Orchids remind us in the Hamptons of lush tropical gardens. They are sensual looking and inspire our imaginations. When in full bloom, especially in our northeast winter environment, orchids have a tranquilizing effect with a promise of summer days to come.
At the markets we are often seduced by the orchids alluring beauty. And for most, we bring them home with the unrealistic hopes that they would continue to charm and bloom forever. The trick is to understand and try to create the orchid's natural habitat, the jungle. We often tend to think that jungle means direct sunshine and moist soil. No. The floor of the jungle where the orchids live is for the most part covered by a canopy of palms and thick tropical foliage
When purchasing, be sure that the leaves are a rich bright green. Many orchids are sending out roots now, so if they need to be repotted, now is the time. Always make sure that the orchids are not to be packed too firmly into their pots. That would encourage root rot.
For placement inside your home, it is ideal to put them behind sheer curtains or blinds. They enjoy a north or an east exposure, protected west or, a shaded south window. Surprisingly, indirect sunlight is always the way to go. And as the jungle drops down to low temperatures at night, the orchid prefers cool nights. Orchids have a longer bloom time when exposed to cooler night temps.
Lady Slipper Phalaenopsis Oniedium, is a low light orchid. They like a lot of indirect light and warm household temperatures. Dendrobium and Vanda, a purple orchid known as the "Queen Victoria," is enchanting. Watch for flower buds on Dendroblums, they have a longer bloom time when exposed to cooler night temperatures.
Here's the weird part that seems wrong, let orchids dry between watering. That's right. They say that orchids love abuse. Do not feel cruel. They do not need moist soil. Orchids do not thrive with frequent watering. A spritz or two will do just fine. Also, a monthly feeding of orchid food when it is in full bloom helps to keep the nutrients in the soil, for next bloom cycle. I recommend monthly feedings, as per product instructions. After fresh blooms have dried and fallen off stem wait until stem itself is dried. Then and only then clip the old stem off approximately 2" from base.
Orchids may seem dead however, they rarely are unless there is root rot, flimsy base leaves, disease, insects, and/or companion plants that host Bromelaides. Store hibernating orchids in a dimly lit area and forget about them, somewhat. Remember to be consistent with watering and plant food monthly. The new buds are developing during that time. The time to expect between blooms is 6-8 months.
There are many ways to display, rotate, and enjoy your orchids. Recently while visiting my sister her beautiful varied orchids, some gifts and some that friends had given up and regarded as dead, now adorn her garden walls in Florida. The same can be created for our Hamptons' late spring through early autumn garden walls as well.
Linda is the founder and Creative Landscape Designer of Linda Gardens Corp. with offices in Bridgehampton, New York City, and Italy.