“Most Gifted” orchid

The results are in: 

The Phalaenopsis orchid is THE “most gifted orchid”.

Popping up in homes before, during, and after any and every holiday.  Proudly displayed in their decorative containers, adorned with all the birch bark and raffia trimmings one plant can handle.  It’s my way of knowing that a birthday, anniversary, or some other notable event has occurred since my last visit to a clients home.

The results are totally un-official and based on my own observations including but not limited to…

  • What orchid is displayed in mass at any garden center
  • What orchid is the most affordable
  • What orchid can you dye blue (I’ll save this one for another post!)

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So, you got one gifted to you.  What to do when…

The party’s over:

After time, the blooms fade until all that’s left is am empty spike.  Sure enough, the next time I visit the account, the orchid has gone missing.  I’ve learned not to ask because my heart can’t handle the pain when I actually hear that it went out with the trash.  In situations where the subject may come up,  a little white lie is acceptable – tell me you gave it to your orchid growing friend.

If you don’t want to keep your orchids, instead of throwing it out, you could actually find someone to adopt it (possibly your overly sensitive plant lady).  In such cases, re-gifting is an acceptable practice.  Everyone knows someone who is crazy about plants and would be more than happy to accept your offer to take it in.

Why keep this somewhat unsightly specimen you ask?

Just because the blooms have faded doesn’t mean it’s dead! 

With a bit of care, and a little rest, your orchid will re-bloom.  Find a spot that has some bright light and let him live.  Here is south Florida, they do well in the filtered light in a pool cage.  If you don’t have a pool cage, look for an area where they will get good light, just not full, hot, afternoon sun.  During the summer months, here in the south, they are in survival mode just like us but if you observe, they are working on their new foliage.  Water them, watch for bugs (mealy and mites) and be patient.  To keep things general for a new orchidist, fertilize every couple of weeks with 20-20-20.

About the time we can not rely on our air conditioners to be comfortable, you will start seeing spikes appearing near the base of your plant.  More patience is necessary, because it seems like forever waiting for the spikes to grow and develop little buds.  THIS is what we have waited for.  Witnessing the plant waking up is one of the best parts of growing orchids… or anything for that matter.

Should I cut the spike down after my orchid looses its blooms?  

Opinions vary.  Some say that it is best to cut the spike back so  its energy is concentrated into foliage and roots.  Another reason is that some people just don’t like to see a bare stem sticking up out of their plant.  Both reasons are sound and you won’t hurt the orchid by cutting the stem back.

The only time I cut my stems back is when they are obviously dead.  I like my orchids to mature and on many varieties, Keiki’s (Hawaiian for baby) will appear on the spikes.

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Just leave him alone and he will start forming roots.  Wait until the roots are a good two inches long and then you can cut the Keiki from the stem and pot it up.  You may also get new spikes forming off the old stems, sometimes two or three new spikes will form which creates a beautiful cascade of blooms.  That is why I prefer to leave my stems on my orchids.

Orchids aren’t really that complicated

I think the biggest problem people face when caring for any plant is how much to water them.  My experience is that people go overboard on watering.  The plant tags are too general and don’t know where your plant is living and what the conditions are.  Once a week may be fine for an orchid in a bright area but if it is in a dark hallway, every other week may be fine.

Get in the habit of using your finger to test the medium:

Poke your finger down in there and actually feel it.  If it feels wet or high moist, don’t water it.  Check it again in a day or two.  You want the medium to feel slightly dry but don’t let them dry out completely.  When it’s time for a drink and it’s in a decorative container with no drainage, take it out of the container.  Take your plant to the sink and give it a good drink, then let it drain for a few minutes before putting it back into the container.  They don’t like to be constantly wet and hate sitting in water so letting it drain in the sink is a safe bet.

Let me just say, I am not a fan of throwing ice cubes in the container (brrrrr!).  A client kept her orchids outside and practiced the ice-cube method.  She finally asked why her orchids were shriveling up.  I asked her to imagine standing on her lanai all week-long in the Florida heat, I will toss her a couple ice cubes when I visit and we will see how she looks in about a month!  Another client always has a beautiful display of orchids in her dining room.  The shopkeeper who sold her the orchids recommends putting three or four ice-cube on them a week.  She did this and she started noticing yellowing foliage.  Her orchids ended up rotting.  They were in a dark room and didn’t use that much moisture.  That is why I tell people to feel the medium first.

Like I said, orchids aren’t complicated and they do become addictive.  I don’t want to sound flip but anyone who has grown a plant has killed a plant or two.  It’s one of the best ways to learn.  Point is, maybe you’ve tried keeping your gift orchid and it died… don’t give up.  The rewards of watching your orchid re-bloom are worth another attempt and soon all your friends will be coming to you for your advice!

For further information, I am including growing tips from the Sarasota Orchid Society.

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5 Responses to “Most Gifted” orchid

  1. Rover says:

    I kept my orchids for about 2 years but they never rebloomed. I looked around on the Internet and there were so many instructions about cutting the stems back, sprinkling cinnamon on them, burning them with a candle to sanitize them… what?? The orchid world seems so confusing, thanks for this great, very informative post!

    • carolann says:

      Hey Rover,
      Thanks, I do like to keep things simple and I just pass on what works for me. I’m curious about the 2 years with no re-bloom though. Usually a phal will bloom at least once a year. Was it kept inside? If so, it could be insufficient light or a temperature issue. In nature there is a natural pattern and a plant reacts to this pattern. When the summer is over and the temps cool down, I know my phals will begin growing spikes. If it’s kept inside, it may be confused. I’ve never used cinnamon but it is used to prevent fungus occuring if the root’s get damaged.

      • Rover says:

        Yes, I did keep it inside — the sun is fairly strong where I live so I thought it would dry out too quickly if I kept it outside (it lived in a pot about 4″ in diameter). That makes sense! If I try orchids again I’ll definitely follow your tips. Thanks!

      • carolann says:

        Hope you do give them another try! After it’s done blooming, try moving it outside. Find an area that has filtered light… maybe under a tree. Just don’t forget it’s out there! Mine live outside all year and I water them maybe once a week, when there is no rain. The only time I have to water them more is in the heat of summer when there is no rain. If it’s it in a 4″ pot, you might have to water it more, or… you can re-pot it to a 6″ so it won’t dry out as fast.

      • Rover says:

        Alright, thanks! I think I’ll have to give phals another try — they are very beautiful, after all.

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