The Orchid Whisperer
July 27, 2012
Wanna know something? When it comes to indoor plants, I’ve never met an orchid I couldn’t kill. It isn’t for lack of wanting to keep an orchid alive or an affection for the species. In fact, I like to buy orchids from time to time and display them in my home, but truth is, I lack both the talent and patience to successfully care for them. Yes that’s me, I fully admit I am an Orchid Killer. I should start a new series called “things I suck at” because let me tell you “orchid grower” is super high on that list.
As we all know, orchids are so pretty displayed indoors – some designers label the mass produced Phalaenopsis as “ubiquitous” but I think all varieties are beautiful. We acquired a few orchids earlier this year, and as with the two dozen other orchids I’ve ever purchased and owned over the course of my life, they look pretty for two weeks, the blooms fall off, and then the stem turns wooden and petrified, death results, and that’s the end of the story.
So here’s how things changed in our house and someone (not me) became The Orchid Whisperer.
Matt was on a real estate inspection a few months ago, and the woman who lived in the home he was appraising had an impressive collection of orchids that had rebloomed year after year. Knowing his wife to be a notorious Orchid Killer, he inquired how he might take it upon himself to learn a few tricks – perhaps spare the lives of a few of the species – and asked this knowledgeable woman what really was the secret formula for orchids that rebloom? And she spilled it.
So we he tested out these key pieces of advice over the course of the last few months, and hey guess what, they worked.
Exhibit A: I brought home a moth Phalaenopsis orchid pictured here at my kids’ public school auction (mixed with curly willow) way back in early March and after the blooms fell off, I pretty much ignored it. It sat there dormant, but Matt followed all the tips suggested, and look at it now, five months later.
I feel three emotions at the same time looking at this orchid. I’m proud, surprised, and just a little envious because under his care, this is what happened:
So not fair.
And to prove his new skill, the orchid below that I photographed for this winter post . . .
Is actually blooming again in my home.
And I had nothing to do with it.
(silently shaking fist in air whilst muttering *damn you Orchid Whisperer!*)
Because, truth be told, if left to me, all orchids end up looking like this:
So guess what people, there’s hope!
You too can have an orchid rebloom in your home!
Matt’s Five Tips:
1. Repot! After your orchid plant loses its blooms and goes into dormancy, repot it in an orchid pot like this one designed to allow for aeration among the roots.
2. Replant in Bark or Moss. Orchids should be planted in sphagnum moss or bark. If you tend to water your plants a lot, then choose bark because it dries out faster, but if you tend to underwater your plants, then moss is a better choice because it holds moisture longer.
3. Avoid Overwatering. Avoid the watering can or running under the faucet method. Instead place a large ice cube (or several small ice cubes) on the outskirts of the moss or bark to allow for slower watering as the ice cube(s) melt. Do this once a week in between feedings. Use your finger to determine if any moisture remains underneath moss to avoid overwatering. In hot or humid climates where the air conditioner runs indoors, mist once or twice a week with a water spritzer bottle. Humidity helps orchids thrive – bathrooms are a natural place to put them, but not essential.
4. Fertilize. Twice a month add a small amount (less than recommended on the package) of orchid food to an empty squeeze bottle filled with water (ketchup bottles work well). Dose the outer edges of the pot with 6 to 8 ounces of the mixture.
5. Grow in Filtered Light. Most orchids do not thrive in direct sunlight, so situate them in filtered light or in front of sheer curtains. Dark green leaves signal health, but yellowed leaves are a clear sign your orchid is getting too much light.
Here are a few more great resources:
Any of you ever had an orchid rebloom for you? Any of your spouses possess a level of talent you can never achieve? Do share.