Let’s face it: Orchids are among the most beautiful of all exotic flowers in the plant world. Even in today’s difficult economy, orchids are becoming increasingly popular, thus making them more accessible and affordable.
Rocket Farms nursery, located in Salinas, CA, commissioned Dr. Susanne Klose of the UC Davis department of plant sciences to lead a study at UC Davis on Phalaeonopsis orchids, commonly known as “moth orchids.”
These orchids range in both solid and mixed colors including pink, lavender, yellow and white. They grow best indoors because of their attraction to moderate humidity and direct light. While researching, Klose came up with new consumer guidelines and home care instructions for buyers.
Picking out the perfect orchid
“If possible, buy them just before the flowers open. I look for healthy leaves, well established roots and ensure that the plant is free of insect pests,” Klose said.
Finding orchids to start the growing process may be as easy as visiting your local grocery store. Small orchids are available at the Safeway grocery stores for $14.99 and big orchids for $19.99.
“We get a lot of buyers because they’re so expensive at other places,” said Sam Green, the floral manager at Safeway on West Covell. “Typically, we get about 24 to 34 orchids shipped in per week. They are especially popular around the holidays.”
“Often, sororities will have events and decorate their houses with orchids. We also get a lot of male students getting them for their girlfriends,” Green said.
Orchids tend to be more expensive if they are purchased from floral shops, but they contain better quality orchids that may last longer.
“We drive all the way to the coast in San Francisco to get our orchids. They are all handpicked, and come directly from the nursery – not shipped,” said Jennifer Roberts, a bookkeeper at Strelitzia Flower Co., located on Second Street.
“They make great gifts for all special occasions. But some people simply buy them to have in their homes because they make for beautiful decorations,” Roberts said, who sells orchids for about $39.99.
Finding the perfect spot
“They require indirect sunlight, thus bathroom and kitchen areas seem preferable over dry and heated living rooms.” Klose said. Shady areas away from direct sunlight are ideal locations.
“The optimum location depends on the type of orchid. Factors like day length, temperature and water management may affect flowering,” Klose said.
Caring for your orchid
In her research, Klose found that the most common mistakes people make are over-watering, over-fertilizing and providing inconsistent care for their orchids. Orchids stayed healthy and kept in bloom the longest when they were watered every 20 to 25 days.
The planting medium generates a huge impact on the plant’s moisture level. Moss is recommended because of its ability to hold water, as opposed to other mediums like wood chips or bark-which will require more frequent care and watering.
Looking for signs of damage
It is also important to look out for signs of damage, so that you can properly care for it in time said Klose.
“Look for brown leaf tips, dropping of leaves, insect damage and the occurrence of insects such as mites, scales, and mealy bugs,” she said.
If you see these patterns, immediately adjust lighting, temperature and watering conditions. You should fertilize lightly, but consistently, and avoid over-watering or under-watering the orchid.
When the bloom is off, trim the flower spike – but not all the way. It will settle into a new growth cycle, and you will see a new bloom in the process. If no bloom cycle starts within two months, cut the stem off.
VANNA LE can be reached at email@example.com.