Trying New Things

I’m like most people. Trying new things can be kind, well, scary. This past weekend, I decided to take a chance and step out of my comfort zone – at least a little. After listening to an interview on the Flowerland Show and checking out orchid show at Meijer Gardens, I bought an orchid.

I’m not big on buying a plant only to have it die, so I attended a lecture for ‘newbies.’ You know what? Orchids really aren’t any fussier than my beloved roses.  After talking with the speaker and the vendor, I decided to go with a Phalaenopis. Phalaenopsis require low to intermediate light and can tolerate intermediate to warm temperatures (60 to 85 degrees F). My kitchen window faces east and my house is usually at 68 – 70 degrees F.

I learned some other things about orchids at the orchid show as well as through additional research.

  • There are over 20,000 species of orchids, each with its own preference on light, temperature and watering. If you’re buying an orchid and you aren’t sure what will work best for where you want to put it, do your research and ask questions.
  • Orchids also have a special potting medium. Since their roots have a spongy coating on them that soaks up water, you don’t want to use plain dirt or standard potting soil. That can cause the roots to get water-logged and suffocate, basically killing the plant. Orchid potting mediums are a lot coarser and can include chips of bark, stones, tree fern fiber or some other loosely packed material that allow for air circulation as well as drainage.
  • Speaking of watering, you don’t need to water an orchid more than every 4 to 7 days depending on the size of the pot, the growing medium and humidity. A simple way to check if the orchid needs water is to stick your pinky into the potting medium up to your knuckle.  If the medium is dry, then water. If it is still damp, wait.
  • Orchids need fertilizer. I was told, and I read, to use diluted fertilizer (1/4 to ½ recommended strength) every 7 to 14 days.
  • Orchids like it humid. If that doesn’t work for your house, some suggestions are to mist the plant every morning or to place the plant’s pot on a bed of pea gravel lightly covered with water.
  • The peak blooming season for orchids is actually during the winter months and blooms can last 3 to 8 weeks depending on the type of orchid. That’s ideal for those of us who could use a little color in the colder months. If you need to re-pot, do it during the spring or summer if possible. (You need to re-pot if when the potting medium no longer absorbs water.)

I can’t wait to see how this experiment works!