Enabling Orchids to Bloom

I’m named after the Biblical Garden of Eden. As such, I’ve always thought it would be ironic if I couldn’t manage to grow a decent garden.

At last, I think I’ve finally gotten there. I have successfully managed to bring a long dormant phalaenopsis orchid (or moth orchids) out of dormancy! Huzzah! It should be blooming in a few weeks.

I’ve read a lot about moth orchids and there are a few different theories about ideal care and maintenance. Here are the steps I followed.

  • Sumbersion watering- orchids are pretty finicky about their watering. Many of the articles I came across suggested placing 3 ice cubes in the pot to melt and that would be the perfect amount of watering. However, I saw a few issues with this. First, ice cubes are cold (obviously) and orchids thrive in warm, humid conditions, so icing them seemed counter intuitive. Instead, I submerge my orchids in lukewarm water for 5 minutes once a week and then pour off/drain the excess water. This recreates a swampy effect and allows the growing medium to absorb just the right amount of water.
  • Air root maintenance- orchids grow “air roots” above ground. They’re really peculiar looking; almost snake-like. If conditions are too dry or cool, the air roots shrivel and turn yellow. It’s best to trim off this dead growth to make room for new growth. Air roots should be plump and deep to vibrant green in color.
  • Fertilization- generally speaking, I’m not a proponent of artificial fertilization. I believe it’s best to grow plants in their natural conditions for best results. However, growing orchids indoors without their swamp environment leaves them without the nutrients they could get in nature. So, I “fertilize” with coffee grounds a couple times a week. We use a French press for our morning coffee (tastes better, and doesn’t require filters which are just an extra purchase and waste product) so I scoop out the majority of the grounds into our compost and whatever is left in the carafe after that is what I use on the orchids. I swirl about a half cup of lukewarm water around in it and then divide that between the two plants I have. Coffee grounds are nitrogen rich so they add that to the foliage and encourage deep green leaves and new growth/flowering.
  • Plant placement- because of their need for humidity and partial shade, I keep my orchids on the window sill above the kitchen sink. They get moist heat when I hand wash dishes and the amount of sunlight from the north facing window is just right.
  • Appropriate seasoning- as I will with our bees and chickens, I let the orchids take their time off to rest in dormancy. Nature has seasons and there is a time and a purpose to everything under Heaven- ask the Byrds or the book of Ecclesiastes. Since orchids naturally bloom in mid winter, I have no problem encouraging them to do so right now, as it’s January. I will, however, allow them to go dormant in the summer. When they rebloom, I’ll allow the flowers to wilt naturally and when they finally dry out and fall off, I’ll trim the stalk down to one inch above the growing medium. Then the plants will rest before putting out new growth in the late fall.

I’ve always been in love with orchids as they’re such a unique looking flower. I wanted them at my wedding, but we eloped and large quantities of fresh orchids would have cost a small fortune so, que sera sera. It’s a joy to care for and tend my very own plants and watch them go through their natural cycles.

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