Orchids!

tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)June 10, 2012

I'll be the first to admit: I don't know nuthin' 'bout no orchids - but I bought two anyway. Fry's has a bunch for $12.99, but had marked down several to $3.99. I got one very pretty white one and a gorgeous magenta for only $1.99 because, it appears, someone had dropped it and knocked almost all the soil out of the pot. Must have broken the pot, too, because it is stuck in a plastic cup with most of the roots visible. Obviously, I need to repot that one and find a place for them. The little tag says bright indirect light and I have two places fitting that: kitchen and bath. Sadly, I don't have a single window sill in the entire house. Now, before I succumb to temptation and go buy another one or two, does anybody have advice?

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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Well, first off, it helps to know what kind they are. With over 2000 different species, spread all over the globe, their needs are varied.

That being said, most of what we get in the retail stores are Phalaenopsis orchids, aka Butterfly orchids. They, like many orchids, are epiphytic: they grow in the wild in the branches of trees and without soil, so our potting soils can mean death by rot to many of them. The way you avoid that is by using orchid medium, which is made up of (once again, typically) some chunks of tree bark, a few stones and some sphagnum - things that will retain some moisture without causing the dreaded rot. That being said, especially in AZ, you're going to have to drench the roots fairly often during its growing phase - I'm guessing 2-3 times per week. When you do that, you'll need to also fertilize it once a week with a half- strength solution. They also prefer (this is getting nit-picky, IMO, but I do it!) non-urea based nitrogen products; evidently they don't absorb urea very well.

As for light, they tend to like a very bright area with no direct sun - easy, huh? And they prefer it warm - from the mid 70's to the low 90's, although they need about a week of of mid-50's in mid winter in order to bloom again in spring. If you're keeping it on the warmer side, you really have to watch its humidity -the easiest way to take care of that is to set the pot on a tray with pebbles on it and water to the top of the pebbles, replenish as it dries.

I think orchids are a lot like African Violets. If you have the right conditions, they're easy, if you don't, they're a real pain.

Hope this gets you started off on the right foot!

Here is a link that might be useful: Phals

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 9:40PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

Good info Pagancat, I've thought about trying orchids but our dry air makes it seem pointless. Sounds like you are successful at it.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:31PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Thanks, Sheryl! Yes, they are phalaenopsis; I've noticed that's about all I see in grocery stores - and HD, too. I'll get a bag of orchid potting soil tomorrow. The urea-free nitrogen sounds like a challenge, yes? I'm thinking of putting a shelf in the bathroom where they'd get light and humidity. Nothing like an experiment, I always say.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:47PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Haname, I got into orchids last year and did a lot of searching around for information. This is the perfect example of a lot of knowledge without a ton of experience to back it up, lol .... but I saw a pic of Beallara marfitch 'Howard's Dream' once and decided that I *had* to be able to grow it. Growing, yes, blooming .... welllll.... >smileI think the bathroom is about ideal if it's nice and bright. One caveat, however - they like the humidity but they also need good circulation, so don't lock them up in there trying to keep them humid. Think tall, tropical rainforest trees.... windy, even.

And I might be absolutely crazy, but before I picked up some 'orchid food' specifically (Lowes), I was soaking some alfalfa pellets in a glass overnight and watering with that. Non urea nitrogen, right? At least I haven't killed them yet. Which reminds me..... I've been thinking of going garage sale-ing for one of those cool mist humidifiers. $40, heck no.

Here is a link that might be useful: Beallara Marfitch 'Howard's Dream'

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 12:42PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

Wow, that is a gorgeous orchid. Maybe the alfalfa was too much nitrogen and that's why it didn't bloom? Post a pic when you get flowers!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 5:08PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

PC, I got Miracle Grow potting mix at HD, but it doesn't seem to have a lot of chunky wood pieces like those in the pots I bought. It is mostly shredded bark, just finer. Think I should add some bark mulch to it or use it as is?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 12:22AM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Hmmm.... I would say that it's just going to break down quicker, something that you do need to watch out for over time (a few years) anyway. I'd play with it, see how it works.

I agree, Haname - they reminded me of Batik dyes. I do hope the new-ish sprout I have is a Bloom spike, hard to say as I haven't seen one yet. Evidently I picked a not-terribly-easy type >rolls eyesTomatofreak - here's a place to go to get good information, the American Orchid Society. They have culture sheets for novice growers, which can be very helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: AOS Phal Novice Sheet

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 5:07PM
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azant(10a)

Haname, look into Eulophia, possibly petersii and Epidendrum radicans.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 1:39AM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

Wow, a whole 'nuther world, orchids. :) This is why I have a Hong Kong Orchid tree, and just planted a Chilopsis linearis "Art's seedless" today. I love the orchid style of flowers, but haven't yet ventured there.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 12:04AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

This may be a short-lived experiment. I see this morning that a few buds are dying off and one leaf looks like it may be rotting at the stem end. I can honestly say I've done everything by the book so I'll soon see if they're gonna live or die. I did break one of my cardinal rules: Never buy a hothouse plant. :(

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 12:25PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Oh wow, I didn't know they came up with a seedless Chilopsis, that's great. I'll be googling that puppy. Where did you find it, Haname?

TF, keep in mind that whatever caused your plant to lose it's vigor probably happened when it was back at the store. Carry on, and keep misting, lol!

Azant, have you grown either of those plants? I really like the Epidendrums - I love it when plants are "easy" (of course, that is always by people who are successful with them, lol!)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 9:43PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

PC, I got the Chilopsisat Baker's, 15 gal size so we could easily plant it ourselves. The flowers are more trumpet-y than orchid-like, but they're nice anyway IMO. They're more of an "orchid color."

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 10:27PM
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