I have been told that orchids don’t like to have ‘wet feet’. Is it best to water plants in the sink, and how long should I let the tepid water run? Sara N.
'Wet feet' is the term used to describe a potting medium that stays wet for a long period of time - days or weeks - and usually results in the roots completely dying. And there is nothing worse than an orchid with no roots.
The primary reason that orchids don't like 'wet feet' is because, in the wild, they are epiphytes which grow on the sides of trees and cling to the bark. Their roots get moistened almost daily in the rainforest but dry quickly because they are exposed to the sun and air. Once we remove them from their natural surroundings and force them into little pots, we are now responsible for their upkeep.
A general rule of thumb is to water an orchid about twice a week thoroughly and this usually takes place under a faucet. The water temperature is not that critical - avoid extreme heat and cold. Some growers soak their plant in a bowl for 5 minutes to be sure that every single root is completely wet. Now the key is to wait until the medium is almost dry before watering again.
Orchids that are potted in moss are the easiest of all to water correctly. Just touch the surface. If damp, wait a day and test again. In some cases, it might need a week or two to dry out. Orchids that are potted in bark chips always seem dry so the twice a week rule suits them best.
It really doesn't matter where orchids are watered - kitchen sink or otherwise - just as long as they are.

My orchids are not doing as well in my new house as they did in my old house. The leaves on the Cattleyas have turned brown. The Dendrobiums only have canes now. Help! Carolyn M.
Could it be that the new house is not plant friendly? There are some dwellings that, for some reason, are not suitable for plant life. Maybe not human life either. After all, if the environmental conditions are toxic to plants, they don't sound very healthy for people either.
The seven cultural conditions that are important to orchids are: air circulation, fertilizer, humidity, light, potting medium, temperature, and watering. We can assume that the fertilizer and potting medium are unchanged and that low air circulation, though frowned upon, is rarely fatal. Therefore, there remain four possible conditions that could be the cause of this orchid calamity.
HUMIDITY should be at least 50% and an inexpensive hygrometer can measure this.
LIGHT for Cattleyas and Dendrobiums is intermediate which is a east, west, or south exposure with full sun coming through the window and diffused by sheer curtains or blinds.
TEMPERATURE for most orchids is 60 deg F to 90 deg F year round.
WATER QUALITY is assumed good unless all else fails. If in doubt, switch to rain water or bottled water for a few months and observe.
Think like a detective and the answer will become apparent.

My husband took me to an orchid show where we were told that Phalaenopsis only bloom in the spring. I own a Phal that won't stop blooming. Is this hard on the plant? Janice B.
Phalaenopsis are seasonal and almost all bloom between January and May here in Virginia. Typical flowering duration is 3 months. A plant that ‘wont stop blooming’ means that the flowers last longer than 3 months. Maybe six or nine. Or a year or two.
It is not always clear why some moth orchids outperform others but a seasoned grower can look at a plant and tell whether the exceptionally long blooming time is having an adverse effect. Limp leaves and a lack of new root or leaf growth is an indication. If in doubt, cut the flowers off and enjoy them in a vase. Both you and the plant will be able to rest peacefully.

Sunday, October 1, 2006 - 18:00