Monday, September 28, 2009
I am a HUGE fan of Orchids. I love the flowers with their exotic shapes and endless colors. The different species captivate me with their elegance. I just love them! Now, I can honestly say I have been blessed with a green thumb, but until I bought this Orchid, I had no luck with keeping them alive, let alone getting them to re-bloom for me. This Orchid's story goes back to Valentine's Day this year. I had just started working at Buds, and Sheryl had found an Orchid grower here in Cypress. I was kinda perplexed that I had never heard of them before, but we set out into the country and sure enough, there was a million dollar, state-of-the-art, climate controlled greenhouse FULL of blooming Orchids. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven as I walked through the facility to view all the varieties they had for sale. As I walked down the aisles, my mind was saying, "Don't do it! You kill every Orchid you touch!" My heart, on the other hand, was in love with the awesome flowers and yearned for me to take one (or two) home. My heart won the battle as I bought two Orchids from the man. Before I left, I asked him his secrets to keeping them alive. He said do not over water them, and feed them regularly. Okay, easy enough. I was still skeptical. I've killed countless Orchids. I did as he said though, and as you can see above, my Orchid is still alive, AND it even re-bloomed! Success at last!
Here's a few more secrets I figured out with these two Orchids that I had not done with ones in the past. First, Orchids naturally grow in crooks of trees in the rain forest. This means that they do not grow in soil, but moss, tree bark, and other things of the forest that may collect in the crooks. This bit of knowledge is key to replicate in a home setting. An Orchid mix can be purchased from Garden centers, but I just used sphagnum moss that I had in my garage from doing floral arrangements. Either, or both, will work.
The second thing to replicate is the drainage a tree crook provides. This is essential since Orchids are almost never left in standing water in the wild. Specialty Orchid pots, like the one below, have holes on the sides and bottom of the pot and can vary from very decorative to very plain. This is an ideal pot to use, but after a strong wind knocked mine down from its perch outside, I switched to a regular clay pot with a big hole in the bottom. Both have had the same results for me. Either way, do not leave an Orchid in a saucer full of water as this will cause the roots to rot. Allow the water to flow completely through the pot while watering.
So, we have our "soil" in our pot. Now we need an Orchid! When buying an Orchid, the roots and leaves are the most important thing to look for. If these two things are healthy, then keeping a bloom on it is much easier. The roots on Orchids are often growing over and through its pot. If we go back to our natural climate, this makes since. The roots in nature would grow through the soil-less media with exposed roots to absorb rain. The best way to replicate this is to leave any roots that have grown over the top of the pot alone. Healthy, happy roots lead to healthy, happy leaves. Orchids should have dark leaves- yellow leaves are a sign of poor nutrition, which leads me to the next tip of Orchid growing.
I figured out, after surveying several people that have had success with their Orchids, what keeps Orchids growing and re-blooming. Almost everyone said to find a water soluble Orchid food, and feed the plant every time it gets watered with half the strength the fertilizer ratio calls for. I tried this with an organic house plant fertilizer and have had superior results. I think any water soluble plant food would work, as long as it is at half strength. This nutritional program will keep the plant healthy, but will also get the orchid to re-bloom, which has always been my toughest feat with Orchid growing.
So to recap, we have a soil-less media in a clay pot (with or without holes.) Next we have a healthy Orchid plant with aerial roots and dark leaves that is fed a diluted fertilizer every time it is watered. Simply place this winning combination in a semi-shady area to replicate the canopy of a tree. A porch makes the perfect spot for this, or even under a tree that lets dappled light through its canopy. In the winter, bring the plant inside and place it in a bright window. To help with humidity, a saucer with rocks and water in the bottom can be placed under the plant. The rocks will keep the roots out of the water, but allow the water to evaporate and keep the humidity levels up in the A/C of a house.
Follow these steps and I know you'll have a beautiful Orchid. After killing many myself, I am here to say it's easy if all the conditions are right. Now if only I could conquer African Violets! Ahhh, a gardeners work is never done!
This plant made my day! How bout yours?