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Alluring Orchids: Dead Or Alive?

Linda Ardigo

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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. (Photo: Linda Ardigo)

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.

Guest (carol ferrelli) from boca, florida says::
Thanks Sis, for this beautiful article. I agree, that less is more when it comes to nourishing these wonders of nature.
Mar 15, 2013 12:50 pm

Guest (C lawton) from Vero beach FL says::
It' s always nice to learn about plants and flowers that seem to be a mystery to care for. I realize that I have been over watering my orchids. Easter is coming and it might be the perfect time to buy another beautiful orchid. Thanks for the tips.
Mar 14, 2013 7:32 am

Guest (Sharon) from East End says::
Great info beautifully & eloquently written & the photo brings the orchid wall to life. I am grateful for now knowing to let the stem dry out before cutting back. I've been cutting back green stems & very few revived after dormancy in my dark cool basement. Next orchids will benefit from your excellent guidance.THANKS
Mar 13, 2013 10:14 pm

Guest (Joe Morguess) from Tamarac , Florida says::
You write" A spritz or two will do just fine"! That and the creative visualization of how beautiful the greenery around us can become, as willed by intelligent landscapers like yourself. I personally observed the gradual unfolding of the orchids in your cover picture, in your sister's magical Florida garden, and how a spritz or 2 or 3 of her attentiveness, skill, and love of plant life facilitated its ongoing growth and durability.
Mar 13, 2013 5:15 pm

Guest (Quanah Parker) from East Hampton says::
Most interesting article. I always pamper my orchids and they die after two weeks. Keep the tips coming!
Mar 13, 2013 10:52 am

Guest (Lisa Vacca) from Los Angeles says::
Good info Linda! Our orchids are starting to bloom again now! It's so exciting to watch them come back to life for the 4th or 5th time. We never gave them orchid food, good to know. Another important thing - after watering, let the pot drain all the water out!
Mar 13, 2013 5:19 am

Guest (Pat Curtice) from Delray Beach, fl says::
Thanks, Linda for such helpful instructions for my Orchids. I too love them and take them beck and forth from here to Danubury and they keep,blooming. I did not really know about the non watering and the filtered light. They will do even better no
Mar 13, 2013 12:19 am

Guest (Lynn Matsuoka) from Bridgehampton says::
Great about the Orchids- JUST the info Ive been looking for! Thank you.
Mar 12, 2013 7:18 pm

Guest (Toni Merenda Carbone) from Riverhead, NY says::
Orchids are fun to grow here on LI. I have 6 now in my little condo and all bloom routinely. William Bianchi in Riverhead is an orchid grower with thousands of the most beautiful plants imagineable. One of my plants from his hot house yielded 19 white Phalaenopsis and they lasted over 5 months. Unbelievable quality.
Mar 12, 2013 6:56 pm


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