Bloom Timing


I have a large cachepot in my living room that holds three orchids. I always buy matching plants but when they re-bloom, the timing doesn’t seem to work out. What can be done? Sherry T.


Buying three identical orchids in perfect blooming sync is realistic. Expecting them to re-bloom in sync is not.

Stores are filled with tables full of Phalaenopsis. It’s quite possible to obtain ‘groupings’ that are the same color, height, and even have the same number of flowers. Sometimes the exact stage of blooming can be found in all specimens – ie 4 flowers out and 3 buds left to open. The advantage of the latter is that the entire arrangement lasts for the full life expectancy – approximately three months.

In order for the orchid sales table to be so overflowing with temptations, the commercial grower who provided the plants selected from thousands in the greenhouse, overlooking the tightly budded plants as well as the full bloom ones. The plants were hand-picked for today’s savvy orchid consumer – one who demands some flowers out for instant show as well as buds to guarantee longevity.

The typical orchid hobbyist has a dozen plants or so – hardly thousands to choose from – and as a result is forced to live with whatever blooms at that moment. The chance of the three selected plants re-blooming at exactly the same time is slim because plants grow leaves, roots, and flowers at their own pace. Even cloned varieties, which are genetically identical, bloom over a range of several months. There are early bloomers, mid-season bloomers, and late bloomers. The order then changes the following year.

Purchasing new plants to fill the voids is the only way to maintain the perfect cachepot.



What do I do with those tentacle-like things hanging out the pot? Grace H.


Tentacle-like things? Maybe an octopus resides in the container, in which case, run as fast as you can!

In all likelyhood, harmless roots are dangling over the edge and pose no threat to anyone. They certainly look sinister, having thick white ‘skin’ and green ‘eyes’, growing in strange directions. Rest assured, their intentions are pure.

Orchid roots serve two purposes in the jungle – to attach the epiphyte to a tree and to absorb moisture and nutrients. Once in a pot, however, roots are free spirited and notorious for ‘jumping out’ and exploring the world. Most commonly, they leave their home in search of water.

Sometimes, orchid roots crawl out because they are trapped in water. Other times, because the potting media has decomposed into mush. Occasionally, there may be just too many roots already in the pot – nowhere for new ones to go.

It is not always necessary to repot an orchid whose roots have gone berserk. First, try reviewing the growing conditions with particular emphasis on watering frequency.



I bought two Vanda sanderianas. After they flowered, the leaves started to wrinkle and turn yellow. What did I do wrong? Steve A.


If it’s any consolation, Vandas are considered ‘tricky’ in this climate. They usually grow in baskets rather than pots and are hung from high places such as sunroom ceilings or conservatory trusses where their massive root systems hang to the ground. The watering regime is equally daunting. The roots must be sprayed with water thoroughly at least once a day, maybe twice in the summer. High maintenance!

To make matters worse, species (such as these high dollar sanderianas) are more temperamental than modern hybrids which have been selected for ease of growing.

Flower production is taxing on all orchids and can drain much needed energy from the foliage. Combine this with insufficient water and the result is yellow wrinkly leaves that take years to recover. Wherever possible, stick to popular orchid genera that grow well locally. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 17:45