It seems fitting to end the month as I began, with orchids. In winter, they really are hard to beat for color, fragrance and bloom time. This oncidium, ‘Twinkle’ a tiny, fragrant oncidium.
This masdevilla hybrid is fragrant as well. Even though I’ve had quite a cold for a couple of weeks, I can still smell this orchid.
Finally, although this is the most commonly sold “house plant” in the world, who can resist all the flower spikes that have yet to open their buds? This plant will be in bloom from now until August. It’s hard to resist the allure of a plant like that!
I call this “the people’s orchid” or an orchid for everyone because it is so easy to grow. It doesn’t need any fancy bark–it’s a “terrestrial” orchid, meaning it grows in soil and doesn’t hang from the trees in the wild. So good potting soil is fine for this one.
And it blooms reliably without fail every winter. This is the first in a series of 5 “Houseplants for Winter” that I’ll do in January.
It’s botanical name is ludesia or hamelia discolor. It’s also known as the Jewel Orchid, for its lovely jewel-like leaves.
For the longest time I had no Phalaenopsis. Then, one winter, I was desperate for color and I picked one up. You can see I’ve picked up a few more since.
What I adore about them is that they bloom forever. The one in the back on the right literally bloomed for 11 months–and when the last bloom fell off, that spike set this new spike. How can you not love this?
And, I’m sorry to say, this was not an expensive orchid–it was one of the “ice” orchids from Home Depot. In fact, 3 of these are the infamous “Ice” orchids from either Home Depot or a grocery store. The other 2 come from garden centers.
And mine get tough love–water every week or two–when they need it. And east windows. And they’ve now survived two extended cold spells, one with temperatures below 50 and the other with temperatures in the low 50s. So they’re much tougher than they look!
Winter always seems so isolating. Even if there’s no snow, we rush from our homes to our cars and back again and rarely see one another–unless there’s a freak 60 degree day like there was a few weeks ago.
So I fill my bay windows with plants–so much so that my husband complains that he can’t see out at times. That way, even when it does snow, there’s something to remind me that spring will come.
Some of you may remember this orchid from my November posts of “bullet-proof” house plants. This is ludesia dicolor, or the terrestrial orchid that will grow in ordinary potting soil. It also goes by the name of the “Jewel Orchid” for its colorful leaves–but then so do many other orchids in its genus and related genuses so that’s why botanical names can be helpful.
At the time of the November post, the plant had little buds at the ends of some of the leaf tips. This is what those buds opened into–and one flower spike is open but out of the photo–there are actually 3.
It’s easy to see how this Oncidium ‘Twinkle’ got its name–the flower spikes do seem to twinkle with little flowers. This particular variation has yellow flowers but there are variations with pink flowers as well. The plant is incredibly fragrant as some oncidium are. And really, isn’t that what you’d like in the middle of a cold gray winter–a fragrant, flowering plant?
This unassuming little plant is one of the easiest orchids to grow because it is a “terrestrial” orchid. What does that mean? It grows in ordinary potting soil. How hard can that be?
And following my maxim that a plant has to do something when it’s not in bloom, it does have unusual markings on the leaves, although they can be a little harder to see than most.
This plant belongs to the large family of orchids know as Ludesia (sometimes also known as Haemaria). Its full botanical name is ludesia discolor. And like most of the other plants this month, it will grow with very low light and very little water and is bothered by no pests unless there’s really a major infestation.
The swellings at the ends of the branches are buds that will open to creamy yellowish white flower spikes shortly. This is definitely a great plant for an orchid beginner–or even a collector, since many variations exist.
Did you know that phalaenopsis are the second most popular houseplant? Poinsettias are the first. Interestingly enough, both are great plants for cleaning the air of toxins and pollutants. Phalaenopsis are probably a bit more versatile in the decorating department though and they don’t scream “seasonal gift plant” either. Further, they are less demanding about watering requirements (if you doubt that, look at where they are in the box stores and supermarkets–by the drafty doors, under those blasting heaters–need I say more?) And while I don’t suggest you subject them to that treatment at home, I will say if you treat them nicely and select one with a stem (scape is the technical term) that has some buds left to open, you may get months of bloom from them. I have one I purchased in January that is still blooming! Try that with a poinsettia!
With this post I hit quite a milestone–my 500th post! So I’ll commemorate with a photo of an orchid, because my first post was also of an orchid!
Masdevilla Copper Angel ‘Highland’ AM/AOS x rex ‘Maui Titan’ CHM/AOS. It obviously enjoyed its summer outdoors!
The orchid society folks would be revoking my membership about now–if they could–for the treatment this poor plant has received at my hands. But I show this to prove a point–that orchids are much tougher plants than we give them credit for!
In fact, my first words of advice to orchid newbies is just that. Think about where we see a lot of them being sold: grocery stores and home improvement stores–about the least hospitable places on earth for tender delicate plants. In my grocery store, the orchids are right in front of the door, where they get blasted by the bitterly cold air in the winter–not the best place for any plant, but certainly not a good place for one that’s supposed to be “delicate.”
What happened here to this poor pathiopedilum (tropical lady’s slipper) is this. Quite a long time ago–I can’t even say how long but we’re talking a period of weeks, perhaps even a month or more–I noticed that the pot this plant was in was empty. I picked it up, looked around for the plant, and maybe a week later, composted the orchid bark. Still didn’t notice the plant.
This is where the orchids summer outdoors, and you can see how tightly packed in here they are. I’ll give you a close-up of where I found the orchid this morning. Don’t ask what made me notice it–I was on my way out to hang clothes on the line and just happened to glance down. Why I saw it then and not when I was looking is anyone’s guess.
If I had to “guesstimate” conservatively I’d say it was living outside of its pot and medium a minimum of 3 weeks. It was probably well over a month and maybe longer.
But remember–in their native habitats, orchids live on tree branches and cling to tree bark–this is how they live! So this is nothing unusual!
So the next time you’re at an orchid society meeting and they’re filling up your head with watering regimens and fertilizing schedules and “weekly weakly” nonsense, remember this. Orchids are a lot tougher than you think and will go to a lot of trouble to die on you. Don’t kill them with kindness!
This being the middle of February, there’s not a lot that I have for Bloom Day. Still, a little bit of color is better than nothing.
Some of you may remember this plant from last month. It’s actually been in bloom since mid-december. It doesn’t get much better than that. And when it’s finally done blooming, look at those gorgeous leaves!
The variegation on this african violet is prettier although it doesn’t show in this photo–it’s got chartreuse in the leaves. That’s why I put up with less than exciting flower color. Although after a winter like this, I’ll take any flowers I can get!
All the blooming orchids I had weren’t enough–I had to acquire this little Phalaenopsis as well. And it’s got lots of buds so it shuld take me into springtime–even if that’s not until July!
This is the orchid I showed in bud right after I returned from vacation. I said it reminded me of Dracula–not of a dracula type orchid but of Dracula himself. I’m not sure why.
Its correct botanical name is Corr Elizabeth Ann ‘Buckleberry’ FCC/AOS–quite a mouthful and obvious why I don’t remember it–it doesn’t just come tripping off the tongue, now does it?
I bought it at one of our state orchid society meetings from a fellow members who told me that its care was “very easy.” Windowsill culture and just water every day. Oh sure. There’s nothing in my house that gets watered every day except the dog and she is the exception.
So I do with it what I do with the rest of my orchids–I water once a week–and it seems to survive the torture and even thrive. It has bloomed for me every year since I’ve acquired it 3 years ago.
This was the second of the three orchids in spike when I arrived home. (The third won’t be in bloom for quite some time yet). This is one of two spikes on it and I expect it to bloom for a couple of months as Phalaenopsis do. Interestingly, the other orchid in spike is also a Phalaenopsis and what’s interesting about that is it just stopped blooming a couple of months ago so this is a really quick turn around for a bloom time. I am not complaining.
The Phalaenopsis orchid is the second most popular houseplant sold in America (after the poinsettia). It is very easy to care for–water once a week, being sure to keep water out of the spot where the leaves meet the stem and give it a cooler period in the fall so it can set its buds. The cooler period is a natural for us in our very cool house.
Orchids, in general, are easy to care for. Most sold in the “big box” stores and the supermarkets can take ordinary windowsill culture and regular home temperatures. The thing to remember is that they are perennials, not ever-bloomers, so once their bloom is done, they will not re-bloom for another year. They are not african violets that bloom continuously.
But in general, the blooms are gorgeous, showy, and last for weeks, if not months, so that makes me keep them around in my home!