The orchid that not only survived, but thrived

September 8, 2011


I’m notoriously bad with plants. In my younger days, I actually managed to deflate a cactus within a week. Not kill, but deflate. I definitely had not inherited my mom’s green thumb.

Then I moved to California, and all of that changed. Pretty much anything grows here. Of course, I still have my problem plants. Spinach didn’t like my garden, and cucumbers don’t like me either. Since bringing basil with white flies into the house, my herbs don’t stick around so long. The orchid however…

Friends gave us this orchid when we moved into the house two years ago. I had anticipated enjoying the flowers and then losing the plant to my brown thumb. Somehow this guy just keeps coming back and blooming, bigger and better every time. Right now there are 11 blooms fully opened on it (all of them, this photo was taken a week or so ago when they still hadn’t all opened).

The key things I’ve learned about in taking care of this orchid:

  • They need indirect sunlight. That doesn’t mean shade. That means put it somewhere near where there is a lot of warm sunlight, just not smack dab in the middle of it, but more toward the edge.
  • When they’re not blossoming, water every other to every few days. Don’t overdo it with the water. I’m pretty sure I’ve left this thing for a week or more without water. It seems to work.
  • When there are blooms, give it a little water every day. Otherwise, the blooms fall off before they ever blossom (if you stick with the other watering method). You can skip a day sometimes, but it likes more water around this time.
  • Pull off dead leaves and cut back the stems when the blossoms are done and you see no new growth. To quote the Aztec astrology card I picked up this week (I’m the Flower), the flower is “…condemned to fade away in order to return to strength…” and it “…is the cosmic adornment of the Cycle of Time, revolving abundance and disintegration.” Meaning simply, this orchid needs to nearly die to live and thrive.
  • I’ve repotted this flower once. The roots start to come up above the mulch and look a little crazy, like it’s trying to escape the pot. So I went to Home Depot, bought a bigger pot, some more mulch, and some orchid food. I followed the instructions on the bag of mulch about repotting (I think I trimmed dead roots off), fed it a bit, and let it continue on it’s path. I haven’t fed it since, even though the bottle says to do so every month. Maybe next time I repot.

And those are my secrets for keeping this beautiful orchid alive. Ha! Actually, I think blind luck is the secret, but that’s what I’ve done. So give it a try, and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, just be happy you’ve had beautiful flowers in your life for a week or a month, or however long they’ve lasted. I’m certain it will have been longer than cut flowers.


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