How NOT to Kill Your Orchid

I love orchids. They have always been one of my very favorit-est flowers. So delicate. So ornate. Absolutely exquisite. The colors and design are fantastic, and in my opinion, look amazing in most any decor setting. The only thing that could make them more perfect would be if they had an equally lovely fragrance. I've put in my request to Santa for orchids that smell like jasmine or oriental lillies. I've been good... =)

To those with a green thumb, growing and caring for orchids isn't rocket science. However, for those who are flora-challenged, caring for tropical plants may seem like a quadratic equation. Not to worry, I'm here to offer a few solutions from personal experience.

Here's my first live orchid plant that I bought from Home Depot last month. When I bought it there was only one open bloom and two other buds. Sad story: I lost the next bud to bloom within about four days after I brought it home because I wasn't watering enough. I kept reading that orchids like to be watered every 5-12 days. Apparently, Utah is not only dry but acts like a dehydrator. My plants always need to be watered nearly twice as often as the recommended "dose".

So, in no particular order, here are some very sad lessons I had to learn about my first live orchid plant:

Rule #1: Allow your orchid soil to dry out a little between waterings. For me, this meant giving my plant about 1/3 cup water every three days or so. Obviously, the bigger the plant, the more water you'll need. Just keep in mind you'll want to give it a good soak.

Rule #2: Don't let water sit in the leaves. Unlike some other tropical plants, orchids don't like water to get sprayed on their leaves. Oops. If water gets trapped in between the leaves, simply blot dry with a paper towel or cotton ball.

Rule #3: Don't let extra water remain in the base of the pot. This will rot your orchid. If your orchid is placed in a decorative container (or a thrifted green glass urn that perfectly fit your little orchid plant - eep!) throughly water your plant and let it drain into a sink before placing back into the decorative pot. It didn't take me long to figure out how much water my plant needed to be happy, so I didn't have to take it out and let it drain anymore.

Rule #4: Orchids love indirect sunlight. It's best to place near-ish a window that gets diffused light, such as a nightstand near a window with sheer curtains. I learned that bright green leaves mean a happy orchid. Dark leaves typically mean too little sunlight. Leaves with a reddish tint mean too much light.

Rule #5: After an orchid stops blooming, cut down the stem about halfway, just below the lowest bloom. Continue caring for and watering as you would, and there's a good chance your orchid will bloom again. Be patient, these are not fast growing plants. If your plant has withered leaves or has small leaves (around 3-4" leaves) it may be best to cut the stem all the way down. You'll want to water a little bit less than before while the plant doesn't have buds, but your orchid should happily bloom again for you next year.

Well, that's about all I know! I made a couple mistakes in the beginning (not watering enough for my home's "climate", spraying the leaves with water), but luckily my orchid still gave me nearly a full month of beautiful blooms. It was so exciting to see new buds form and blossom. It would still be blooming now, I think, if the hubsters and my daughter hadn't been playing catch in the living room (grrr...) and had a rogue ball hit the plant. It demolished the last flower and hurt the remaining buds. I'm pretty sure it went into shock. I also made the mistake of cutting down the plant all the way. It wasn't until after the fact that I learned that it might, in fact, bloom again if I had only cut it about half way down the stem.

Well, live and learn...and that's why I'm here for you! Grow 'dem orchids, baby! Love that little plant and it'll be a breath of fresh air (literally) in your home. And please, don't forget to ban your family from playing ball in the living room. Sweetie, are you reading this?

{photos courtesy of Oak Bay Flower Shop and Staging Accessories}

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