Sunday, September 26, 2010

A few Do's and Don'ts of Orchid Care

It is always a good idea to talk to your orchids. This means, unless you have some very odd physical quirks, that you will be looking at them. And when you're looking at them, you will see
how they are doing. But don't wait till the second glass of Chardonnay in the twilight, when any minor problems may be hard to register.
And talking to your orchids does not mean addressing the assembled plants like someone at Toyota. As any good CEO will tell you, each operative blossoms when afforded individual attention.

If you think something is wrong with your orchid, Do Not Panic.
Most orchids die from worry. Not their worrying, yours. Because we always seem to be talking about keeping orchids warm enough, they are thought of more like patients than plants, or like hot house divas, ready any moment to get consumptive and dramatically expire.
Orchids are tough: think old boots not primroses. You could lose them in a land fill and most of them would emerge, if you dug around long enough, a little creased up, but still alive.
Which brings us to:

Never throw away an orchid because it looks dead.
Orchids are not like the Monty Python parrot. They can look like they're pushing up the daisies, they can look stiff as a board but hang on! Many look dead on purpose, like some dendrobiums, or play dead. (Many vandas I have known). They need:

Tough Love
Certain dendrobiums need to be ignored, for 3 months when they go into dead parrot mode. Some orchids apparently wither and die. But hold on to that crusty old stem or clump of roots. Hang it up, high and dry. And, often, after you've totally forgotten it, you may see tiny green buds emerging- signs of life.

This tough love also can work with a lush plant that refuses to bloom. It preens around, all green and happy but you didn't pay good money for that. A head of lettuce can do that. Take it out of its cosy spot- hang it up next to your wizzened stems. Ignore it. Shock it. And the final move: put that orchid in your Wilma.

Every orchid house needs a Wilma section. Hurricane Wilma wrecked one of our orchid houses, old shade cloth still hanging overhead, tilting benches. That's where we started to put ugly, dried out, near death plants or leggy orchids that had never bloomed. Ones with too much mite damage, ones I couldn't quite bring myself to throw away -Wilma was the back of the fridge.

And after a few months I would wonder: why had we put such healthy looking plants out there?And how come so many were blooming? Some bits and pieces had died away but most, falling out of broken pots and old baskets,were happily tangling up with new roots and climbing over each other like toddlers, open to whatever nature gave them: rain when it rained, bright hard sun. No extra help at all.
It's a reminder- (see under Don't Panic)- orchids are survivors. They have been surviving all over the world without the bloom boosters, the fancy fertilizers and sprays, the stakes and tidy pots.
I think they'll be around when we've all gone but that makes them sound too much like cockroaches. Just think old boots.


  1. Good advice and hilarious to boot! (See what I did there)

  2. Yeah, Alice! Now I'm set for the day!