I’ve grown phals successfully for several years and am wondering what others orchids I might try? Max C.
It is true that moth orchids are the easiest to grow, longest lasting, and most popular. Yet, for many hobbyists, there is a burning desire to try something new – to step out of the box. After all, Phalaenopsis all have the same general ‘look’ – long arching sprays of pastel blooms – and, for the most part, all bloom in Virginia sometime between January and May. But how does one choose from the literally hundreds of other orchid genera?
Accomplished growers group their plants by light requirements. Good companions for moth orchids are Paphiopedilums which also prefer indirect exposure. In their natural environment, these lady slippers grow on the floor of the rainforest where the conditions are shady and damp. The hobbyist can be successful by placing the plants in a filtered east, filtered west, or north window. Full sun, even for a short time, would burn the tender leaves – resulting in varying shades of brown foliage.
Like phals, there are no pseudo-bulbs to store water so paphs cannot be allowed to dry out. Most growers ‘drench their slippers’ several times a week. Weak fertilizer can be added to the water though care must be taken not to harm the roots which are ‘sensitive’. Paphs are compact growers and many can fit on a windowsill. They only bloom on their newest set of leaves and, though they can be divided into pieces, they perform their best when left as a clumpy potful.
Fun fact – Scientists have never figured out a way to mass produce identical Paphiopedilums using laboratory cloning techniques the way other orchids are cultivated. Instead, they are grown only from seed. Just like children, each one is unique and has its own exciting characteristics. Wow, a redhead!
My phalaenopsis did not bloom for six years. Last summer, after reading this column, I re-potted it and sat it out on my deck for some cool nights in the fall. I must have done something right because, sure enough, it sent up a flower spike. How in the world did I do that and what do I do now? Bob P.
Growing an orchid is like baking a cake – just follow the recipe! In the case of phals, it is very important that the plants get re-potted soon after they finish blooming – usually in the summer so that strong leaves and roots develop. Then they are given a 3 week chilling period sometime in the fall to initiate the flower spike. From there, it is just a waiting game – 3 months while the spike matures and the buds form (Nov, Dec, Jan) followed by 3 additional months of blossom enjoyment (Feb, Mar, Apr). What could be easier?
I fell heir to an orchid and have no idea how to care for it. The leaves are a nice green color and there is a dried flower stem. I water it very little. Della O.
The first question any plant doctor is going to ask is “What kind of orchid is it?” If there is uncertainty or no response, a follow-up question might be “Is there an identification label in the pot?” Describing the plant attributes, unfortunately, invites confusion since most orchid foliage has ‘nice green color’ and all old blossoms have a ‘dried flower stem’. Orchids are usually recognized by their leaves. Historically, greenery samples would be sent through the mail for identification by experts. These days, digital pictures are used.
Most likely, the orchid in question is a popular genera so providing filtered light, moderate temperatures, and water twice a week will suffice.