I 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.
I have a couple of orchids that I was just going to throw away, but the leaves are still very green. I’ve never re bloomed. One orchid that once had two stems only has a green one, the other long stem is Brown. Should I cut the Brown one all the way down? I didn’t know anything about doing any of this. This is my favorite plant and would LOVE to re bloom. Don’t know where to cut and also they have been in my window for almost a year. I also have one that is a mini orchid, the stems are green, but I’ve never know how to do this. Also I have one someone gave me that is just beautiful leaves, but no stem had ever grown. Please help. I suffer from depression and these plants just make me forget all my problems. They are my happy plants!! Just bought two more blooming and would give anything for the rest to bloom!! PLEASE help with ant advise. Thank you
I saw you posted this last year so I hope it’s not too late. I have 14 orchids of my own. Only 4 of them are in bloom right now. It took a long time to understand all the technicalities of how and where to cut spikes. First of all ypur best bet is to sterilize a razor or a pair or scissors and cut the spike at the base of the plant. And after that you can put cinnamon on the cut. Yes cinnamon fromyour kitchen. As long as your doing everything else like you should it’ll eventually bloom. Just remember it takes a lot of energy to produce one spike and them beautiful flowers. Good luck and never give up!
Hi, Amanda. Thanks for the encouragement for us impatient orchid-growing types. :)
Hi Margaret, My first orchid, an oncidium, has just developed buds. A gift from my dad so a lot of pressure not to kill it. I came across your post and so appreciate your straight-forward, practical tips. For orchid inspiration I shared your link with some photos from a recent trip to Singapore Botanic Garden, which boasts the largest display of orchids in the world. Best.
Thanks, David, for the nice mention and for saying hello today.
David, I love your blog on orchids. I guess I have about 30 in my garage right now, waiting to get that one burst of stem coming through to say-yes, it was worth looking at me being dormant for eons! I have had good success with bringing my orchids back, but sometimes it will take a couple of years! I have two antique very large pots I like to plant with 3 orchids in each. It makes a spectacular display on a sideboard of ours. However, 6 plants every few months makes lots of dormant orchids after they are done blooming. Oh well, it is so worth it.
OK David, I’ll be watching you and enjoying your posts.
I got an Orchid plant for my birthday now it has stopped blooming I have been reading up on how to get it to bloom again.
My question is: The POT the plant is in has no holes for drainage should there be holes ??
Yes! Very important point, Merle — and here are orchid-growing details from a super-expert, who says: “Growing orchids requires a different mindset [from other houseplants], especially when it comes to watering. People are used to growing plants that grow in soil that stay evenly moist all the time, where orchids like to dry out a little bit between watering, but at the same time don’t want to get desiccated. So that watering is probably the most important part of orchid growing.” Read all his advice here. An orchid must never stand in water.
I received an orchid for Christmas. White. blooms 5 inches across. Blooms died. As of August 20, 2017, it has 8 huge white blooms. I have never had an orchid to bloom so soon – 6 months. I am speechless. I called all my neighbors to see it. An on the backs of the flowers there are beautiful lavender markings.