Growing orchids

by Kate Bradbury

I'm not sure I like moth orchids. They're pretty to look at when in flower, but a bit of a pain to care for if you want them to bloom again.

Moth orchid, phalaenopsisI'm not sure I like moth orchids. They're pretty to look at when in flower, but a bit of a pain to care for if you want them to bloom again. And I think it's a bit sad that these beautiful plants, which should be growing in the canopy of an exotic rainforest, are for sale in our supermarkets.

Of course, many of them end up in good homes. But as they're so often given as gifts in place of cut flowers, do they too end up on the compost heap after they've bloomed?

A friend of mine was once a florist, and I regularly used to rescue the unsold pot plants that 'went over', before being consigned to landfill. I'd take them home, dust them down and (usually) give them a new lease of life.

Once I took home a moth orchid, Phalaenopsis, whose flower spike had died. It was otherwise in perfect health, so I decided to see how hard it would be to encourage a new one to grow. This was a few years ago, before I really knew what I was doing, but I didn't do too badly: I cut the stem down to just above a node and put it in my bathroom.

Bathrooms provide the perfect conditions for growing orchids because they're warm and steamy - although they must have a source of natural light. Tropical orchids require warm, humid conditions to grow in, and don't like sitting in water. They're epiphytic, growing on trees in their natural habitat, so they need to be grown in bark, or specialist orchid compost, in clear, plastic containers to expose the roots to light and air.

I didn't pay my orchid that much attention - I wiped the dust from its leaves occasionally, fed it with tepid water and waited. It was months before the poor thing showed any sign of flowering, but, eventually, a new spike began to grow. It grew really well over the next few weeks, and I lovingly watered it, washed down its leaves and had lots of baths to keep the humidity going in the bathroom. The spike produced four or five flower buds, and then, after what seemed like another age, the buds finally opened to reveal the most perfect, pink delicate blooms. These lasted a whole day, before I knocked the pot over and broke the flower spike off.

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Gardeners' World Web User 05/11/2009 at 18:28

My 1st has been flowering since April I have 7 now I buy them when they are reduced ie Tescos /and B&Q

Gardeners' World Web User 05/11/2009 at 18:36

Phaleniopsis are actually extremely rewarding plants to grow given the right TLC Filtered light from windows with frosted glass or net curtains is vital .......bright sunlight scorches the leaves They love the liquid produced nby wormeries Simply water once a week in summer and once a fortnight in winter by standing the pot in wormerie liquid up to just under the rim NEVER water from the top or allow water to get into the crown They stand cooler temps but never below 50F only cut nback the stalk if it clearly goes dry and brown remove obviously dead leaves repot every 2 years when not in flower using proper orchid compost but with a very sharp sterile stanley knife or blade remove any dead /squishy roots good roots should be firm and green or greenish ......treat and cuts with a dusting of cinanmon i have 20 different phalenopsis many that i have rescued from owners about to dump them and theres never a day where one is not in flower

Gardeners' World Web User 05/11/2009 at 18:38

I have had one for 3 years and it has grown new flower spikes each year plus the one it already had. It blooms each year and at the moment is still blooming from buds which opened in June! It is smothered in pink flowers.

Gardeners' World Web User 05/11/2009 at 18:41

I was given an Orchid last year in July, it just keeps flowering. The flowers at the top of the spike went, and then it flowered down by the leaves. Now it's flowering at the top again. All I've done is spray it with a mist of water daily, it sits by a small south facing window which gets at most a couple of hours of sunlight daily.

Gardeners' World Web User 05/11/2009 at 18:48

if possible cut the flowering stem down to a node before the last flower has fallen, regrowth is then almost certain.

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