For those of you that got orchids for the holidays, congratulations. If you did, you can expect, a long period of bloom from them–a minimum of 3 months usually.
It’s once they go out of bloom that folks begin to have issues. First of all, they expect the plant to bloom continuously–almost like an african violet or something. It’s not. Think of it as an indoor perennial. It blooms once, then it needs to rest and restore its energy until it blooms again, usually the following year.
But what perennial do you know that will bloom as long as 3 months (and I’ve had some that have bloomed as long as 9 months!) These are great work horses of the plant world! So when they stop blooming, don’t just throw them out! Water them, care for them, and they will reward you.
This post has something for everyone in North America: the orchids are native in ranges from Alaska and parts of Canada to Texas, Florida and Mexico.
And it has all sorts of pollinators too: bees, flies, beetles and yes, even the most unpopular mosquito! Who knew that a mosquito was even a pollinator?!
What on earth sort of orchid has a mosquito for a pollinator? Well, it’s a very nondescript little native orchid called the blunt leaved orchid. It is native to our colder regions beginning at the Arctic Circle and coming as far south as New York in the East and Oregon in the West. Its flowers are tiny and almost the same green as the stem. Its pollinator, the aedes communis mosquito, actually can be found outside of that range–and of course feasts on humans as well.
Other native orchids like the showy lady’s slipper (you may be more familiar with that one–the lovely pink native slipper orchid), while it is visited by a number of flies, beetles and bees, apparently is only pollinated by a specific sort of miner bee. I am fortunate enough to have this type of bee nesting in my gardens–one rare benefit of heavy clay, I suppose–and I am happy to host it!
Where am I getting this obscure knowledge? Pollinator.org, of course, the source for all things anyone might need to know about pollinators and home of the Pollinator Partnership. There is a great poster there available for ordering which shows the native orchids and their pollinators.
There’s also an individual list of each orchid on the poster, and a list of each pollinator of the orchids.
So this is a pretty neat site and a pretty great resource for some pretty obscure stuff. But if it keeps us from using a bug zapper to kill moths–which are great pollinators–I for one will be very happy!
I said at the beginning of the month that I was relying on my house plants to help me get through the month. But when a house plant–or more specifically, an orchid–looks like this, you can see why I might be having a few problems with the winter doldrums! The botanical name–and it has many–is cirrhopetalum Elizabeth Ann Buckleberry. It’s a hybrid of several parentages–I won’t bore you with further details.
Here’s the whole plant–not much better. Its redeeming quality is its sweet scent. That’s probably what it uses to attract pollinators.
In nature, each orchid has a specific pollinator–and some of them are quite creepy. They are not the normal bees and flies we think of as pollinators. But that is a subject best left to the orchid experts. Here’s an interesting story about Charles Darwin (yes, that Darwin, of evolution fame) and how it took 150 years to prove his theory about an orchid pollinator correct–in this case a hawk moth.
Let’s just say no one grows orchids to attract pollinators!
You know I like orchids for holiday decorating. It seems the orchid sellers have finally gotten on the commercial bandwagon.
Now this really wasn’t what I had in mind for orchid decorating for the holidays. But if you recall my post at Thanksgiving when I had that gorgeous peachy colored phalaenopsis shown with the crotons and the kalanchoe, I said that I had been seeking a white orchid. Well, here it is.
Since I’m lecturing in 5 days I figured I’d better not disturb this one too much. I can take the “peppermint stripe” candy cane thing out later.
But wouldn’t this have been so much nicer with something a little less “candy cane?”
Oh well–if we all liked the same thing…..
I wish I could tell you I’d designed this centerpiece but you can clearly tell this is not my house.
This is the lobby of a hotel where we vacationed last winter. We were not staying here but The Spoiler’s conference was in this hotel. I think it’s a Westin. Don’t quote me. It used to be independently owned and was recently taken over by a big chain–that’s why I have no idea which chain took it over.
In any event, I heartily approve of their décor. This is Colorado. And this dendrobium orchid survived our entire stay of 9 days in the incredibly dry air and frigid blasts from the doorway.
If it can take that abuse, imagine how nicely it will do in the average home?
While I’m on the orchid theme, and not talking about phalaenopsis, I thought I’d show another easy to care for orchid that I’ve had forever, that I plunk outside in the spring and bring back inside in the fall and that reliably blooms for me at least once a season if not twice.
This is Masdevallia Copper Angel ‘Highland’ AM/AOS x ‘Maui Titan’ CHM/AOS. With a name like that, it’s a wonder the thing just doesn’t wilt away and die!
But no, it’s ridiculously easy to care for. It goes outside at Memorial Day (or a week or so before if it’s been mild in my part of the world–what I look for is nights that are reliably no lower than 50 degrees) and it stays in a shady northern exposure that might get brushed by a beam or two of late afternoon sun until Labor Day or a week or two later (again, those night time temperatures are the key. It’s not so important for orchids, really, but for leafy green plants it’s absolutely key!)
Indoors I keep it in an eastern exposure. I may have repotted it once or twice in the last 6 years but I’m not as good about that as I should be. If it stops blooming obviously I’ll care more.
And I ignore the orchid “experts” who advise the “weekly weakly” fertilizing with commercial food–because I just don’t do that sort of thing. It’s not organic, and fish emulsion isn’t going to help me get flowers. If I want flowers, the best thing I can do is put it outside–and change my potting medium more often, I’m sure!
As the days grow shorter and darker, this is certainly a burst of sunshine!
As the outdoor gardening season winds down, at least for me here in the northeast, there are (very small) compensations. One of them is orchids.
I talk–and have talked–about hauling the house plants in and out. But I don’t even get terribly specific about what those house plants are too much. Occasionally I’ll show a photo that has some of them in it. Or I might show some of them in bloom. I might even take a shot of a “window vignette” once they’re all back in for a Wordless Wednesday now and again.
But I don’t think I talk about my orchids all that much. I start rhapsodizing about the phalaenopsis when they come into bloom in January. I might even carry on about how they bloom for as long as 9 months for me (and they do–it must be my exceptionally cold house. I’m glad to know there are some advantages to that–even though that’s probably the only one!). In fact, I just finally took the last spike off one that started blooming sometime in 2012. It had multiple spikes of course so that’s how that happens. But what other plant blooms like that?!
But I rarely talk about the other orchids in my life and I know I’ve never talked about this one in particular. Its botanical name is a mouthful: Perreiraara motes Leprechan ‘Haiku Mint.’I’ve had it since 2006 when I bought it in bloom at an orchid show. Every summer it goes outside and hangs underneath the branches of my dogwood tree. Every fall I bring it in, it forms a spike and the spike promptly blackens and falls off.
I figured that my home was too “something:” too hot, too dry, too dark, too light–whatever it was, I didn’t have the proper conditions to get this orchid spike to flower.
But of course, in the time-honored tradition of gardeners everywhere, I gave it the ultimate threat this year. I said, “One more year. This is the last year I’m doing this. If you don’t bloom this year, next year, you’re compost!”
And of course, I gave it all the help I could this fall. I gave it a little extra water, I hung it next to an extra full plant to give it some extra humidity.
And voila! This is the result! So I guess, at least for this year, there will be no compost heap!