Ask the Expert: Orchids
This week’s Ask the Expert feature focuses on one of the most common gifted plants around. Our florists at Belle Fiori are often asked about the care and maintenance of the delicate orchid, and we’re always happy to advise…
Orchids….how do I get new blossoms? I put a few ice cubes in it each week, but no success after 1 1/2 years! Although the plant is growing, there are no flowers. What should I do? -Nichole S.
Different varieties of orchids have different needs to re-bloom in a home. The best starting point is to think of where and how the plant will grow in it’s native setting. I’m going to assume that you have a Phalaenopsis orchid, this is the most commonly available.
The most common reason for any orchid not to bloom is insufficient light. Move your phalaenopsis plants to a window where they will receive strong, but indirect light. Remember, in it’s natural setting, an orchid will have lots of light but could be underneath a bigger tropical tree for indirect light. I personally have good luck with a bay window in my kitchen. Try to get 2 of 4 directions for natural light, north & west or south & east, etc.. Also, “indirect” means soft, diffused, or filtered light, so avoid hot, direct sun or use a sheer curtain to act as a shade cloth. You might also try lighting your plants with a fluorescent light fixture placed about 1-2 feet above the foliage, but this is challenging in a home.
The next reason to consider is nutrition. Are you feeding your plant? This can come in two different forms-potting soil or fertilizer. If the plant is still in the original medium, a re-potting can help (sphagnum moss or bark chips are most common options). Look for the same type of medium that your plant is currently in (several brands are readily available). Carefully remove the plant from the original container and take this time to wash and scrub the container to remove any bacteria or mold spores. Discard all of the original medium and fill the container half-full with new medium, then place the roots and plant in the pot. Finally, work more medium on top and between the roots to fill the pot and hold the plant in place. This will take some wiggling, shimming and shaking to get around all those squiggly roots, but keep carefully working at it until the plant feels sturdy in the pot. Give the new potting medium a thorough watering. After 30 minutes, drain away any standing water by slowly tipping the pot and pouring the extra out into the sink. It will take a few weeks to see the effect, but this new soil is yummy to your plant. Lastly, consider adding a fertilizer to your plant watering regimen. Following the directions for each brand is best as the proportions and potency vary.
I personally do not like the ice cube method for watering a tropical plant. If you grew up in Hawaii would you want ice cubes on your feet? No way! The only benefit the ice cubes give, is to avoid over watering by only providing a few tablespoons of liquid when they melt. Try switching to a consistent measurement (4-8 oz. for a 5″ diameter pot/weekly) of tepid water. If you plan to use fertilizer, use it every other watering. Too much fertilizer is like too much rich food and will upset your plant. In good ole’ Southeastern Wisconsin, we are challenged with limited daylight and often low humidity from dry homes in the winter. You can expect a Phalaenopsis orchid to bloom once a year with the stem of blossoms often lasting almost three months from the first open bloom to the last. A dormant time of low light will occur in November, December and January. As the days get brighter and longer your orchids will be encouraged to send up a new stem and bloom. Hopefully a few of these changes will show the fruits, …er blooms, of your labor.