voila! my first orchid reblooms

rebloomedphalI AM PROUD TO SAY that I have rebloomed my first orchid, no big deal to many of you out there but something I had always stashed in my mind as “difficult” or “impossible.” In fact, it was really easy.

I confess to having harbored longtime anti-orchid feelings, frankly, and hadn’t even owned an orchid, unless you count the occasional cut Cymbidium I buy from a nearby greenhouse in winter. That is, I hadn’t owned a plant until I moved to my former weekend home way outside the city last winter and got a little lonely for company.

I brought a Phalaenopsis home from the local garden center around the holidays on total impulse, and it flowered for four months in my dining room, which astonished even me. The $30 price seemed steep at first, but month after month, that orchid paid me back for my indulgence. After such a performance, I just couldn’t compost it. I’d grown attached.

I knew the basics of orchid care, having written on the subject many times. The highlights:

Overwatering is the best way to kill an orchid, which wants a really thorough soaking but on an infrequent basis, only when needed. Adding half-strength orchid fertilizer to the water every couple of weeks is all the food that’s required. I add the indicated amount of fertilizer to a big bowl of water and simply plunge the pot into it every week or 10 days, depending on how the bark medium around the roots feels to my finger when I poke around in it each week. Conditions vary, and watering can be more frequent or less; the finger test is the only way to know the right moment, just before they get dry.

I am sure to let the excess liquid drain from the orchids potting medium, especially if the pot will be slipped inside a cache pot or sit in a saucer of some kind where water could collect. These are epiphytic plants, and don’t ever want to stand in water.

The Phalaenopsis’ other minimal requirements: cutting off the flower spikes when bloom is finished, and repotting when the planting medium (whether bark or moss) gets depleted. In other words: so simple.

Phalaenopsis, perhaps the easiest orchid to grow in average home conditions, requires relatively low light, such as an east window or a shaded west or southern one. Phalaenopsis are happy in temperatures we can tolerate: around 60 at night, warmer during the day. Just now I’ve moved my plants (yes, plural, because I am now addicted) to the mudroom, where they’ll get a little cooler, to the mid-50s, for a few weeks each evening to help induce their flower spikes. Then they’ll come back into 60-plus.

Winter-into-spring is peak Phalaenopsis bloom time, but my first rebloomer (pictured up top) began its resurrection in September, a little early. It had summered outdoors with its new sisters and brothers in the high shade of a tree, getting indirect light and enjoying the humidity, and I’d kept up the regular feedings.

Now that the plants are indoors, and the heat is coming on, I’ll place them on some pebble trays of water (not standing in it, but raised above it) to create a slightly moister microclimate, and group them among my many other houseplants to add to the effect.

The Greater New York Orchid Society homepage offers PDF downloads of all the American Orchid Society’s  cultural how-to’s, including Phalaenopsis (the links are in the lower right-hand column).  Have you had an orchid success (or failure) using these or other tricks?  I’d love to hear, now that I’m an orchid grower.

104 comments
October 6, 2008

comments

  1. margaret says

    Welcome, BelleEnchanted. I was surprised at how cooperative they are, if you don’t waterlog them or otherwise deal out any torture. Keep us posted how you do…and definitely read the two linked factsheets for further tricks.

  2. says

    Aww, I love this post! I’m a full blown orchid nut and I remember shrieking through the house the first time I got one to rebloom. I still remember it…a yellow onc.

  3. margaret says

    @Rachel: Glad to have someone validate my childlike excitement. I have grown so many plants…but this always scared me. How silly that I was daunted for so long. Thanks.

  4. says

    Wow, that’s awesome! I am indeed impressed, as I have a black thumb when it comes to house plants and I know orchids are notoriously fussy.

    I have a co-worker who is always trying to nurture plants on his desk, and they always die, even philodendrons. One day he brought in an orchid. “Maybe this one will grow!”

    I didn’t have the heart to to say anything but “Good luck!”

    And yes, he killed that, too.

  5. Suzie says

    Ahhh. Welcome to the fold! I got into growing orchids years and years ago as a natural extension of my gardening hobby. I now have almost 80 different orchids in my collection. They spend the summer outdoors, are brought indoors early fall, and reward me with blooms during the bleak winter months. I now garden all year ’round.

    It’s really a myth that orchids are fussy plants to grow. They’re not. It’s all a matter of knowing your conditions and selecting those orchids that will thrive in those conditions. Just as in perennial gardening, you wouldn’t want to put a plant that requires full sun into full shade. It wouldn’t survive. The key is education.

  6. dirtgirl says

    Congratulations! It is so beautiful. :-)

    I’ve always thought them way out of my league. You make me want to try one.

  7. Michelle says

    In July 2007, I received a Phalaenopsis as a gift. It bloomed like a champ for months. Then, one by one each of the blooms wilted and faded dead away. I was left with just an ugly dried-out stick in a terra cotta pot. Ugh! I was so annoyed! I decided to do what I always do with unpleasant things…I just ignored it. Sometimes I watered it, sometimes I didn’t. Tough love. Lo and behold, one day last spring I spied a small GREEN (not brown) stalk. I had to look twice. Sure enough, the stalk grew longer and greener and then another one poked through…with tiny buds. The tiny buds grew enormous and looked like they would surely explode. And explode they did with many beautiful blooms that lasted until just a few weeks ago. Sadly, now I’m back to the dead brown stick. My fingers are crossed, though, for another miracle. Crazy flowers, these orchids!

  8. says

    You story sounds “just like me” – I also was hooked on Phalaenopsis after I decided that one amazingly long-blooming individual deserved better than be thrown into the compost. Since then, I’ve been rotating my orchids; the over flowered ones go into the almost unheated guestroom to be pampered (we’ll, just as you say, you don’t need to do much), and the ones with buds come out to be admired again. Another thing that I’ve learned is to grow Phalaenopsis in glass containers, and never in ceramic or other pots. They are as you day, epiphytic plants, so their roots want to get some light too.

  9. Bobster says

    A couple years ago a friend told me not to remove the stalk once the flowers had faded..unless it was absolutely dead. And she emphasized…brown, dried up…DEAD.

    She explained that the plant expends a lot of nutrients and energy building that stalk. But once it’s there…it just keeps sending out new flower scapes from the original. One of the best houseplant tips I’ve ever received! Now my phalaenopsis barely rests between reblooming.

  10. says

    I have never managed to get the damned things to bloom again. This is my Achilles heel, utter lack of a green thumb. I continue to try, however, and the orchids continue to tank. However I continue to try.

  11. says

    So glad to hear this is a topic close to many of us. Good not to be alone w/orchidophobia. Intercontinental Gardener and Bobster have some good tips…both the roots and the flower stem are important parts of the plant to think about. Thanks.

  12. dogrivervt says

    This post made me think about the onc that has been sulking on my windowsill for the 11 months since my partner gave it to me. I pulled it out to water it, and lo and behold, it had 4 (!) bright new shoots, my first reblooms-in-the-making! Benign neglect conquers yet again! Thanks for your lovely photos, yet again.

  13. margaret says

    Welcome, Dogrivervt. I am humbled by your report of four shoots; I was gloating from just a single over here. Do come again soon, and thanks for the Oncidium report, which I fear will get me trying them too. Egads. :/

  14. says

    I have been reading your posts for a few months with pleasure, but now I must chime in with joy. In the past, in love with orchids, I created a basement room with grow lights and much trouble but could never get any re-bloom (not enough red spectrum light I think). Then we moved to the country, I hung a coir lined wire basket stuffed with phalenopsis and dendrobiums in a north and east facing window of the shower where light is ever-present but low and it is humid and wham: dozens (yes dozens!) of phalenopsis re-booms and even two little “keikis” off the depleted stalk of the dendrobium, one of which is now in bloom. Now…. if only I can get my cymbidium which has been outdoors in the semi shade of a banana tree (Pacific Northwest USDA zone 8) to bloom! Any ideas?

  15. Ted says

    I also stopped cutting of the finished flower spikes on my phanlaenopsis. They just send out new small braches and seem much quicker to rebloom.

  16. margaret says

    An orchid expert at Brooklyn Botanic Garden told me years ago that the white Phals in particular will often spike again off the old flower spike, and just to cut it back partway. I just recalled that reading your comment, Ted, and Bobster’s.

  17. Callie says

    I have been buying and re-blooming orchids for a few years now – but no matter how many times I am successful I am always flabbergasted when it works!!
    I have even been successful at re-potting lately, having failed many times before!

  18. says

    Welcome, Callie. Glad to hear the “wow” feeling won’t wear off. I await cooperation from my other subjects. I repotted in bark once with the ones that seemed to need it…all still alive. Fingers crossed.

  19. margaret says

    Welcome, M. Brooks. Great to hear your revival story. You can post a jpg on my Forums by starting a new topic under houseplants (near the bottom of the forum home page) and I will connect the dots. Can’t upload photos here in comments on the blog, but on the Forums you can.
    UPDATE: M. Brooks’ orchid success photo is posted on the Forums here.

  20. M. Brooks says

    My phal. too just finished its first reblooming. I was so psyched. I did not do half of what you did, never fertilized it – just let it sit in some water in my tiny half sink for an hour or less once a week. I must say I “watered” a stick for nearly a year, but it came back this Sept. and looks just like yours in the photo. I have a photo but don’t know how to post it. I am afraid to buy another one though, until I am sure this one will live on. Mine was from Home Depot and cost about $20 I think.

  21. Frances VanEpps says

    My daughter gave me my first orchid for Mother’s Day 2008. Thought it would never stop blooming….lasted for 3 months. Now that I have read how to rebloom it there are 12 new buds on it. I am so excited. I had to call her and tell her right away and even picked it up and showed it to my husband (who could really care less). I just love getting a flower to rebloom.

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