When to Repot

I have a Phalaenopsis that has bloomed steadily for 2 ½ months. Now the flowers are dropping. What do I do now? Julie G.
Follow this easy 5 step process and the highly popular 'moth' orchid will re-bloom year after year. Materials needed: Several sizes of clay pots (most likely 4", 5", 6" Azalea type, no slits in the side), small bucket of either peat moss or sphagnum moss potting medium. The peat moss should be supplemented with fine perlite, loose, and slightly damp. The sphagnum moss should be damp and fluffy.
1. Cut off the flower spike anywhere near the base of the plant. This will allow the orchid to 'rest' or take a break from blooming and avoid the possibility of blooming itself to death.
2. Repot the plant. This is a simple procedure that only takes a few minutes. Remove the plant from the pot and gently separate the old potting media from the roots. Curl the roots if necessary and determine the smallest size pot that the roots will comfortably fit into. Orchid like to be pot bound. Add the potting medium. Peat moss can be poured and tapped so there are no air pockets. Sphagnum moss can be gently wrapped but not packed.
3. Watch the new roots and leaves grow. Within a few weeks of potting, a new flush of roots will emerge and, if the media is kept damp, these roots will follow the moisture down into the bottom of the pot. Meanwhile, a new set of leaves will begin on top and, over the course of summer, will cover the old set. Lower leaves may turn yellow and fall off along the way.
4. Chill the plant in the fall for a few weeks to encourage a new flower spike. Provide 50 degree F night temperatures in October so the orchid knows that there is a change of seasons and blooming time is approaching.
5. Wait patiently for the new flower spike to emerge, elongate, make buds, then bloom. This step takes three month to complete.
Phalaenopsis are seasonal and usually bloom somewhere between January and May.

Are there any fragrant orchids? Heather F.
Most of the popular orchids today have highly desirable traits - long lasting and colorful flowers, lush vigorous foliage, etc. But the hybridizers seem to have forgotten one important characteristic - fragrance.
In the wild, some of the species orchids have a very powerful smell which is designed to attract their pollinators. Hybridizers would like to use these fragrant species to make new hybrids but, many times, the plants have other unexciting attributes such as blooming with only a few flowers, tiny flowers, or drab colors. So it is trade-off.
The most obvious exceptions are the entire large flowered Cattleya family and Oncidium Sharry Baby.
All the 20 or so large Cattleya species have a distinct smell and my father claims to be able to identify each plant by it's fragrance alone. The hybrids made from these species are usually quite sweet smelling but, with most Catts, the flowers only last a few weeks.  

I have 3 Cattleyas that are in flower currently and the pots are plastic. Should they be in clay? Brad C.
Orchids can be grown in either clay or plastic and the potting media modified accordingly. Clay will tend to dry out the roots while plastic will hold the moisture.
Plastic is used by most commercial growers since it is inexpensive (1/10 the cost of clay) but for the home grower who has less than 10,000 plants, price should not be a factor.
Clay is the material of choice for the hobbyist since the plants are less likely to have root rot, are bottom heavy and not inclined to flip over, and are already potted in a simple terracotta decorative container.

Friday, April 1, 2005 - 18:15