Blooming Times

My co-worker just gave me four Phalaenopsis that had finished blooming and were going to be thrown out. I am hoping to ‘save’ them and bring them back to life. How long do I have to wait? Nancy C.
We are in the midst of ‘Phalaenopsis season’ which is the much anticipated time of year when the world’s most popular orchid blooms. In Virginia, barring any unusual weather, the months of January through May bring in the moth orchid blossoms – as many as a dozen large cascading flowers in the lovely white and pastel colors that last three months or more. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement as Phal bloomings are a wonderful transition from winter to spring.
Phalaenopsis are easy to ‘save’ provided their leaves are still present and not entirely limp. Now is the best time to repot out of bloom phals regardless of their condition. Gently wiggle the root ball out of the pots and brush off the old media. Place the roots into the smallest clay pot that will fit and fill with either sphagnum moss or peat moss. Now keep the media damp from now on.
Within a few weeks, a flush of new roots will emerge within the media and a new leaf will be visibly growing. Later this summer, a second leaf will grow and by the fall the plant will be ready for chilling. A few weeks of 50 degree nights and a mature healthy plant should be ready to initiate the next flower spike. Another three months of spike and bud development and buds begin to open in January or February.
Your co-worker will be amazed at the flower power next year and will wonder why she ever considering throwing them out. Phalaenopsis are reliable bloomers and there is no reason why the plant should not live for years and years.

My Dendrobium Emma White rebloomed this year under someone else’s care but it looks much different than before. The foliage is taller and the flower stems do not have the same curves. I wonder if it is even the same plant? Barbara D.
Orchids are dynamic creatures in that they never, ever look the same from year to year. In the off-season, they grow new leaves and roots – all of which may take on shapes that barely resemble their previous selves. Leaves may be twisted or straight, tall or short. Roots may be all over the pot or growing up the canes. The plant could be in a bigger pot or a smaller one.
As the plant blooms, stranger things may occur. What was once a heavily laden display of flowers may offer just a few blossoms. Or vice versa. A relatively immature plant may have grown into a specimen with dozens of flowers. Single flower stems may be replaced by three or more. The following year could then be just the opposite.
Even ‘stud’ plants, or those which are reserved for breeding and orchid shows, are not exempt from such apparent metamorphosis. Though they don’t change color markedly, the flowers can change somewhat in shape and size. A prize winning specimen might be completely overlooked by the same judges the following year.
The best way to verify that the plant is the same is to look at the name tag in the pot. It lists the botanical name of the orchid regardless of whether the plant is having a good day or not.

Monday, May 1, 2006 - 18:15