One of my Phalaenopsis is on a growth spree. It has two very long horizontal arms with what appear to be buds shooting out of last years flower stem. There are also two areas of new leaves on this stem. What is happening? Mike H.
Orchids gone wild! This is more than a growth spree. Your plant is going crazy.
This is an extreme example of what can happen when the old flower stem is not cut off after blooming. Each of the small nodes on a stem is capable of sprouting new growth - either leaves or flowers - and in this case, there are four new growths. A true phenomenon!
Even a seasoned hobbyist would be perplexed by this latest development. Since there are two new flower stems just weeks from blooming, the conventional wisdom would be to leave it alone. Likewise, the two new plantlets are usually left on the mother as long as possible in order to have a sporting chance for survival.
The problem lies in the fact that all this new growth is zapping the strength out of the mother who is trying her best to support 2 babies and 2 flower stems (while going to school and waiting tables at night). One could argue that all new growth should be abandoned in favor of saving the mother. Another option would be to sacrifice just the flowers and concentrate on nurturing the babies. I think I am in favor of that.
Cut off the old flower stem just above the point where the plantlets are growing. Wait until new ariel roots have formed and are a few inches long.
Then the babies can be carefully removed and planted into small pots (aka preschool) and the mother can return to a normal life.

How long does it take Dendrobium buds to open? I was given an orchid two years ago and am finally getting it to bloom. I can't wait to see the color of the blossoms. Lily W.
The 'Hawaiian Lei' orchid blooms whenever it feels like it. Often in the summer and fall during the long sunny days and sometimes more than once a year. New canes or old can sprout at any time and without warning. There is no way to encourage it or plan a party around it.
When it does bloom, it can be magnificent. We had one that made 18 flower stems with hundreds of flowers. Orchid judges had to painstakingly count each one before bestowing a prize.
It is not uncommon to skip a year or two between blooming cycles. Very often though, the floral display is worth the wait. Once the buds are visible on the stem, it takes a month or two to develop. Each day the buds get a little bigger, until one day, pop. Then the flowers last 2 months or more.

I am trying to keep up with the latest trends in the orchid world and I keep seeing semi-hydroponic growing techniques. Is this worth looking into? Cheri V.
In recent years, orchid hobbyists have been besieged with all sorts of new fangled accessories designed to enhance their growing experience including seaweed extract, curly willow, fancy planters, copper trays, sodium lights, plant vitamins, coconut husks, neem oil, and dragon fly clips.
Semi-hydroponic is a method that is gaining in popularity among amateur growers because it reduces both the frequency of repotting as well as watering. A special medium is used that is porous and inert, usually a clay aggregate about the size of marbles. This medium is poured into a custom container that has drainage holes 1" from the bottom so there is always a small reservoir of water for wicking up.
Generally speaking, an orchid that is potted using this method will not need to be re-potted for several years or more because the media does not deteriorate over time. Also, it is nearly impossible to over-water such a plant because the excess just runs out the sides and is not held by the aggregate.
Semi-hydro is probably not a passing fad but time will tell whether it catches on with the general public.

Monday, January 1, 2007 - 18:00