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What Do I Do with My Big-Box-Store Orchid?

By drdawg
April 26, 2014

When I lecture to organizations, I always have a "Question and Answer" session at the end. Always, and I do mean always, someone asks: "My orchid (usually one bought at a big-box store such as Lowe's or Home Depot) was in bloom when I purchased it and it has never bloomed again," or "My orchid was in bloom when I purchased it and within six months, it was dead." "What did I do wrong?"

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scherle
Apr 26, 2014 6:35 AM CST
drdawg
like yourself I have staghorn ferns, plumeria, bromeliads other things and orchids
I am a gardener in Florida, but only half a year So my dear plans have to manage on their own
And surprisingly, they do. trial and error is where to position each plant

I have been finding good success for orchids in putting them into orchid mix but in basket type, woven containers from thrift stores I prefer the ones that have one side flat that wire them onto a wall. I have a frame with latice on top and it is shady and this seems to do quite well for some orchids

There is no one here to water or feed my plants, for six months, but by trial and error over the years that I have had my home in Florida I have met with success with many very lovely plants.

Location location seems most important
and you know one thing more I have learned possibly, is that I use no pesticides at all
Some fertilizer yet twice a year.
But I have a lot, an awful lot of those little ginkos or whatever they are called, in the garden.. They are everywhere and happy They do not bother me at all when working in the garden but I watch them sometime They seem right at home and I think that they must eat any bugs or harmful anything in the gardens. The odd time I introduce a new plant to the garden and bugs or disease seem attracted to this variety, I simply pull it out and throw it away.,
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Apr 26, 2014 7:10 AM CST
You have figured out the most important thing about growing plants, especially tropical plants. The right conditions, the right location, and ridding yourself of plants that cause problems. Way to go! Thumbs up
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
Region: Canadian Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Tip Photographer Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member
Morning Glories Critters Allowed Birds Houseplants Butterflies Garden Photography
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mcash70
Apr 26, 2014 1:09 PM CST
Thank you Ken, for a very informative article! Thumbs up I tip my hat to you.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Apr 26, 2014 5:58 PM CST
I tip my hat to you.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
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 26, 2014 7:35 PM CST
I agree...with caveats. Ken you forgot to mention NEVER let water stand in the crown of the plant! It will rot! Water carefully below the leaves ,as you would with African violets, or you can remove any from the crown with a tissue , or even blow it out with a straw. When Phals grow in nature, they grow downward, so the rain drains out, not upward as we buy them. I have experimented with lots of Big Box store Phals, and killed many, but It all depends on your environment. They don't like radical change in temperature, heat or light, so as with any type of orchid, research, research, research! What works for Ken in Ms, doesn't necessarily work for me in So. Cal, or someone in Pennsy. The main thing you want to look at before you buy, is what it's potted in. Many are sold in cute pots that haven't any drainage holes. They cover them with moss so it looks pretty, but will die very shortly. I have a collection of those "cute pots". The better growers have hidden the clear plastic sleeve they were grown in under that moss, and depending on your watering practices, if they're in good , long fiber, spagnum, they will do well for quite awhile, but get them out of the pot that has no drainage! That applies to any type of plant you buy at a Big Box store!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Apr 26, 2014 7:59 PM CST
Good points all, Carol. Needless to say, I and probably you could write a book about growing orchids. The space for an article on ATP is simply only enough for a very abbreviated explanation of big-box store-bought orchids.

Carol, I own several hundred orchids - all kinds. I water the so-called crown, the leaves, the roots, and the media. That's full watering, spraying, and misting. I have never blown away water on the plants - never. Perhaps I am just lucky. But as you say, what works for me might not necessarily work for someone else. Personally I would not plant an orchid in sphagnum, long-fibered or not. I don't really care what kind of orchid pot is used. The vast majority tend to overwater orchids and for those, it is simply too difficult to tell whether the sphagnum in the lower 2/3 of the pot is wet or dry. Just my opinion.

At least now you know why I did not mention those things. LOL
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
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 26, 2014 8:41 PM CST
Ken, Sorry for interrupting your article, But this has been a sore spot with me for a long time. They call Phals a beginners orchid, but I find them to be one of the more difficult ones, and the marketing is probably the biggest problem. Another issue is our erratic weather here. When the weather goes from cool and foggy to hot and sunny/windy on a weekly basis, Phals are a house plant. Most of us don't have the same space and green houses you have. Almost all of the west coast growers are within 5 mi. of the coast, where Temps and humidity stay the same. For the rest of us, we have to work at it. The Phals and others that are mass produced for sale are not expected to live! That is big business. I will buy Phals from the box store, but I think of them as cut flowers that last longer. I have one now, a resturant reject, that was given to me, coming in bloom now. It is still in its' sleeve in long fiber. I never soak it, just sprinkle the top of the medium. Many of the others I've tried in various mediums have gotten too much light , or too hot and croaked. Some in different light are doing well.
I know these articles have limited space, but it Irritates me the way these plants are marketed to the unsuspecting public.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Region: California Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Composter
Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener Xeriscape
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tarev
Apr 26, 2014 9:41 PM CST
I have tried that watering with ice cubes once with one of my Phals, but I timed it when our temps are just sizzling hot, like triple digit outdoors and indoors going mid 70's, with our ceiling fan running. But will never do it during the cold weather season. But for newbies, will not really recommend it, I feel they should know the orchid and understand its basic cultural needs, before attempting short cuts.

As with any of my orchids indoors or outdoors, Phalaenopsis or otherwise, apart from good drainage, people often forget providing good air circulation. These plants enjoy it a lot.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Apr 27, 2014 8:02 AM CST
I could not agree with you more, Carol. Though the growers and then the big box stores sell beautifully blooming phalaenopsis, their bottom-line is profit. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the end-result. IF the growers would ONLY include good growing instructions and WARNINGS, that would solve a lot of problems with these plants. Why don't they just do these easy and cheap things to at least give the buyer a good chance to grow and have their plants re-bloom, year-after-year?

Again, I have dozens of these and they simply don't die. Other than some baby ones, those I am growing from plugs or flasks, every single one of my phalaenopsis plants are now outside, under my trees. I can assure you, since I have done this for years, they will flourish outside. They will get rained on, will get some early morning dew and will have lows between 45 and 80 and highs between 70 and 100. They will sometimes be subjected to strong winds and extremely heavy rain (we get a lot of thunderstorms) and certainly will be visited by insects and the occasional bird and squirrel. And I will still water them with a hose ("gentle-rain" attachment) weekly, or more often in hot, dry weather. None of these things are supposed to be GOOD for growing them. Just call me lucky LOL. Of course, you and I know its not luck. Mine are in the right pots, in the right medium, get good light, humidity, frequent, diluted fertilizing, and good air movement. The exact same things that every other orchid needs to grow well. None of this is rocket science and I am certainly neither more skilled nor smarter than anyone else out there who grows orchids. Notice that none of these conditions require a greenhouse. Call me naïve, but I truly think practically anyone, anywhere can successfully grow orchids. Sure, a grower living in a basement apartment in New York City, may need supplemental light (how about Gro lights?), perhaps a humidity tray or two, and a fan, but it is doable.

Tarev, you have hit the nail on the head. Good air movement is an absolute necessity when growing orchids. I had a guy to came to the house yesterday to purchase some vegetable plants and he wanted to see my orchids. He said he had just built a small greenhouse and had never grown an orchid. Of course, most of mine are now outside but I still have quite a few that haven't been moved outside yet. My "Orchid" greenhouse is small, only 10x12', but there are four fans in that one greenhouse. He was surprised at the number of fans and the fact that they all ran six hours in the colder months and 10 hours in the warmer months. I told him I had no mold, no mildew, no algae, and no pest problems and that I felt like this was due to the air movement. I don't know that's the reason, but in my head, it is.

I mention the "ice-cube method" simply because lots of people actually do that, and I guess some have good results watering that way. I am not about to tell someone that they are ignorant watering that way when they have a plant(s) that is healthy. Most of the people I speak to are ladies, and I have been married long enough to know not to belittle them! LOL
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
[Last edited by drdawg - Apr 27, 2014 8:09 PM (+)]
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