I have been babying my orchid (grocery store variety) for six years but it has not bloomed. I run a humidifier next to it every day for an hour and keep it under fluorescent lighting. What can I do differently? Joan T.
Successful growers agree that the quickest way to kill an orchid is to give it unwarranted attention – in other words, ‘baby’ it. How does one resist the temptation to love an orchid to death? Start by visualizing the plant living naturally in the jungle. It gets whatever the outside conditions provide. The first time I saw the spectacular Cattleya dowiana in full bloom in a Costa Rican rainforest…the flowers were beaten up by the winds and rains, as well as the wildlife. There wasn’t much left!
A ‘grocery store variety’ is another way of saying a ‘relatively common type’ which presumably is a Phalaenopsis. Moth orchids can grow under artificial light but natural is always preferred.
No epiphyte will be happy with one hour of humidity a day, however. A general rule is at least 50% all day, every day so a humidity gauge has to be in the room to verify the need for additional moisture. Don’t forget the temperature drop to encourage the flower spike.

I re-potted my Cattleya in an ‘orchid pot’ with ventilation holes on all sides. I wasn’t concerned when roots began to grow through the holes, but then leaves did! What now? Chandra Z.
I bet this plant is a sight to see – orchid potting gone wrong!
An ‘orchid pot’ is a loosely defined term that can mean anything from a simple clay pot with slits or holes cut into the side to a fancy ceramic decorative pot with attached saucer. It is implied that using such a container is necessary and even beneficial to the plant, when in fact it is neither. Modified clay pots are overkill in terms of getting air circulation to the roots – regular clay pots work best, and decorative pots are designed to hold only the growing pot, never the bare roots. Orchids must be ‘pot bound’ or tightly potted in order to be happy.
For the leaves to grow errantly out the sides, this plant must have been potted too low - with the rhizome well beneath the level of the media. The new pseudo-bulbs were disoriented upon sprouting and started growing in the path of least resistance and most light. Once outside, the leaves continued to grow but will eventually get ‘stuck’ because they become wider than the holes.
There are only two viable options to save this plant. Both are considered ‘extreme’ by any measure. The first involves breaking the pot with a hammer so as to free the new growths. The second requires chopping off the growths. In both cases, prompt re-potting of the mother plant into a normal clay pot is next. Cattleyas only bloom on their newest leaves so the sooner the surgery is performed the better.

I am new to Phalaenopsis orchids. Should I have two or more in the house so they can pollinate? Elaine H
Every house should have lots of orchids…the more the merrier…but not for pollination...rather for human enjoyment! Twenty in the kitchen, fifty in the living room….nothing is too outrageous!
A little known fact about orchids is that they don’t need a partner to breed (i.e. no awkward first dates or dinners with in-laws). Each flower contains both male and female parts. Cross pollination and self pollination occur regularly in the jungle with the help of a willing insect or bird. In captivity, the process is performed by an experienced hybridizer using a toothpick. The ensuing seeds ripen over a 12 month period then are planted in a sterile laboratory which will remain their home for several years. Later, after a two year stint in a greenhouse, the most vigorous of the seedlings begin to bloom.
For now, I would just enjoy the blossoms of your fledgling new hobby!

Thursday, November 13, 2008 - 17:45