Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Orchids

I've been lucky growing plants my whole life - at least with those that need watering only once a month. So imagine my delight when my orchid plants re-bloomed this year!

My story begins a few years ago, when Mom came to New Albany for a visit. To help brighten up her room, I bought a blooming orchid plant at Home Depot. It had a nice stalk with about 8 blossoms, which lasted not only the 2 weeks of her visit, but on for another 4 months! The little tag on the plant said it was the easiest type of orchid to grow: phalaenopsis or "moth" orchid. I spoke to neighbors who had similar orchids, and they confirmed that they re-bloom every year. I didn't know how to care for them and cut off the blossom stalk after the blossoms fell off - only to see when visiting friends that I should have left the bare stem there. I dunked the plant into water when it had dried out (once every 1-2 weeks) and bought orchid plant food to add to the water every month or so. Sure enough, several months later, I was rewarded with a new, short flowering stalk and a couple of blossoms.

I became more adventuresome and bought another couple of phalaenopsis at Whole Foods (which, I found, has very good prices on orchids in November and December). I also bought a few bare-rooted orchid plants at the Franklin Park Conservatory's orchid sale after their orchid show for a few dollars each. I don't have any bright growing places for plants in my house and only a couple of ficus benjamina and a ponytail palm which have thrived through my benign neglect (my watering scheme is to drown them once a month, whether they need it or not). Well, my orchids weren't as tolerant.

I transplanted the orchids when I saw (through their clear plastic pots) that the pots were growing algae. I gave them new bark/peat medium in their transparent plastic pots. I put them in a plastic tray with pebbles on the bottom, which I would water to help provide a little humidity. Also, seeing how happy they were when they came back after being plant-sat at Tally & Midge's home during a couple of my multi-week trips away from home, I finallly put them among other plants (a braided Chinese money plant, and a Jerusalem cherry - from a cutting from a plant originally raised by Thomas Jefferson!). I think I over-watered them last fall and a few of the plants died.

The good news is that one phalaenopsis and a more difficult to grow odontoglossum are now re-blooming! I had even killed off a new bulb of the odontoglossum, but it has bounced back and has given me a spray of 5 buds, 3 now open with a delightful rose-like scent.

I've learned to dunk them in water only once every 6-8 weeks and not to let their pot bottoms get too wet from standing in the water around the pebbles. I think they also like being in with the bigger green plants. The sun from my north facing kitchen window appears to be enough (the money tree and Jerusalem cherry appear to be quite happy and are growing much taller and bushier). While the temperature varied widely during the winter (I turned down the thermostat to 50° when I was away on trips; while I was home, it would get up to the low 70s), the plants all survived.

My orchids: Testaments to the tenacity and beauty of life!

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