Sunday, July 26, 2015
Those two Miltonopsis plants are long gone now...they did not survive the move across the country. Hundreds of orchids later, a lot of which I have killed either due to lack of knowledge, not the right growing conditions, neglect (yes, I forget to water too! Or I overwater!) and probably just plain too many plants to care for...I can now say I can grow them if I put my mind to it! I was a member of my local orchid society for over a decade until last year. I am always asked when others find out that I grow orchids "Aren't they really hard to grow?" As you can see from my first experience, they are tougher than you think! So, here are some step by step instructions on how to grow your first orchid! And no, absolutely NO ICE CUBES!!! *cringe!*
Step 1: Locate a healthy plant. A great starter plant is the Moth Orchid. The flowers look somewhat similiar to the image at the top of this post and the leaves are paddle shaped such as in the pic at the bottom of this post.
Step 2: Pull said plant out of the pot while you are in the store and look at the roots. Disregard any weird looks you may get. You NEED a healthy plant to start with! Put it back if it has a ton of brown mushy roots, white hollow roots. You want white or green firm roots! Go ahead, take your fingers and give those roots a gentle squeeze. Find one? GOOD!
Step 3: Search out and purchase a bag of Orchid Bark Mix along with your orchid. Take both home. If your plant has buds on it that aren't open yet, take care to protect them from drastic temperature changes or else you may lose them in what we call a bud blast. They shrivel and fall off! A paper bag is best for this.
Step 4: When you get home, grab a bucket, dump some of the bark mix in, add water and one (1) drop of dish soap. Give it a good stir and leave overnight. Place your orchid in a safe place where it is not in direct full sun all day long.
Step 5: Ok you're awake now! Most orchid enthusiasts will tell you to wait until the plant is done blooming to repot. I've found that if I wait that long, those pretty firm roots are all rotten by the time I am ready to repot. So, do this my way b/c I have not had one person come back and tell me this hasn't worked for them. ;) Go run water through your orchid pot. When it is throughly soaking wet (take care not to get water into the crown of the plant or else this too will rot your plant and kill it quickly!) pull the plant out of the pot. If you see roots sticking out above the pot, that's OK! Make sure those roots are wet also. They should turn from white to green.
Step 6: Pull off old potting mix
Step 7: Take a pair of sterile cutting tools....either torch your cutting utensils with heat or get throw away blades and cut off any brown mushy or hollow roots.
Step 8: Now gather all the roots and make sure they are wet, green, and pliable. Bend them down and place plant back into the same pot it came in. If you can't fit all the roots back in, you may go one size up in a pot. Otherwise, place it back in the same pot or if it does not have enough roots to fill that same pot, go smaller. Orchids like to be pot bound so do not over pot! Now scoop that bark mix you had soaking all night into the pot making sure the bark is poked into all the nooks and crannies around the roots. Tap the pot gently on a hard surface to get the mix to settle in also. Continue until the pot is completely filled making sure the plant is anchored really well in the pot. Be careful with your flower spike that you don't break it!
Step 9: Place plant in a east, west or shaded south window. Water pot throughly once a week and fertilize "weakly weekly", by mixing up only 1/2 of what is suggested on your fertilizer label. Once a month, just flush pot with plain water with no fertilizer added.
So there you have it! You're on your way to growing your first orchid! Here is your shopping list:
2. bark mix
3. a size larger and smaller pot
4. fertilizer that has no urea as the nitrogen
5. cutting blades
The secret to getting these moth orchids to bloom? If you throw them outside in late summer (under a tree or something for shade) until the temps hit 50˚F, the temperature change will shock it into blooming!
The other question I get a lot is, "My flowers have all faded, what should I do?" You have three options: cut the spike (stem) that held the flowers all the way to the base, cut the spike down to the level of where the first flower came out, or do nothing!
Cutting it down to the base will give your plant time to recover. Flowering is very taxing on the plant itself. It's like preparing to have babies constantly. If you cut at the base, you probably won't see flowers until the next season.
If you cut where the first flower had bloomed, it may branch out and grow more flowers for you!
If you do nothing, the end may grow more flowers for you, or it may grow a baby plant!
If either of the last two scenarios grows a flower that is all deformed, you should consider cutting the spike all the way at the base of the plant to let it recover instead. If the spike turns yellow and then brown, it is dead. No more flowers will come off that spike and you should just cut it at the base.