Monday, July 30, 2012

What I Now Know About Orchids

It's a one sided love affair.  

Oh how I love them....  

Their slender arched stems that hold those exotic looking blooms,  

....the brilliant colors and designs, 

their wide, waxy leaves.   

I even love the cachepots and urns that hold them and the mossy decorations tucked in at their feet.

But oh how they don't love me back.

They greet me with yellow and leathery leaves,

and blooms that dry up and drop off long before their time.  It's cruel really. 

It makes me wonder about the lyrics ...."All You Need is Love"
Apparently with orchid love you need something more.  

My husband had given me a beautifully planted orchid for my birthday in March.  But before the left-over birthday cake was gone (and around our house that is not very long) the plants were showing signs of stress.  

We read the instructions which told us that the quickest way to kill an orchid is to over-water it.  Not wanting to kill it in the quickest way, I was very careful to only give it an ice cube about every other week.  

But what the instructions didn't say is that under-watering is the second fastest way to kill an orchid.  It's a rather slow painful death.  Here is something I have learned the hard way.

It is possible to over-do the under-watering!

Since the signs of over and under watering are very similar, due to unhealthy roots, the only way to know for sure what is going on is get at the root of the problem.  You have to get it out of the pot and look at the roots.

You can see the dried out roots on the left and the healthy roots (because I just picked it up from the nursery) on the right.  If the problem had been due to overwatering the roots would be black and smell rotten.  You can see a little bit of a black root in the picture where I am holding the root ball.  This part was likely sitting in standing water for a while.

Here are a few signs you have a watering problem:

1. Buds that drop off before they bloom
2. Leaves that turn yellow or become leathery
3. The arched stem begins to change color before the blooms have ended

If you have any of these signs it's time to take a look at the roots and adjust the watering.

I had a long talk with the experts at the nursery and here are a few tips they passed on.

Ice cubes can be hard on the roots
The cold can be too much for the roots to take.  It is best to give the plant a small amount of water and check 15 minutes after watering to make sure there is no standing water at the bottom.

The right fertilizer can be very helpful
Never put the fertilizer on dry roots.  Water first, then water again with the diluted fertilizer.  

I'm giving this one a try, it was recommended by the nursery.  

Although this version from Miracle Gro seems more cost effective and I've always been happy with Miracle Gro  products.

If the orchid is exposed to bright light it will need more water
I had my orchid in a south facing entryway near a window.  It needed more water than an orchid, say for example, placed in the middle of a dining room table.  

Orchids planted in bark need more frequent watering than orchids planted in moss. 
Always check with your finger before you add any water and make sure it is dry.  It's best to actually take the plant out of the pot and look at the bottom of the roots until you get a feel for how often your orchid needs water.

I am determined to get my orchids to love me back.

I can just feel the will to live in the poor orchid I'm trying to nurse back to health.  I have enough love for the both of us and I'm really hoping for a full recovery of this relationship. 

But I'm also starting over with a new love, one that likes a little more sun. 

Does this make me a two-timing orchid-loving tramp???  Can you really love two orchids at the same time???? .....because I think I do.

If you are an orchid lover too, please, please share with me your hits and misses in the orchid world.  I need all the advice I can round up!

May your thumbs be green,


  1. I have a one sided love affair too...with hydrangeas. Good luck with your orchids!

  2. Wow - they are high maintenance! I go to the NY Botanical Garden's amazing orchid show each year - cannot imagine the care that goes into a whole show of orchids!

  3. If you have enough light in your bathroom it's probably the best place to keep them because it tends to be humid. I keep ours in the bathroom and pick up the pot - if it feels "light" (usually about once a week), I water it til the water runs through the bottom. Mine usually take the water about once a week, but of course, that depends on the size of your pot - I'm talking about a small pot here! Hope it helps...

    1. The bathroom is a great idea, I do have some light there. I'm willing to try anything.

  4. I'm a horticulturist and I don't even attempt orchids! I pick mine up at HomeGoods!

    1. Oh, no I am in serious trouble! I could probably wilt a silk one from HomeGoods!

  5. Wow..
    I barely have enough time to brush my teeth at night....let alone baby an orchid~~~LOL!!
    Hope you are able to master the art of orchid keeping!!

    1. Ya, I've had to give up on brushing my teeth since I got the orchids, just no time. I really want these things to grow......I'll probably be giving up showers next. LOL!!

  6. They are a fussy bunch!!! I hold mine under the faucet with warmish water, let it drain out before putting back in the dish....I also keep the pot raised above the dish so roots are not standing in water. I water once a week and do all the wonderful things and they still don't bloom. The leaves are wonderful and healthy......they told me at the florist not to keep moss and such on top because it promotes rot......mine are potted in bark......sitting in a nice bright window in my kitchen.....and nothing!!!

  7. Oh you too funny two timing orchid lover tramp you make me laugh. Sorry girl I am no help. I always thought that orchids were gorgeous but a bit too fancy for me. I just knew I would probably kill it in no time. I have never ever owned one. Hope you have better luck and please don't starve this one. lol! Thanks for sharing your orchid adventures with Share Your Cup.