Intro: Easy Success With Orchids
One of the things I do best turns out to be one of the things I least apply myself to: growing orchids. Now I know any bonafide orchid aficionado will be aghast at some of the photos in this Instructable, but in all fairness, I did just say I don't apply myself much to this
I do, however, love orchids and I'm very fond of my modest collection of mostly, but not only, Phalaenopsis orchids. At almost any time of the year, two or more are blooming, and for seemingly months on end. Guests complement me on my beautiful orchids, but when I say, "Oh, it's nothing, really," it really is nothing really.
Since a whole bunch of my orchids are coming into bloom right now, I thought it was a good opportunity to share the non-secrets of my success.
Step 1: Buy Cheap/Split Plants
You don't need to spend a lot of money to get started tinkering with orchids. I buy mine at the sale table at Lowes, usually, where they keep a wonderful collection of misfit, tired, and disheveled plants they feel they can't sell at full retail. That often includes orchids that aren't blooming.
Side note: A friend once told me, while marveling at my orchids, that she usually "got rid of" orchids that people had given her that had stopped blooming. Apparently this is not unusual. I would counsel waiting - they'll bloom again, honest!
Anyway, this is basically the retail principle that the home improvement store operates on - especially with small orchids that are no longer blooming. They end up on the sale rack for anywhere from $1 to $5, and that's a great price to snatch them up at! At full retail, the little orchid in the photo would go for about $10 or $12. I got it for $1.
They may look like the one in the picture - all rooty and maybe in a cracked pot or something. But the wonderful thing about orchids is that they're essentially air plants, and they're really easy to repot, which is another way to get more orchids - split your crowded plants.
As a matter of fact, here's a wonderful Instructable on Repotting an Orchid So You Never Overwater Again. (I know I need to repot a few of mine, so no need to tell me that in the comments.)
Step 2: Location, Location, Location
While no expert, I'm aware that orchid require indirect light and sufficient moisture. So I keep mine in hanging pots or plant stands in humid, shaded areas. Now I live in Tampa, so finding humid shade isn't hard. In northern climes, you may have to help that condition along a bit.
Step 3: Go Light on the Watering
Here's my basic rule of thumb on watering: Don't.
Really, resist the urge to make it a habit to water your orchids. The main cause of death in orchids is drowning. Don't let that happen to your orchid!
During the rainy season, I'll put my orchids out in the rain about once every other week. During the dry season, I'll throw some ice cubes in the pots about once a week, or water lightly with the watering can.
Really. That's it. Leave them alone.
Sometimes I totally forget them for a few weeks and then think, "Oh, the orchids!" and then I water them. And they thank me by blooming.
Step 4: Sit Back and Enjoy Them!
I know orchids are a labor of love for many people. To me they're a source of great beauty and joy, maintained through the practice of benign neglect.
And that makes it an extra special experience when they bloom as generously as they do.
So give it a shot - get yourself an orchid off the sale table, put it in a shady damp spot, and leave it alone most of the time. It will thank you by making pretty flowers.