topics delivered to you in a special, password-protected members area. You also get the opportunity to get YOUR actual questions answered in my weekly “Ask The Orchid Guy” column, which you can check out here.


The Green Thumb Club costs less than a meal at McDonald’s – and ALSO includes all sorts of ADDITIONAL benefits, including exclusive discounts at orchid suppliers from 20-40% off as well access to our “orchid diagnosis tool” which helps you identify what problem might be plaguing your plant.


Because the club is backed by a full 100% money-back guarantee for a full 30 days, if after checking it out you decide that it’s not for you or that you didn’t get value you out of what you learned – no problem! Simply send us an email to let me know, and you’ll receive a fast and courteous refund. Put it this way: If you’re not happy, I’m not happy!


(By the way, this link here will give you access to 50% off the cost of membership. A little “gift” for reading this article all the way to the end :-))


Ryan “The Orchid Guy” :-)

- Building an Orchid Greenhouse

courtesy to : 

Cliff and Sandee Pelchat

Our interest in orchids has always centered on the study of them in situ. We have traveled across the US and into Central Mexico finding orchids, recording them on film, and studying their habit and habitat. Because of this we have always put off building a greenhouse--our reasoning being that such an undertaking once constructed would require too much of our time. Of course there were other reasons also, such as the fact that we hadn't really settled down to live in one place for more than a couple of years. We have always had a couple of orchids that we kept on a windowsill or a cart on the front porch, but had never really grown them in a serious way. This year we built the greenhouse and this article is a description of what we did.


Before getting started we came up with the following criteria for our greenhouse:


  • It has to be sized large enough to provide adequate space for growing orchids and at the same time fit in the space available in our yard.

  • It has to withstand Oklahoma weather

    High sustained winds of 30 - 40 mph

    Large hail

    Hot dry summers

    Winters of temperatures as low as +9° F. for a few days/year and the occasional -9° F.

  • It has to be economical to operate and be as maintenance free as possible when it comes to controlling the climate inside the structure

  • Be aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the house and neighborhood

    not violate any of the homeowner association covenants

  • The cost of the finished greenhouse was not exceed $5,000.00 including climate control

Taking into account the above criteria we decided that a "lean-to" structure could be placed on the outside south wall of the house. Besides providing part of the greenhouse structure, the outside south wall of our house is brick and would act as a heat sink in the winter. Of course it is a heat sink in the summer as well and a system to offset this would also have to be considered. The other advantage to building the greenhouse onto the side of the main house is that utilities such as water and electric could be easily run into the structure.


The Internet was an invaluable tool that we used to search for a green house. If you "Google" greenhouses on the WEB you will get a plethora of choices from small cold-frame structures to giant industrial setups. The 3 that we found most helpful are http://www.charleysgreenhouse.com, and We found that most of the greenhouses offered followed the same theme with the following selections available:


  • Cedar frame with polycarbonate or glass glazing

  • Plastic, snap-together frames with polycarbonate glazing

  • Aluminum frames with glass or polycarbonate glazing

We decided that an aluminum frame would be best. Aluminum is better than wood because it won't require the maintenance that wood does. Aluminum is also better than plastic for 2 reasons: (1) it provides for more rigidity; and (2) plastics, no matter how they are made, tend to become hardened and brittle over time because they are susceptible to the effects of ultra violet (UV) radiation. There might be those that will argue that modern plastics are made to withstand the effects of UV, but in this case we had to go with Cliff's experience with plastics of various types over the last 30 years. Without going into great detail Cliff has yet to find a plastic that is not affected by UV. Yes, they can be treated for the effects, but over time there is still some degradation and we didn't want any degradation in the structural frame.


The next step was to consider the type of glazing. Tempered glass was eliminated as a choice because a typical Oklahoma hailstorm would have made short work of the flat roof on a lean-to structure. Fiberglass sheathing is often used, but even treated fiberglass is highly susceptible to UV and it doesn't provide very much insulating value. Based on our research we decided to use a twin-walled polycarbonate sheathing.


Polycarbonate Sheathing :


Polycarbonate is an amazing material. It is soft while at the same time rigid. It has an insulating airspace that can be double or triple walled (it looks like cardboard when viewed on edge). It is highly UV resistant and you can get it with one side treated to block UV light altogether. It is kind of like placing a set of sunglasses on your greenhouse.

Putting it all together :


With the above considerations in mind we decided to purchase a Juliana lean-to greenhouse kit 16 feet long by 6.5 feet wide (Fig. 1). It has an aluminum frame and 6 mm. twin-wall UV treated polycarbonate glazing. The Juliana greenhouses are made in Scandinavia and are very well constructed. The kit also included 2 roof vents and the base. The lowest price we found for the kit was $2,168.00 including shipping. We also purchased two automatic roof vent openers, an exhaust fan, automatic opening exhaust louvers, thermostat, humidistat and a water misting kit. We deferred purchasing cooling and heating equipment until after the house was constructed and will discuss our approach to those needs later in this article.



Fig. 1. Skeletal structure of proposed Juliana lean-to greenhouse.

Greenhouse Construction :


As stated above, the Juliana Greenhouse is well constructed. It has all of the characteristics of fine German engineering such as you would find in a well-engineered German automobile. All of the pieces fit together precisely and were held in place by ingenious slotted aluminum bolts. The only drawback to the kit was that the instructions for assembly were written primarily in German and the English translation was terse and used British rather than American terms. For example the glazing instructions consisted of a few short sentences with the note that "The central 15 cm. of the sheets are cleaved without closing the channels below (emphasis added)..." The interpretation for this instruction was: "place a 15 cm. long bead of silicone in the bottom middle of the panel to attach it to the frame." Our assessment is you need to be pretty mechanically inclined to put this thing together. If you have ever found it a challenge to assemble a child's bicycle or a backyard barbecue grill then you are going to be extremely challenged to figure out how to put this kit together!


We figured it out mostly by referring to the parts list and matching the parts with the supplied diagrams. The instructions also recommend 2 people for construction. We laid out each of the sections in our garage and pre-assembled each before carrying them out to mount on the foundation. Two 8-foot long 2 x 4's were used to brace the gables and walls into position before bolting them together.


Before assembly we excavated and leveled the area next to the house where the greenhouse would be erected. We then laid out the base making sure that it was square with the house and each corner. Using a post-hole digger, holes 18 inches deep were dug at each corner from the house and the center of the front wall. Each hole was poured with concrete using 8-inch concrete tubes (available at Home Depot or Lowe's) as molds to create peers for the base to be bolted to. The steel brackets for the base were suspended in the tubes and made level with each other. Once the concrete set, the base was bolted to the brackets and to the wall of the house using ¼-inch Redhead anchors. Each of these anchors has 520 PSI of anchoring force. The top portion of the greenhouse has a Redhead anchor every 2 feet for a total of 8 anchors. Combined, the green house has 5,200 PSI of anchoring force securing to the house as well as the brackets that are anchored into the concrete peers securing it to the ground.


Once the foundation and base was ready it was not difficult to bolt the pre-assembled sections to it. It took about 4 evenings working from 7pm to 9pm to get it completed. The glazing of the polycarbonate took a little longer because we had to wait for days where there was no wind. We left the glazing off of the front wall until we had finished preparation of the flooring on the inside. The flooring consists of ½-inch diameter river stone (also called Aztec gravel) placed over landscape cloth to a depth of about 7 inches. It took 3 ½ tons to completely fill the floor to the top of the base and the open wall allowed us to dump the stone in with a wheel barrow rather than carry it in one bucket at a time through the door. Pavers were laid down the center for a walkway (Fig. 2). Finally we finished off the outside by covering it with 50% black UV resistant polyester shade cloth and a façade of brick around the base to match the brick on the house. The 50% shade cloth was used to further offset the intense solar radiation we have in Oklahoma (Fig. 3). We have subsequently determined that even more shading will be needed for some species of orchids. This shading will be added to sections of the greenhouse once we begin populating it with plants according to the requirements determined at that time.

Fig. 3. Assembled greenhouse structure on south side of home.

Fig. 2. Paved walkway through lean-to greenhouse.

Fig. 5. The greenhouse's swamp cooler. (outside view)

Fig. 6. Inside view of the evaporative cooling unit.

Fig. 4. Temperature differences within greenhouse over a two week period. (Red line: outside temperature; blue line: inside temperature; green line: temperature alteration.)

Humidity Control :

The misters installed for cooling experiments have been converted to an automatic watering system and a humidifying system for use during the winter and during those really dry summer days of August when the swamp cooler won't provide enough humidity. For humidity we have 3 misters connected to an automatic valve and a humidistat (Fig. 7)(Fig. 8). The humidifying misters point toward the brick wall. As humidity tends to drop as temperature rises the misters kick on when the brick heats up, and the water vaporizes when it hits the wall raising the humidity and dropping the temperature at the same time. Humidity measurements for the entire greenhouse hover around 70% relative.




Fig. 7. Misters, misting lines and humidistat.

Fig. 8. Automatic valve for humidistat system.

Watering System


The watering system consists of 6 misters that point over a built in plant shelf constructed from vinyl coated shelving found at the Home Depot. At this time these misters are controlled with a manual valve, (Fig. 9), but we think we will be adding a timer type control in the future depending on the requirements of the plants. Since the piping is PVC and PEC FLEX tubing we are able to easily make changes to the water circuit to meet any need.

Fig. 9. Manual valve control of misters.

After installing the swamp cooler we continued to monitor the temperature differences and the results are quite satisfactory. A chart showing the temperature difference since installing the swamp cooler has been provided (Fig. 10). As you can see the difference between inside and outside temperatures increases as the outside heat climbs. Since a thermostat controls the swamp cooler the night temperature inside the greenhouse would climb relative to the outside because the swamp cooler would shut off. We were able to get the nighttime temperature differential down to zero by lowering the thermostat and adjusting one roof vent to automatically open in the evening to equalize inside and outside temperatures. This has the effect of making the swamp cooler run all night long when the outside evening temperatures remain in the high 70's and above.

Fig. 10. Temperature differences following installation of the evaporative cooling system.

Results :


We have already placed a couple of the plants we had sitting on various windowsills and they are doing great. One plant, Bletia purpurea, which is a Florida/Mexico species has shown more vigor than we have ever observed before while the Epicat species. has bloomed like never before because of the additional light available to it. We think this greenhouse is going to be perfect for our immediate needs and give us some experience in growing orchids. Everyone we talk to says we will soon outgrow it, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime we have the best of both worlds - a small hobby greenhouse while not giving up our ability to continue our field trips to discover orchids in the wild. We will continue to periodically submit updates as to our experience.

Raising Greenhouse Orchids ~ Eric Finley

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