When it comes to orchids, I’m an impulse purchaser. I see them near the register, like gum, and I have to have the regal beauties with the delicate forms and delicious colors. I always buy the Phalaenopsis variety, the moth orchid (named as such because some varieties are said to resemble moths in flight).
Phalaenopsis are the “Orchids for Dummies” choice — no shame about it. They’re stunning and make this exotic plant accessible to all of us. True confession: I had always viewed my orchids as transient visitors.
They bloom forever, sometimes six months, and then I forcibly retire them to the compost heap where they have on the rare occasion lived out the summer, clinging to weeds and leaves and branches much like they latch onto a tree in the everglades. Over the past couple years, I have started saving the spent plants, stock piling them at the back of my buffet in a tropical cluster. A mass of retired orchids.
Well, imagine my joy and surprise when during a routine watering, I spotted a flower and several buds. I swear music began to play. How does one get a rebloom. Without really knowing it, I had created the ideal setting:
- Phalaenopsis reblooms on old wood, so spare the spent flower spike or cut it down to half, leaving at least two nodes, the little brown markings where the flowers were. I left the entire spike. It’s tempting to remove the whole thing, as they get a little unsightly, but clipping off just the dead part cleans it up quite a bit.
- Orchids are like us, they don’t like it below 60 degrees, but keeping them on the cool side after they have flowered will encourage new flowers. My dining room buffet is cold (it’s a 100-year-old house).
- Bright, bright, bright, but indirect light. Orchids will tolerate most indoor light, but LOVE bright indirect light. Direct sunlight is toughest on the leaves, so if you can somehow keep the leaves shaded, all the better. Think tropical forest conditions.
- Speaking of tropics, the babies love humidity, which no house in Minnesota has a surplus of, but grouping plants together helps. You can also set pots in saucers filled with stones and water.
- Fertilize. And I mean I fertilized just a little bit, because after all, the rule of thumb (or rule of green thumb) is no fertilizer in the winter. A couple of treatments with orchid food apparently went a long way!
All this said, if you are not the type to go through the paces of coaxing your plant to reflower, do not worry. Enjoy the plant for as long as you like after flowering, then send it off to be compost for new plants to feed on.