Moth Orchid Aftercare

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Marketers have made a fortune selling orchids with the trademark “Just Add Ice.” And over the years, the number of ice cubes needed to sustain the watering of their orchids has increased from 1 to 3.

Maybe it’s just because I live in a cold climate, but the idea of ice anywhere on a plant doesn’t make me happy. I know that cold can dramatically slow down tomatoes growing outside–so you don’t find me adding ice anywhere to anything except perhaps a drink.

So how do I care for my orchids? It is pretty simple. The photo above shows an orchid that needs water. It’s roots are white. I pour room temperature water through the plant until it is generously running out the bottom. I let it all drain out, and then I put this clear pot back in a decorative container.

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This orchid doesn’t need water yet. Its roots have a greenish tinge. That’s how I tell. Green roots mean the orchid is still moist enough.

As for rebloom, when the orginal stalk is finished, cut it off at the point where the flowers were, or to where it has browned back. Sometimes it will die all the way back to the leaves, and that’s how far you should remove it.

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Other times, this might happen. Here, a new blooming scape is forming from the old one.

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On this same plant, a second blooming stalk is also forming. Notice that it differs from the new roots. It’s pale green and the new root growth is bright white.

Incidentally, I don’t feed my orchids at all. (I have often referred to my plants getting tough love at my house. This is just another example. But who’s feeding them in the wild?) The bark feeds them. It’s better to repot than to feed them with something–at least in my opinion.

Once again, orchids are meant to be long lasting house plants. They are incredibly easy care if you just follow some simple tips and don’t rot their roots.

And they will pretty reliably rebloom. That’s why they became the best selling plant in the world.

Gardening Resolutions #3

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Sometimes I feel like the gardener in the gospel of Luke. Don’t worry this is a gardening blog, so no heavy theology here, but of the 3 similar gospel stories (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Luke’s gardener is the only one who suggests cultivation and compost in the story of the fig tree. In the other two gospels, it is simply cut down for not bearing fruit.

Why am I talking about a fig tree and showing a photo of an orchid? Because interestingly enough, when I brought this orchid in this year, I quoted the parable of the fig tree (from Luke) to it. In other words, I told it that I had given it several chances and it had not produced for me.

I said that this year was its last chance. After this year, it was going to be composted.

And this is its second set of flowers this year. Hmm.I wonder how the fig tree in Luke worked out?

Juxtaposition

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Last Wednesday you may remember this zygo cactus from my “Happy Thanksgiving” Wordless Wednesday. It was hovering over a plush turkey that I am ridiculously fond of, for some reason.

The reason I am calling this post “juxtaposition” is because the cultivar name on the zygo cactus is ‘Christmas Fantasy.’ And yet, this year, it’s the earliest of my collection to bloom. Maybe that’s the fantasy.

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Then there’s this: an orchid whose name is bigger than it is. It goes by the ridiculous moniker of Elizabeth Ann Bucklebery FCC/AOS.

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It looks as if it should have bloomed at Halloween, with its somewhat creepy flowers.

I guess if I insist on forcing bulbs, I shouldn’t object when plants do their own thing on their own schedules!

Don’t Try This at Home

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This doesn’t look so bad, does it? The orchid looks nice and healthy and there are new growth tips on the roots. What could the problem be?

I’m not sure if you can tell, but when I re-potted it, I didn’t have the proper size clay pot available so I used a plastic pot. Bad mistake. Because while the orchid is happy, I am not.

First of all, it continually tips over and that’s really not good for the plant. I have already damaged one of its leaves that way.

Next, when I go to re-pot this plant, I am inevitably going to have to damage some of the roots–and I am going to have to cut the pot off. That’s not good for either of us.

With a clay pot, if I got desperate, I could just have broken the pot away (something that accidentally happened that led to this fiasco).

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But check out these roots coming through the bottom here. Not good. I mean, the roots themselves look fine, but how will I ever be able to disentangle them from this pot at re-potting time? Oh boy.

So take my advice–don’t try this in your home!

Wordless Wednesday

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I know that I have talked before about what a rare year it’s been–snake plants that haven’t bloomed before, succulents blooming that haven’t, etc. But this is an orchid that has only bloomed twice in the ten years I’ve owned it (what does that say about my level of patience for house plants, I wonder?)

This orchid has more names than it does flowers. It is Perreira motes Leprechan ‘Haiku Mint.’ I expect because it’s a tropical orchid it needed the extreme heat we had this year to flower for me. But that’s okay. I expect extreme heat is going to be more normal going forward so I will be seeing more flowers.

 

A Classic Plant for the Holidays and Beyond

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The Phalaenopsis orchid is not a plant that one necessarily associates with the holidays. But ever since I got a classic with “phal” as they are often known, staked with a red and green candy cane stake, I have always thought that they are a great holiday plant (in fact, the poinsettia is the number 1 bestselling plant and the Phalaenopsis orchid is the second best-selling plant).

Many people shy away from orchids because they think they are difficult plants. They are very easy plants–after all, how hard can they be if every big box store and supermarket can stock them?

There are just a few simple things to remember: first, you can follow the instructions and “just add ice.” I don’t do that. I wouldn’t like anyone putting ice on me and my house is already cold enough–I don’t need to be chilling my plants down any further.

All of these plants are sold in a “2 pot” system: a decorative outer pot and then the inner pot holding the orchid. The way I water them is to remove the inner pot, take it to the sink, run water over the bark or the moss holding the plant in the pot until water comes out the bottom, letting all the water drain completely through, and then I return the inner pot to the decorative outer pot.

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How often do I do this? It depends. Phalaenopsis are great at telling you when they need to be watered. You can see their roots through that inner pot in most cases. If their roots are still green, or mostly green, they are still wet enough. If they are white, they need. water. Simple enough. The photo above shows the very white roots needing water.

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Here is the same plant, after watering (it is the same plant in the topmost photo, so you can see what the “inner pot” looks like as well). While the green, newly watered roots aren’t as visible as I would like, they show up nicely at the bottom of the pot.

The only other trick is that I don’t water the leaves. That can lead to rot, especially in my cold house.

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Once it’s warm (say Memorial Day in my part of the country) I put them outside in the shade.  I bring them back in around Labor Day before it gets too cool. They will then begin setting flower spikes for new blooms. The flower spikes look like this. They are distinguishable from the white, above-the-pot roots by being green all the time and by their smooth texture.

Phalaenopsis only bloom once a year but the blooms can last for 4-6 months or longer. What more could you ask?