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Orchids in the house. April 6, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening.
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Now that orchids have become so widely (and comparatively cheaply, usually hovering around $20) available in grocery stores, more of us may be tempted to bring them home in lieu of cut flowers. But then what?

I was reminded of this just this morning by an article in our local paper urging people to splurge and take the plunge, even if orchid-growing terrified them. Our friend Ben agrees with the author, even if there are unique challenges to orchid growing, assuming you’re willing to cut your losses.

The pros are that most orchids bloom for months on end, providing an unrivalled show. Let’s say that $20 buys you three or four months of continuous color. That’s a pretty good return on investment. And not all orchids require full sun or warm temperatures: Phalaenopsis (“moth”) orchids and their hybrids, the kind most often sold in groceries, are fine with the diffused light most homes provide, and cymbidiums, also frequently available, enjoy cooler temperatures.

The problem is humidity. Orchids thrive in high-humidity environments, which most homes can’t provide unless they also have a greenhouse. Your grocery orchid will continue to bloom and delight you for months after you buy it, but whether it will survive to bloom another year is another matter. Here at Hawk’s Haven, we have a greenhouse, and we keep our orchids growing in the off-season. We have quite a few in bloom again as I write. But our friend Ben knows this wouldn’t be true if they were growing in our house year-round.

Yes, you could probably keep them going if you had a plant stand with grow-lights, put them on gravel trays filled with water, and covered the whole thing with plastic. And yes, they’d certainly survive for a few years if you kept them in a bright window, watered them consistently but never overwatered, fed them from spring through fall, and didn’t expect them to rebloom.

Perhaps the most sensible approach was expressed by the author of the article: In groceries, an orchid costs little more than a cut-flower bouquet, yet it lasts months longer. Why not get one and enjoy it? After its blooms are gone, if it lives it lives, if it dies it dies. Few people are willing to give poinsettias, which, after all, are also perennials, what they need to thrive and rebloom. Instead, they toss them at season’s end, having enjoyed them throughout the winter.

Those grocery orchids are no more exotic and can add color and joy to your life. And incidentally, our grocery cymbidiums are alive, well, and reblooming happily in the greenhouse, so if you have a greenhouse, sunroom, or covered porch, give them a try!

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