Almost Wild Orchids: Orchids as Houseplants

OrchidMy inlaws were over last night and were shocked and pleasantly surprised to see the orchid that my brother-in-law gave me for Christmas is not only still alive (unlike half my houseplants) but is still in full, not fading, not thinking about fading, spectacular bloom. A whole stalk of vagina reminiscent blossoms in streaky purple and white.

Orchids have a bad rap. Ask your average flower enthusiast about orchids and you either get a look that is similar to a law student having been told they have to take the bar orally or a look of such disgust that you would swear that orchids are made of rotted fish. “Oh, I don’t keep orchids. They are so fussy.”

Funny thing is, most orchids, at least the ones we mere mortals and non-enthusiast can get our hands on, are not that fussy. Actually, your average orchid found at your local Target, grocery store or Smith and Hawken store is more durable than your average cactus. Think about it… really. How much care can a plant really need if major corporations entrust its $20 – $100 health and well being to a 17-year-old kid behind a counter?

Buy an orchid just coming into full bloom and you buy a floral centerpiece that last longer than the average celebrity wedding and that needs less care than your average college student (sans the alcohol and dirty laundry).

While your orchid is in its glory, a bi-weekly watering with water infused with VERY little fertilizer will keep your average orchid happy, healthy and in full bloom for months. If you are feeling really ambitious, spritz it with some distilled water every few days, for an even longer display.  They don’t even need that much light to hold onto their blooms.

For all of you men out there, an orchid makes an excellent substitute for the “I fucked up, please forgive me” bouquet. The price is comparable to a dozen roses and the evidence of your groveling and love will last for 10X longer. Look for the ones that have most of the flower buds on the stalk still closed. That will ensure that she remembers for a good long time how much you love her, even if you were an ass.

For the rest of us, orchids make an excellent winter reprieve or a semi-permanent home décor addition.

The reason that orchids get a bad rap for being fussy is because while it is super easy to keep them alive and super easy to keep the blooms around, getting them to rebloom is a whole other bundle of oatcakes.

After the blooms fade and the stalk is empty, getting them to rebloom is difficult. Well, not difficult, just more effort than the average plant requires. Getting orchids to rebloom, requires a balance of humidity, light and temperatures that the average house cannot provide, and thus your orchid becomes so travel needy that it needs its own soccer mom just to get it to all the places it needs to be in order to re-create that display that caused you to buy it in the first place.

It is probably just easier to dontate your spent orchid to an enthusist or a sucker who can coddle it back into bragging condition and buy a new one just coming into bloom.   Better yet, you can join an Orchid of the Month Club, and look like you are absolutely brilliant at growing orchids (which everybody knows is a hard plant to take care of. wink. wink.) though in reality you will just be far poorer (Those puppies are not cheap).

For those of you in the Cleveland area, the ever excellent Cleveland Botanical Gardens has their Orchid Mania show going on right now. They will also have some orchid sellers on hand on this weekend. I will be going myself this weekend and i might pick up another orchid. While nothing but spring will cure my winter blacks, a building full of orchids will certainly make the wait for spring much easier. I will report back on what I see.

14 thoughts on “Almost Wild Orchids: Orchids as Houseplants
  1. Coincidentally today while watering my orchid plants, I noticed that the Lady Macbeth Paph (blood red and definitely scary looking!) that I bought last summer in bloom, now has two buds! It is one of four I bought orchids on Ebay last summer and they are all still doing well. I am no expert at orchids, but I do love their shape and colors. Am planning on visiting the orchid show in Cleveland before it closes.

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  2. All I can say is “OUCH”
    I’m a man and therefore guilty to all of the above.
    I better go buy some Orchids so my sweetheart has a reason to keep me around. Although some oatcakes might work just as well since she has a pantry fetish.

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  3. Melanie on

    Hanna,
    Do you really think the Cleveland Botanical Gardens are EXCELLENT? I have a very negative attitude towards it since the remodel. I can remember going down there on a weeknight and taking a stroll thru the herb gardens….FOR FREE!!!! People were throwing frisbees around, sitting on blankets on the grass. Parking was easy to find, the building blended into the landscape. Who wants to pay all that money for a quick visit? Am I wrong or do I need an attitude adjustment???? Should I give it another chance???
    Shaker Heights Gardener,
    Melanie

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  4. I received my first orchid as a gift last October and the flowers lasted until Christmas. I thought it was a much better deal for the same price than any cut flower. And since it cost about the same (my orchid was $20), I didn’t even worry too much that I might kill it. I just tried to think of it as a cut flower.

    Due to my neglect, it seems to be doing okay. I don’t know if I can ever get it to bloom again but I haven’t killed it outright.

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  5. You know Hanna, I’d never thought of moth orchids as ‘vagina reminiscent’ before. Now that you’ve implanted that image in my mind, I’m looking at the two examples in my conservatory with entirely new eyes.
    Ahem.

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  6. I wish I didn’t live three hours away. I’d be at the CBG in a heartbeat.
    You’re right – orchids are fairly easy. I’ve even gotten a couple to rebloom. I think the reason they do is because I put them in the cool, damp basement in the winter when they aren’t blooming, under the fluorescent lights I have set up down there.
    This is another great post, Hanna.

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  7. ha ha, ironically I have bought orchids for my boyfriend to make up after a fight. He enjoys them and their tough reputation make them a more of a manly flower then let’s say roses.

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  8. Thank you for this post…I was considering an orchid, but hesitate because of the “rumors”. Now I feel empowered (or at least less afraid 😉

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  9. After years of screwing up the whole orchid thing, I have finally gotten the hang of it. I bought some humidity trays from Logee’s and filled them with rocks and keep it half filled with water. My orchids are vastly improved. Now, I’m even thinking of buying a small humidifier for the area where the orchids are kept.

    Still, I need to improve my percentages. I have 10 orchids and only 2 are blooming.

    Robin at Bumblebee

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  10. I had a girlfriend who had orchids. she tried to explain the difference between tropical and temperent orchids, it was lost on me. She knew all the names and their differences. Even now when I see orchids for sale I would like to try, but don’t. Viewing them as one would cut flowers would help. We have a guy on local TV who does plant tips, he owns a local garden center chain. He used a similar philosophy toward palms out doors. He said treat them as an annual and let them die with the frost. Orchids could be treated the same way, as could florist azaleas or other flowering plants which require work. If on is into these types, bless the powers that be (if they exsist)!

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  11. I can’t say that I am a ardent gardener or have greenthumbs but I do happen to have some orchids – about 15 -20 pots in my garden. They are low maintenance and all have lovely blooms.

    PS I do not have a personal blog and I blog only for my cat.

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  12. As far as roses go, my wife doesn’t let me buy them because they don’t last too long. But a Orchid on the other hand. I will have to remember this.

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  13. I just love orchids. They are so easy to keep! Of course moisture and humidity do factor in so try keeping them in your bathroom. There they get all the moisture they want – that is providing you take showers and/or baths!
    Kate
    Garden Tips 123

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  14. Ava on

    For some reason, I have 2 different orchids that I pretty much have ignored for the past couple of years on a windowsill other than watering it when the soil dries out completely, and they bloom consistently every year together at the same time. It’s really weird actually.

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