Orchid of the Month

I received an ‘Orchid of the Month’ Club membership as a gift. How do I care for these plants since each one is so different? Heather H.
You must be doing something right to have been given this luxurious present.
The Orchid of the Month club is the ultimate floral gift ($400+) and is successfully modeled after the popular Wine of the Month in which a new offering arrives at the front door 12 times year. In this case, the mix is tropical blooming orchid plants and comprises everything from big frilly Cattleyas and tall pastel Dendrobiums to mysterious lady slippers and long lasting Phalaenopsis.
What makes orchids a little different from wines is that tropical plants are living and need to be cared for. Fortunately, most ‘blooming’ orchids can be treated the same – Water twice a week and provide bright light.
‘Non-blooming’ orchids, or those whose flowers have finished, require an additional step in that they now have to be ‘grown’ correctly in order to flower again. This next step is mainly grouping the plants by their light requirements into two categories – intermediate and low. Plants such as Catts, Dens, and Oncies belong with the intermediates. Paphs and Phals with the lows. The watering for all is about the same.
The twelve orchids should get bigger and better each time and provide years of enjoyment. Wine of the Month can’t make that claim.

My Cattleya grew new flower sheaths that turned brown before any buds appeared. What did I do wrong? Gwen G.
Advanced growers know that brown sheaths are not necessarily a problem despite the ominous rotting appearance.
In fact, there is one naturally occurring Cattleya, C skinneri from Costa Rica, which routinely produces brown sheaths. Many close descendants of this bifoliate species also carry this harmless gene.
In most other cases, however, the browning of bud sheaths is a gradual fungal infection caused by water accumulation at the base of the protective bud covering. High humidity coupled with a lack of air circulation or a late day watering contributes to this problem.
Surprisingly, the delicate buds inside may be unaffected by the decaying surroundings and mature into gorgeous blossoms. On the other hand, the buds may succumb to the fungi, turn brown, and die.
A proactive approach to saving the buds is to slice open the top of the brown sheath and gently pull down the sheathing fibers about half way. Now, air movement will likely dry out the advancing fungi and allow the green buds to develop uninhibited.

My favorite orchid is the spider type with yellow tentacles and spots. What can you tell me about this orchid? Carrie A.
The Brassia or ‘Spider Orchid’ is aptly named because the flowers look alive and ready to strike.
The ‘tentacles’ are actually narrow sepals and petals and can reach up to a foot in length – giving the appearance of giant spider legs.
Brassias are often bred with other genera such as Odontoglossums and Oncidiums but the resulting progeny all have that same eerie look.
Spider Orchids and their hybrids have oval shaped pseudo-bulbs, bloom from their newest growth only, and are loosely grouped in the Oncidium family. They are considered relatively easy to grow and prefer filtered light and watering twice a week. The flowers last 4 to 6 weeks and usually appear twice a year.

Friday, September 1, 2006 - 18:00