Orchids have always been a siren’s call for me. I’ve tried my hand at a 1/2 dozen and had one last for nearly 3 yrs. but it never bloomed after that initial siren call of demure burgundy flowers (dendrobium variety).
This variety, along with phalaenopsis and cattleya are some of the more common available for homeowners. Just this last weekend I found some marked-down to $5 at Walmart – not alerting me with their arching stem of blooms, there weren’t any, but with their thick, large, almond-shaped leaves. The leaves had lost their gloss, but were still green. A healthy one will have shiny green leaves that hold themselves up, not limp, leathery, brown or yellow. I didn’t have a chance to inspect the roots which, if healthy, should be a cool pale, frosted green with a fleshy look, not shriveled, brown or with noticeable decay. I did see some very pretty specimens at Shopko, but trying to conserve my budget I couldn’t hand over the $19.99 it’d cost for one. But, of course I wanted to.
So, if you get a chance – seems to be the season for them at the department stores – and want to try one. Take note of my above descriptions of healthy plants. Now for some care instructions (you may be thinking, “Why the heck should I listen to a girls who has killed a 1/2 dozen?” Well, I learn best from my mistakes which have been: not repotting, too much sun, old potting medium, cats, over-watering, lack of circulation, lack of humidity, fussing. Onto the solutions:
- Light – east window or south window with a sheer curtain is best. Avoid direct sun from south and west, north isn’t enough.
- Use a porous, clay pot or orchid specific pot – they usually have cut-outs to allow for more air circulation. Remove any plastic liner pots
- Misting frequently is way better than watering
- Orchid specific potting medium is best – usually fibrous bark that holds moisture but also breaths
- Keep away from furnace vents, but they do like air movement – just not the drying type, so a ceiling fan is good.
- Use a weak fertilizer when blooming – alternate fresh waterings with a watering/misting of a solution of orchid-specific fertilizer and water. This makes sure you don’t burn the roots or get a buildup of fertilizer. Better yet, opt for fish emulsion – a natural, slow-release plant food.
- Use a wide tray, a couple inches deep, fill with pebbles or marbles and then add water just below the top of the pebbles – set your orchid pot directly on the pebbles. This creates a micro-climate of higher humidity.
Think circulation and humidity with orchids – they like water, but mostly in the air around them. An old fishtank might also be an option – set it up like a terrarium. It could make quite a lovely display.