Clarifying Misconceptions about Orchids
By LMG Calla Victoria
Orchids (pronounced orkids) are breathtaking plants and the blooms can last several months. Orchids are of the botanical family of Orchidaceae and the most common variety of orchids is phalaenopsis; those are the ones you find at the florist, big box stores, and girls get as a wrist corsage for prom. However there are hundreds of orchids most are epiphytes (meaning they don’t require soil to survive), but a few are terrestrial. Most have no fragrance but a few have amazing strong aromas like vanilla. My favorite type of orchid variety is the Vanda. It has gigantic blooms almost three times the size of the blooms on the phalaenopsis, and the blooms, like with most orchids last for months. And Vanda orchids have these clusters of long white gnarly roots that hang down about fifteen or sixteen inches long under the plant.
The roots of an orchid are only there to anchor the plant, the orchid does not bring food up from its roots to the plant. Orchids have tiny scales all over them that catch water to nourish the plant. Orchids like to be wet and then they like to be dry, they need daily misting and thrive in indirect sunlight. The best way to understand a plant is to know its native habitat. Orchids originated in the tropics, and if you know about the tropics like say Hawaii, then you know there is a light shower every day. So yes spritz your orchid really well every day, or you can give it a good drink of water daily but make sure the water drains off. Orchids do not like wet feet; which is why you find them in open weave baskets that allow water to immediately run off.
Misconceptions about orchids:
1. Orchids are delicate. Wrong, orchids are very rugged plants. I think we get the idea that orchids are delicate because we see exposed roots, or we imagine that long bloom spike is fragile.
2. Orchids don’t re-bloom. Surprise, surprise orchids do re-bloom. Understand that when a plant blooms it is completing its life cycle. So if you remove the bloom the plant has to start the process over again. When the last flower drops on your orchid’s bloom spike, cut your flower spike halfway down the stem (cut it just above a joint) and seal the cut with melted candle wax or cinnamon powder to prevent bacterial infection. If you continue to care properly for your orchid a new bloom should appear shortly and flourish for up to 3 to 4 months. Some varieties of orchids do require a slight temperature change to force a re-bloom, so know the variety of orchid you are dealing with.
3. We think that we need to re-pot orchids when we see their roots exposed. Wrong, orchids like to be pot-bound and should not be re-potted for a couple of years. The natural habit of the orchid’s roots is to grab onto something to anchor the plant, that is why the roots climb out of the pot, and they have some kind of suction on the roots to assist in stability. If you have ever tried to re-pot an orchid you had to pry the roots from the sides of the pot. Orchids in the wild grow attached to trees and rocks, so as they are attached to some taller structure it is understandable that they like some shade.
Check out my “Tip of the Week” about orchids on my "Gardening Tips" page.