Beginner Plants

At age 87, I am not sure that I have enough time left to amass a huge orchid collection but I would like to start. Is there a rule of thumb for beginners? Ruth M.
Most impressive is your unbridled enthusiasm! It's never too late to get involved in this delightful and rewarding hobby.
I'll let you in on a secret..Once your friends find out about your new love, they will start to give you orchids for every special occasion. Before long, a greenhouse may be needed to hold all the plants!
A good orchid to start with is the Phalaenopsis. The flowers last three months and the plant needs only indirect light. The 'moth' orchid comes in many colors including soft pastels, vivid magentas, and sunset tones and features long cascading displays.
An excellent companion is a Paphiopedilum since both have similar light requirements. The 'lady slipper' is most unusual looking with its single large waxy bloom that looks fresh even after two months. Neither Phals nor Paphs have water storing pseudo-bulbs, so they must be watered frequently.
Beyond that, the collection now turns towards the higher light genera which include Dendrobiums and Oncidiums - both of which are long lasting. These types bloom somewhat randomly but are heavy in the summer and fall when Phals are not in season. Upright branching sprays of dozens of small flowers characterize the 'Hawaiian Lei' and 'Dancing Lady'orchids. One even smells like chocolate.
The pinnacle of every grower is the famed Cattleya or corsage orchid which practically requires that a party be thrown when the gorgeous blossoms emerge. As grande as 7" wide, the delicate petals on this prima donna gain the respect of all who see it. The fan fare is short lived, however, for the flowers fade in a matter of weeks. But what a party it was.
All these lovely plants and more will be on display this weekend (Feb 24,25) at the 18th Annual Maymont Flower & Garden Show. Hundreds of specimens of all shapes, sizes, and colors will be in perfect bloom for your enjoyment. See you there!

Is there a way to grow a new orchid plant from just a leaf? I read somewhere on the internet that it might be possible. Danette R.
Many tropical plants can be rooted from a leaf but, generally speaking, orchids cannot. Instead, they are commonly grown from seed or as clones - both of which require high tech laboratory equipment and many years of coddling before anything resembling a flower is observed. Another form of propagating orchids is through division in which a mature plant is painstakingly split in two. Ouch!
A 'Keiki' occurs when the mother plant has a baby. A tiny plantlet emerges from, perhaps, an old Phalaenopsis flower stem or the side of a Dendrobium cane.
The noteable exception for rooting orchid leaves successfully is on the rare Ludiscia (Jewel Orchid). Here it is encouraged to chop off the runner leaves and stick them in sphagnum moss - they grow like crazy.

Can I repot my Oncidium Space Race into a larger 'dish garden' type arrangement? Anne F.
One of the tried and true techniques to growing orchids successfully is to keep them pot bound - large plants in small pots - always looking like they need to be in larger pots but resisting the temptation.
A 'dish garden' of orchids would be a recipe for disaster. The plants would lose their individuality and their ability to be cared for independently. The roots would get intertwined and could spread diseases.
An acceptable alternative would be to place the small potted orchids together temporarily (perhaps while blooming) in a larger container and drape them with Spanish moss. No harm done and it would give the desired effect.

Thursday, February 1, 2007 - 18:00