Here’s lookingat you, orchid
degrees F, which is the range inside most
homes. The plants are generally potted in
sphagnum moss, although some growers use a
bark-like medium. Moss holds moisture much
longer than you might think, says Zachos.
PHOTOS COURTESY ROCKET FARMS
More of us kill orchids by overwatering
than by neglect, she adds. “Orchids are practi-
cally succulents, and they might not need
water for 14 days.”
When your plant is ready for a drink,
place the pot in a sink filled with water,
almost to the rim. “Make sure to get the moss
A once-exclusive flower comes home
completely wet,” Dixler advises. After excess
water drains away, use a saucer or decora-
tive container to keep drips off your cof-
fee table. In your home, set the plants on
trays of gravel, partially filled with water,
to create a humid microclimate around the
By Debra Prinzing
THE ORCHID WORLD used to be the exclusive domain of collectors who spent hundreds
of dollars to acquire and maintain each rare
floral specimen. Now, thanks to new breeding
technologies, orchids are an accessible and affordable indulgence for everyone who wants
to bring beauty into his or her home.
Orchids have intricate flowers that look as
if a large spider, moth or butterfly has landed
on the plant’s slender, arching stem. During the
late 18th and early 19th centuries, explorers
brought back orchids to Europe, where wealthy
collectors displayed these botanical wonders in
Today, according to experts, while orchids
look delicate, many varieties are easy to grow.
“You can walk out of the store with an
orchid plant for $10 or $20,” says Ellen Zachos,
a New York–based indoor-plant expert and
author of Orchid Growing for Wimps. “It feels
like a luxury item, even though it isn’t.”
“Orchids come in all shapes, forms and
sizes,” points out award-winning orchid
enthusiast Joe Dixler. “There are ones you
have to use a magnifying glass to see, and
there are orchids that are quite large in size.”
The Phalaenopsis (fayl-eh-NOP-siss), or
moth, orchid is one of the best orchids for
beginners because it is inexpensive and unde-
manding. “It is an extremely easy orchid for
anyone to grow in their home,” Zachos says.
Intricate, alluring and uncommonly
beautiful, orchids might take over your
life, says Dixler, who tends to his orchids
in a 1,000-square-foot greenhouse in
Highland Park, Illinois.
What is an orchid?
including Phalaenopsis, are
epiphytic, which means
they draw moisture and
nutrients from the air; others, such as Cymbidium, a
winter-blooming orchid, are
considered terrestrial, which
means they grow in soil.
A number of today’s orchids
are bred in state-of-the-art nurseries
using tissue culture, a special genetic method.
Thanks to these innovations, orchids are less
costly and more dazzling than ever before. The
Phalaenopsis palette is almost infinite in scope,
with spots, speckles and a kaleidoscope of
colors, including yellow, pink, purple, white,
peach and orange.
Help orchids rebloom
There are several ways to encourage
orchids to flower again. Most experts advise
cutting back the stem to about 1 inch from
where it emerges from the base leaves and
placing the plant in a bright, north-facing
window. Temperatures near the window will
be lower, tricking the orchid into a dormant
period. Eventually, a new spike will form, followed by buds. Well-grown plants can flower
often, but orchids generally bloom in
late winter through spring.
Dixler feeds his plants with
a half-strength orchid fertilizer each time they are
watered. But if you forget to add fertilizer,
don’t worry, Zachos says. “I know
you’re supposed to, but I get good reblooms even if I don’t fertilize,” she reports.
“If you give your orchid the light it needs and
repot it every two to three years, it will do its
job and bloom.”
lowed by buds. Well-grown plants can flower
How to choose an orchid
blooms even if I don’t fertilize,” she reports.
When selecting a Phalaenopsis, look for
one or two open flowers at the stem’s tip, with
several tighter buds arranged farther down
that stem. “I never buy an orchid that has all
of its flowers open,” Zachos says. “I like knowing those buds hold the potential for a really
long bloom period.” Some orchids have double spikes (stems). This means twice as many
flowers on one plant.
A growing passion
When you bring an orchid home, be prepared for the possibility that you will soon
want more than one, warns Dixler. He should
know. He owns 3,500 varieties. “It just
becomes rather addictive,” he jokes. “Once
you get six orchids, you’re hooked.” C
Costco member Debra Prinzing,
prinzing.com, is a Seattle-based outdoor-living expert and author.
The Costco Connection
Costco members will find a variety of potted orchids as well as cut flowers at their
local Costco. Cut and potted flowers are
also available at Costco.com.
Care and feeding
Phalaenopsis orchids are happiest with
indoor temperatures between 60 and 70