easy orchids

K…it’s time for a brief Q & A about our orchids.

Phalaenopsis June 2014
White Phal 2014

The number one question we’re asked: “Are orchids hard to grow?”

The simple answer is: NO!

Like any plant, in the right environment, orchids thrive. It’s just up to the gardener to choose the plants that will be happy in your home. And you won’t need a greenhouse or a basement filled with grow lights to provide them with a ‘happy place.”

A sunny windowsill is perfect for orchids. You can test the light by holding your hand between the light and the plant about 1 foot away from the leaves. A faint shadow means you can grow phals successfully.

Phal - pink July 2013
Pink Phal 2013

The next question is usually something like: “Aren’t orchids terribly expensive to grow?”

The honest answer: “Some are. Others, the ones you find in the Home Improvement stores, are inexpensive and will provide lovely flowers and years of enjoyment.

“Phalaenopsis, also called the moth orchid, bears arching bloom spikes that can be covered in clouds of flowers that last for weeks, even months, at a time. Phals (pronounced, ironically “fails”) have flowers that range in color from white to pink, yellow, green or red, and bloom mostly in the late winter and early spring. Some of ours bloom in the summer, some in the fall, and some off and on all year long.

Variety of phales
A Variety of Colors

Buying a Healthy Orchid

If you’re new to orchids, you can get specialized information and advice from people who love them and want you to succeed in growing them. So…if possible, buy from an orchid nursery. (Something we haven’t done for years since that’s how you get into the very expensive plants.) Either way, there are some things you need to look for when buying.

  • Blooms – choosing a plant with flowers on it will give you an idea of the blooming season, and lets you know the plant is mature. Look for uniform color and shape. Splotches and streaks may be signs of a virus that you don’t want to take home.

Even if your plant was in bloom  when you bought it, be patient with it. The shock of going from a commercial greenhouse to your house may cause it to skip a blooming season. Don’t give up in frustration and throw it out. Just continue with the TLC. It will bloom again, and it will be worth the wait.

  • Leaves – The same rule applies to orchids as to any other plant you may buy. Look for medium green, uniformly shaped and colored leaves with no black spots or streaks.
  • Insects – Greenhouse grown plants are more susceptible to bugs than you might like to imagine. Inspect the plant carefully for stuff like scale and mealy bugs (white, cottony critters that hide in leaves and at the base of flowers). Don’t buy infected plants. Why take home trouble?
  • Roots – Look for fat, white roots with healthy green tips poking through the potting medium.
  • Potting medium – Some discount stores sell orchids planted in potting soil covered with a layer of bark or moss. Soil will smother and eventually kill the roots. Don’t be fooled. Stick your finger in the mix to test it. It shouldn’t be soggy, but firm and damp or dry.

That’s it for today class. Check back for another installment soon. And, in the meantime, go out and buy yourself an orchid. You’re gonna love it. I promise.

see ya soon

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