How to Navigate the World of Grocery Store Orchids

We’ve all seen them. Front and center, tiered displays of Phalaenopsis. Some plants are wrapped in cellophane.  Some are artificially colored. Some have instructions to add ice. Many are wilted or broken. What is going on here?

Orchids have become so popular that they are now a staple at grocery stores. First time buyers are often intimidated, however, by the myriad of choices – many of which are fraught with problems.  Here are some plant pointers to help ensure a successful shopping experience:


Orchids that have ‘just arrived’ in the store have the best chance of survival. They were grown in greenhouse conditions and had perfect humidity, temperature, and water. Their destination is stressful - cold dry drafty air. It is not long before the plants look haggard - with shriveling buds and yellowing leaves.

Cellophane may protect the plants from drafts but the bag causes other problems. There is no air circulation inside, and the delicate buds and flowers can bruise or break against the sides. Ask the floral manager when the orchids will arrive and try to get there within a day or so.


If the flowers look fake, they probably are. Blossoms with florescent blue, orange, and purple coloring have been dyed in a process where the stems are injected with a pigment. Any plants that survive this frightful journey will re-bloom white. Pick hues that will wear well year after year.  


The goal for any hopeful horticulturalist is to mimic native plant conditions. Phalaenopsis grow warmer than most orchids (in the 65 to 90 degree F range) and these temperatures apply to the water as well as the air. Generously irrigate with tepid water. Ignore any instructions that encourage the use of ice or other wintry shock treatments.

For millions of Americans, their first orchid will come from a grocery store. Knowing a few simple buying tricks will go a long way towards a lifelong rewarding hobby.

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 19:45