Unlabeled Plants

I have been a collector for a couple of years now and I often buy discounted out of bloom plants at florist shops. Most do not have identification tags and I have yet to see them bloom. What can I expect? Damon H.
Florists and garden centers are responsible for such a wide range of floral material that they typically carry just the basics when it comes to exotic plants. As a result, their orchid selection is likely to be limited to varieties that can easily be identified by their blooms and possibly by just the foliage alone. A brief visit with a local orchid society member or professional grower will provide ample clues towards the plant ID's.
There are several potential drawbacks, however, to purchasing 'discounted out of bloom' orchids from retailers. The rock bottom low prices may be initially attractive but there could be some not-so-attractive reasons why the orchids did not sell the first time around. Orchids are 'hot sellers' these days so perhaps the particular flower attributes (color, shape, size, etc) were unappealing. Maybe the foliage was less than robust, even limp, or the roots rotten. Of course, the no-return policy is in full effect.
Then again, the plants could be diamonds in the rough. Flower spikes could emerge in no time with dozens of unbelievably beautiful cascading blooms.
At the very least, there is great comfort in knowing that the orchids were 'rescued' from an almost certain ill fate. With any luck, the plants will re-bloom respectably and become part of the family.

I employ several different watering techniques for my orchids, based on my mood and my spare time. Sometimes I use a watering can or a spray bottle while other times I soak the pot in a pan of fertilized water. I have also held the pot under a running tap of tepid water to flush out collected salts. What do you recommend? Haddie D.
It sounds like you have done your homework as all these methods are practiced routinely.
Raising orchids is not entirely scientific as evidenced by the wide range of opinions expressed by the ‘experts’. The very ‘gifted’ growers have a special connection with their plants that may involve intuition or even a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to culture. It just feels right.
Knowing when to spray the root tips or flush the pots also comes from experience and is the difference between a good grower and a great one.
The main goal in watering is to keep the roots damp most of the time. For plants that are potted in bark chips, a thorough drenching twice a week usually accomplishes this. For plants that are potted in some type of moss, a good soaking when the media approached dryness works best.

Six years ago, we purchased a Phalaenopsis. It bloomed beautifully then the stem turned completely brown and died. We cut the stem back to the base but it has not bloomed since. Any suggestions? Martha H.
Waiting six years for more flowers is highly commendable. Many growers in your situation would have given up long ago and tossed the plant out. This orchid owes you one spectacular blooming.
Orchids that haven’t flowered in a long time but otherwise look very healthy can, sometimes, really put on a show. It is as though they have saved up all their energy for one big curtain call. In the case of Phalaenopsis, one simple trick should bring forth the blossoms.
Autumn is the season for ‘chilling the Phals’ – Giving them 50 degree F nights for several weeks in order to encourage them to ‘set their flower spikes’. Putting the plants outside but covered, or, perhaps, inside an unheated garage should accomplish this goal. Upon return to the warm household, the plants will look unchanged but within a few weeks, the new spike emerges.
Some ‘Moth’ orchids will bloom without this gentle prodding but many will remain stubborn and continue to grow just leaves and roots. It is time to tell this plant who is boss.

Sunday, November 13, 2005 - 18:15