Orchids are among the most exotic-looking flowers in the plant kingdom. There are thousands of species of orchids, so the first step to successful orchid care is to learn about the needs of your particular species of orchid. Most orchid plants are sold in full bloom, which gives them terrific curb appeal but also indicates an advanced state of development. Remember, plants make flowers as a way to reproduce. Flowers contain seeds, and producing seeds is the last act of many plants before they die or become dormant for the season.
That said, orchids are popular as flowering plants because the blooms can last up to four months, much longer than the life span of most flowers. Once you cut the orchids from their stems, they begin to decay much more quickly. Please note that only orchid flowers still attached to a properly-cared-for plant will last this long.
With proper care, indoor orchid plants can produce many sprays of flowers in a row and may even produce new plants!
The most common family of orchids in the US is phalaenopsis. The phalaenopsis orchid comes in many colors and patterns, but all varieties share a similar shape with two petals, three sepals and one labellum or lip (the oddly-shaped petal at the bottom of the flower that connects the reproductive structures). Within phalaenopsis, there are several varieties of flower, each with its own environmental preferences.
All plants require a few basic needs: water, food, sunlight and pruning. Orchids are no exception. The first thing you need to find out about your orchid is how much water it prefers. Some orchid plants prefer consistently damp soil, while others do well when you let the soil dry out completely between watering. When you water your orchids, be careful not to get the flowers or leaves wet. If you do, promptly but gently dry the leaves and flowers by blotting them with cotton swabs. Water on the petals and leaves will cause rapid decomposition.
Different orchids may also prefer different amounts of fertilizer. With small orchid plants, you may need to dilute the fertilizer first. If you omit fertilizer altogether, it s less likely that your plant will bloom or re-bloom.
Temperature is also a big issue for orchids. Some orchids must be kept in a slightly cooler temperature for a few weeks to encourage them to form buds. Proximity to sunlight can affect temperature greatly. As a rule, you can tell whether your orchid is getting the appropriate amount of sun by examining the leaves. Too little sun will yield very dark leaves, too much sun will turn the leaves reddish green, and with just the right amount of sun the leaves should be brightly colored. In general orchids do best in bright, indirect sunlight, as in a sunny window shielded by a sheer curtain. Be careful not to block out too much light, however, as sunlight is necessary for plants to carry out photosynthesis which is what keeps them alive. Even shade plants need sunlight, however indirect. Orchids also respond poorly to cool temperatures, excessive breezes (as with air conditioning vents) or movement. Once you have a good place for your orchid plant, try to keep its temperature regulated and don t move it unnecessarily.
Many of our top-rated sites for online flower delivery sell a variety of orchid plants. If you send an orchid as a gift and want to make sure your recipient knows how to care for it, do a little online research about the particular species you re gifting and print out a short guide for your gift recipient to follow. Alternately, you can email the company you order from and ask them to enclose specific care information with your gift if they don t ordinarily do so.