Saturday, June 24, 2006

Orchid Care Can be Easy!! - just take the right steps, from an Orchid expert

A number of years ago, I worked for Rod Mclellan Company (they were bought just after I left and renamed McLellan Botanicals), the world's largest Orchid Company for around 3 years, and part of my job was:
  • R&D - went all over the place locating new varieties for hybridizing, mass producing, and more
  • Public speaker - gave well over 200 talks to the public in the SF Bay area - garden clubs, Orchid societies, big events
  • Manager - managed a team or Orchid experts
  • Company Orchid expert - did employee trainings in retail store, met with owners of other Orchid companies, was Orchid judge, hybridized new varieties
  • and much more. Was published in quite a lot of trade magazines, popular newspapers, in books, etc.
So, yes, Orchids can be easy to care for. It is all in the mindset you have and just getting a basic understanding or how Orchids work. Big stores want you to think Orchids are easy to care for so they price them lower and buy them in mass production. Expert growers want you to think they're easy to care for so you buy more plants. Why then, do we all think Orchids are so hard to care for?

Because no one spends the time telling us we need to choose the right Orchid for our home.

There are over 100,000 kinds of Orchids and they are amazing. But, they are all from different places and environments. What makes an Orchid what it is, is not that it is a tropical plant. What makes an Orchid what it is , is the structure of the flower. Therefore, there are Orchids that grow in dirt under trees in New Zealand in shade, and there are Orchids that grow in the tops of trees with no dirt in the Amazon rainforest, clinging to branches with their roots, in very bright light. Some Orchids have a flower the size of the head of a pin, some bloom underground, some can be over 20 feet in length (vanilla Orchid), some bloom for 1 day, some bloom for many months up to more than a year, some like bright light, and some like mostly shade.

Here's a quick guide to Orchids to get you a plant at home NOW based on what conditions you have at home:

  • If you have bright light between 50% to 90% of sun: choose a Vanda, Cattleya or Dendrobium
  • If you have high humidity or can get high humidity, and greenhouse: choose a Vanda or Cattleya
  • If you have 10-50% sunlight: choose a Miltonia, Phalaenopsis (most popular), or Oncidium.
  • For a plant at work, where you have fluorescent lighting, choose a Phalaenopsis
How to choose an Orchid at the store:
  1. Prefer a store that is climate controlled - many Orchids if they get too cold or hot will drop their buds a number of days later
  2. If you are shopping at a big department store or farmers market, where you think they may have had their trucks in the sun or stored the plants in cold, be very aware
  3. In being aware, make sure some plants here and there aren't starting to drop ANY buds by turning yellow. That may mean yours will soon too depending on how it was transported. The only way that is ok for flowers to end is by naturally thinning and eventually dropping off, not by browning or yellowing.
  4. Check the mix the plant is in. Look under the pot and see if you can see alive green, yellow or white roots through the holes. That is important.
  5. If roots are dead around the top of the pot, dried out and shriveled, or if the planting mix looks old, do not buy. It takes a long time to nurse a plant like this back to having strong roots and energy.
  6. Are any of the leave yellowing? If so, it is only ok if 1 leave is naturally yellowing and falling off - if you see a trend where one and then the next is yellowing, beware. You want all green, thick healthy leaves.
  7. You want to buy a plant where none, or 1-5 flowers are open. If all the flowers are open, your Orchid will be done blooming sooner.
  8. You want a care sheet when you buy the plant.
  9. You want to buy from a seller that seems to have cared for this plant. If it is a small nursery, you can tell by how they do things and the general atmosphere. If it is a department store or other big chain store, you can tell by how well the plants are taken care of overall, organized, etc. At a store there is someone designated to run a section, and just like in a supermarket you can tell when the produce section manager has done a great job because the produce is fresh, you can do the same with Orchids.
  10. Feel free to explore my Orchid Care site. This was created for one purpose: For you - I want to help you as I enjoy simplifying information for people
  11. Be careful when you buy plants online. Many growers will compete with prices, but that is not the only important thing. You want a plant that is ready to bloom, and very healthy. Orchids from meristem (cloned Orchids), seed, or root growth are the only three kinds of Orchids out there. The typical Orchid takes 5 years to get to blooming size. You don't want to get a plant that is in year four just prematurely blooming. You want a strong plant. Make sure when you buy, the description states the plant is healthy blooming size. For most of us it is no fun to have to grow a plant for years to try to get it to bloom. You want a plant already with the energy to bloom.



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