The Q&A Archives: Orchid

Question: I have an orchid plant temporarily entrusted to me by my mother-in-law. She has cherished this plant, and it has bloomed consistantly for her. It was blooming when she gave it to me and was beautiful for about a month. When the last blooms fell off it went into a dormant state and then started to produce long,skinny green shoots that have done nothing. Should I cut these off or what should I be doing to encourage new growth? There is serious pressure from the mother-in-law to keep this plant in good shape until she is able to do it herself - I would hate to be the daughter-in-law that killed her favorite plant. Help!

Answer: Most orchids respond readily to the right environment. Perhaps you need to adjust the growing conditions at bit. Individual types vary, but the general rule is to keep the plant at 60F degrees during the day in the winter (70F in the summer), with a 10 degree drop in temperature at night. Cool nights are important to the plant's ability to bloom. Provide 10-15 hours of light each day, supplemented during the winter with artificial light. Keep the potting soil moist; place the pot on a tray of pebbles with about an inch of water in it to provide some humidity, and mist the plant ocassionally to further increase the humidity. Make any changes necessary to provide the right temperature, light, and humidity, and just leave the new growth alone until you can identify it. They're probably flower stalks, and you wouldn't want to cut them off before they produced new flowers! If you follow the above guidelines, the plant should be thriving when it's time to return it to your Mother-in-law, and your reputation will be saved!

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