Office Environments

Can orchids be grown successfully in an office environment? Andrew C.
For years, we have been hearing about the benefits of using plants indoors - providing oxygen, relieving stress, etc. Orchids also stimulate the senses by providing fascinating flowers, incredible colors, and, sometimes, fragrance. Countless stories abound regarding attempts by individuals at growing orchids at work – some successful and some not. The biggest threats to orchid survival in the workplace are poor air quality, low light levels, and lack of humidity.
Trial and error is the only way to know if the air quality is acceptable. The presence of other live greenery in the office (Peace Lilies, Spider Plants, etc) is a good sign. Plastic trees and silk arrangements are not. Matching the orchid type to the available lighting improves the chance of success. Paphiopedilums (lady slippers) and Phalaenopsis are usually recommended since they require low light. Indirect exposure near a window is preferred. Typical office florescent lights may not be adequate. Higher light orchids such as Dendrobiums and Oncidiums will need some filtered direct sunlight. Humidity levels are easy to increase by using inexpensive humidity trays.
Orchids will show their displeasure very quickly if unhappy with their new surroundings. Leaves will turn yellow and flowers will wither within one week or so. Best advice is to start slow. Try the easiest orchid of all, a Phalaenopsis, and see what happens.....

I have a new baby plant growing on my Dendrobium. When and how should I cut it off from the mother? Dorothy H
The next best thing to having an orchid that blooms is having one that makes babies. Such is the case with the Dendrobium that will occasionally produce new plantlets, called keikis (means baby in Hawaiian) from the sides of old canes. These keikis will grow quite rapidly if left intact and within a few years be as large as the mother. The secret to such vigor is the young plant's ability to draw energy from the parent's extensive root system. This parental assistance can only be accomplished if the two remain attached.
Once the plantlet has made several growths and a sizable root mass, it can be surgically removed with a sharp knife. Curl the roots into a clay pot and add wet seedling bark. The prognosis is excellent.
Resist the temptation to remove the tiny Dendrobium before it has matured as this approach leads straight to the intensive care ward and an additional 4-5 years of struggling.

I have a couple of orchids that were given to me when a close family member passed away. The plants looked very healthy and green initially but now the leaves have turned 'brown'. These plants are very special to me, what do you recommend? Scott K
There is nothing sadder than dead orchids, especially ones with sentimental value. So we must exhaust all possibilities before throwing in the towel.
Some orchids are very much alive despite their off-color foliage. Others drop their oldest leaves in preparation for blooming. Still others go dormant and have no leaves at all. However, the overwhelming majority of orchids with brown leaves are hopelessly dead.
What makes healthy green leaves turn brown? Extreme sunburn takes only a few hours in full sun. Black rotting of new growth can happen overnight after late day watering. Frost bite occurs at 32 deg F. Badly damaged orchids can, sometimes, return to their former prominence if the roots are intact and there is a small percentage of green remaining. Estimated time of recovery is measured in years.
Perhaps the most practical solution would be to ‘replace’ the inherited orchids with healthy counterparts. No need to feel guilty, people do it all the time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004 - 18:30