Orchids forum: What to be looking for when buying orchids

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Name: Kathy
Western MA

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: Northeast US Orchids Irises
Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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boojum
Mar 16, 2010 2:32 PM CST
We all throw caution to the wind and buy orchids at the big box stores, but buyer beware. Often they are overwatered and not very healthy. Packed in sphagnum (need to be repotted in a safer medium immediately). Don't be enticed by a pretty face with sick foliage!! Or if you have strong nurturing instincts, don't be fooled into buying a dying orchid for $1!! It is hard enough to keep the healthy ones alive let alone a sick orchid. I have never been able to save one although I am able to save almost any other houseplant! (I know Laurel has saved a few but not me.)

So what SHOULD you be looking at? If you are lucky enough to find an orchid in a clear pot you will be able to see how the roots are. Orchids are all about root health. Many good books will tell you to check the roots (pull them out and look) if the leaves are going downhill. If you can't see them or can't yank them out in a store, you should be looking next at foliage. Make sure it's not shriveled and that there is a lot of it and it has nice color and vigor. And if you like all that consider the flowers. Best to get them with a few flowers open and lots of buds so you can enjoy them longer at your house.

The best place to buy an orchid is from a reputable nursery or at a show.

I'd love to hear what others can say about what they look for.

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Name: Jean
Fleming Island, FL (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Composter
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qwilter
Mar 16, 2010 2:40 PM CST
I look for nice "plump" white roots.
Blessed are the Quilters for they are the Piecemakers.
Name: Kathy
Western MA

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: Northeast US Orchids Irises
Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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boojum
Mar 30, 2010 11:05 PM CST
Doesn't that sound nice!!
Name: Laurel
Georgia
Maypoplaurel
Apr 6, 2010 4:11 PM CST
These next fall into the category of "Do what I say and not what I do". Kathy and Ursula have given me some good-hearted ribbing about the rescues. Big Grin This is one of several from the Big Box on 3/10/10. The dept mgr. said take all seven remaining orchids for $7. They went to surgery, have been in rehab and are now progressing nicely. This is C. Esbetts 'Blumen Insel', a white. Several leads are breaking. The medium was in good shape so I washed it well and mixed it with half new.

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Name: Laurel
Georgia
Maypoplaurel
Apr 6, 2010 4:22 PM CST
This was a separate purchase for $3 on 3/20. It was stuffed in sphag in one of those pretty Chinese ceramic planters. It was worth it for the planter. DH has a picture frame chopper that comes in handy for chopping wine corks. I keep a bag for potting certain orchids and use them whole for crocking. He also makes me baskets from his woodworking scraps. You can see the speedy results with Clty. Haddie Notch 'Paradise'. Supposedly the tannins in the corks are agreeable to orchids. The leaves and pseudobulbs were pretty shriveled but when I peeled down the brown sheaths she had nice "eyes". Other leads are forming here.

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Name: Laurel
Georgia
Maypoplaurel
Apr 6, 2010 4:26 PM CST
You've heard of orchids on a stick? These are sticks on a stick. This is a Den. NOID found in the Miami driveway last Nov. I think the squirrels chew them off and drop them about. New growth is breaking.

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Name: Kathy
Western MA

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: Northeast US Orchids Irises
Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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boojum
Apr 6, 2010 6:57 PM CST
All I can say is, don't try this at home! This woman is a professional (healer)!
Name: Janice
Cape Cod, MA, USA (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums Tip Photographer
Daylilies Roses Orchids Miniature Gardening Lilies Irises
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sandnsea2
Apr 7, 2010 12:22 PM CST
Laurel, Bravo!
I confess to doing similar rescues with many plants and even trees and shrubs. It is real fun!
Even bought shriveled up orchids in bags from the Bigboxes , too. Very satisfying to watch them take off...... You go, girl!!! Hurray!
Name: Laurel
Georgia
Maypoplaurel
Apr 7, 2010 2:24 PM CST
Thanks but seriously Janice, as we know, it's not the way to build a collection. I'll keep you posted on the progress of these and others. It'll be several years before any blooms would be likely to happen. My orchids arrived in beautiful condition from Andy's last week. I'll be looking forward to flowers over the next few days and weeks.
Name: Kathy
Western MA

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: Northeast US Orchids Irises
Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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boojum
Apr 7, 2010 2:32 PM CST
Oh goody. I love Andy's!!!!
Name: bree
North coast NSW Australia
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Herbs I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Region: Australia Bromeliad Plant and/or Seed Trader Ponds Orchids
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bree
Apr 18, 2010 4:51 AM CST
Most importantly look for signs of pest.
Ive bought a few plants with mealy bug on them from my local orchid shows..seems they just sell plants that they want to get rid of and are neglected, cheap. There are some good plants amongst them too. Just quarentine them first!
Name: Janice
Cape Cod, MA, USA (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums Tip Photographer
Daylilies Roses Orchids Miniature Gardening Lilies Irises
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sandnsea2
Apr 18, 2010 7:06 AM CST
Any plant that comes into my collection gets immediately repotted. I wash roots, throw out the pot it came in and replace in clean pot with fresh mix appropriate to the plant. Alot of insects can be hiding in the old mix and you just have no idea what happened there. Out they go. I also get to have a good look at the most important part of the plant....the roots.
Name: Kathy
Western MA

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: Northeast US Orchids Irises
Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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boojum
Apr 18, 2010 7:09 AM CST
That is really great advice Bree and Janice!!! (Duh, why didn't I say that as the first post!!!?) Thanks for the practical info!!
Name: bree
North coast NSW Australia
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Herbs I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Region: Australia Bromeliad Plant and/or Seed Trader Ponds Orchids
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bree
Apr 18, 2010 6:04 PM CST
Yes sandnsea i also do that.
I never understand why sellers go to all the trouble of wrapping, taping, stuffing to send there orchids in there pots with there mix without it going everywhere in the post. Only for the buyer to take 1/2 hour to unwrap/untape, then to unpot, chuck out the mix and find half the roots are rotted and theres bugs in the mix. Seller should have checked it first and sent it bare rotted so buyer won't complain.
Ive received a few orchids with slugs and no roots so now i try to get the seller to send my orchids bare rotted when i can.
Sellers say they send in pots so they don't disturb the roots but you can disturb orchid roots can't you. How much would they really be disturbed! hehe!
Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
Charter ATP Member Spiders! Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Pennsylvania Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Ponds Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: New Jersey
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Ursula
Apr 18, 2010 6:30 PM CST

Moderator

Hmm, perhaps there is always the other side of the coin?
Some plants just simply don't like to be repotted, they will sulk if it is done the wrong time of year.

I buy a lot of plants which are established on mounts, so they are fine. And potted into bark mix - I don't think/remember now if I ever had a bug or slug problem buying from my usual favorite vendors. I do not have to repot because of that.

But - plants which come in Sphagnum are moved asap into either different media or get mounted etc. But I don't do it because of infestations. I just don't think Sphagnum is a good medium in the long run.
Along those lines, Neofinetia falcata from a certain seller will be unwrapped immediately, roots inspected and planted into CHC mix. I have found rotten roots under an old layer of Sphagnum which was rewrapped with fresh Sphagnum. Not cool!! Thumbs down

I never, ever buy ebay, but that is just my own personal quirk. Once people get to know the good sellers, they get pretty nice stuff.

Heh, whatever works for you?
Name: Laurel
Georgia
Maypoplaurel
Apr 18, 2010 7:07 PM CST
I'm always peeved if I have to re-pot a new purchase. I'm more peeved if the orchid looks newly potted, flags, and when eventually un-potted I discover an orchid with rotting roots crammed into old, rotting media that has been potted up without grooming. I don't routinely repot new orchids and, in agreement with Ursula, expect orchids to come in quality condition. I also agree that the transition from their place of origin to a new situation is enough and I hope to get to know the plant before deciding it's best growing medium.
Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
Apr 18, 2010 7:42 PM CST
I have to agree with Ursulas mantra...always buy from a reputable vendor! I've never had a problem, aside from spagnum,from vendors ( I don't do Ebay). If I buy at a nursery or big box store, I always inspect carefully! I have found mealies, and either soggy or bone dry at too many of them.
Name: Janice
Cape Cod, MA, USA (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums Tip Photographer
Daylilies Roses Orchids Miniature Gardening Lilies Irises
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sandnsea2
Apr 18, 2010 8:38 PM CST
Bree, I like the way you think! Yes, I have found that orchid roots don't mind being repotted in the least.
Name: Kathy
Western MA

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: Northeast US Orchids Irises
Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Image
boojum
Apr 18, 2010 9:26 PM CST
Don't repot a rupicolous laelia if you can help it!! They take a long time to establish.
I repot others though because of my watering habits. I buy routinely from ebay but I have my favorite sellers that are great. I have had only one plant come to me with scale and I complained to the seller and never bought from them again.
Name: Ivy T
Manhattan, New York (Zone 6b)
Cat Lover Houseplants
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ivyplantsnyc
Jun 7, 2010 8:12 PM CST
I am enjoying this cubit and I am learning so much about orchids. I recieved my very first orchid today and will try to keep it growing. Thanks for such interesting information.
Pause for Paws.

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