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Orchids are Like People

By James Parker, January 25, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by James Parker
orchid1 I've had a long and funny relationship with orchids. Selling them in our stores, shipping them to different parts of the country, or just buying them for my home, orchids are a lot like people in that they never fail to surprise me and, like me, are full of contradictions. They grow just about everywhere in the world and are an odd combination of tough and fragile - needing some very specific environmental conditions to grow and then needing entirely different conditions to produce a bloom. I have a few at home pretty much all the time since I'm fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where the conditions for growing them are ideal. I am also fortunate enough professionally to have a reason to visit an orchid farm on occasion - my most recent trip coming just this week, in time for the build up to Valentine's Day. orchid2Walking into an orchid green house is an otherworldly experience. The optimal temperature for orchid growing is identical to the ideal zone for people (65 to 75°F), the humity is high but not overly so and the room is alive with vivid splashes of color. The farm I visited this week had some 60,000 plants in bloom - the grower explained these were plants staged for Valentine's Day shipping across the country. Walking through the greenhouse is like entering a giant room full of happy children - you can't help but smile at this intense concentration of beauty. orchid3Orchids grow in a remarkable range of climate zones: from the Equadoral tropics to near the north and south poles. The Orchid family of plants is also extremely old, with fossilized evidence dating back more than 15 million years. Orchids are certainly valued for their prized blossoms and fragrances but the plant has a practical side as well - vanilla, a common commercial flavoring, owes its origins to the orchid family of plants. orchid4The most common orchid variety produced commercially is the Phanaenopsis (pronounced fay-lee-in-op-sis), a scentless multi-bloom variety with a dizzying color and size range. Developing a new color or enhancing a desirable characteristic requires patience and perseverance - plants with a new look can commonly take as many as six years to develop and bring to market. The production of established varieties is also long and painstaking - from "flask" (tissue culture take from the stem of the mother plant) to finished product is an almost two year journey. orchid5One of the odd things about orchids is the process that growers use to trick the plant into producing a bloom. Cool weather triggers the reproductive cycle for orchids so while the plant likes a moderate to warm climate to grow, it needs a period of nippy weather to produce a flower. In coastal California, Mother Nature provides this chill naturally in the fall and winter. In places like Florida and in the summer season, growers place orchids in large coolers to simulate the same conditions. orchid6A new trend among producers is the mini-orchid. Growers are experimenting with smaller plant and pot sizes to reduce growth time (and it's associated expense). The effort is producing some positive results in shipping as well - another area where conditions must be exacting otherwise the plant will stress and drop its blossoms. Plant breeding is also focused on ways to coax plants into producing multiple "spikes" and blooms. Growers will often experiment with different temperature, humidity and light conditions to determine which are best for each plant. Oftentimes this experimentation will produce accidental characteristics that are both positive or negative and the plant itself will also naturally produce genetic irregularities - again, like us (ex: the one blond cousin in a family of brunettes). orchid7I like orchids because the relationship is longer than with most blooming plants. Orchids are a nice kitchen and bath flower that will last a long time and needs little maintenance. The slightly higher humidity of these two rooms is ideal for the plant. I've had orchids that have bloomed for upwards of four months - the blossoms fading to a softer hue before finally dropping. I have also had very good luck getting mine to rebloom the following year with just a little effort and love. In contrast to the fleeting beauty of cut flowers and the rugged rewards of my outside garden, an orchid is more of a companion. A friend who is particular and knows what they like, just like me.
Category: Floral




Margo says ...
Good to learn more about such a lovely flower. I had no idea the vanilla plant is related to orchids. I have never dared try growing orchids, as they seem so very intimidating. So many delicate plants to not like the arid west where I make my home. This post certainly makes a convincing statement about the worth of having my own orchids.
01/26/2010 2:31:42 PM CST
BDickinson says ...
Orchids are the only plant that grows on every continent (except antarctica, of course)!
01/26/2010 8:54:14 PM CST
Rene says ...
I only wish that stores would have the names on the orchids. Yes, they're pretty but of really no interest to many orchid lovers without a name,not just the type. With all the beautiful hybrids out there these days, without a name one doesn't really know all that it needs to thrive and bloom. I did succumb to the beauty of three no name orchids but will never do that again. It's impossible to enter them in a show without a name.
01/27/2010 9:51:26 AM CST
Kathe Hale says ...
So what is a "nippy" temperature? I have had my Orchid over a year now - the blossoms were fantastic and lasted from February last year well into June - but would love to see more blooms. I am in Michigan - nippy to me is down in the 20s but I don't want to freeze my orchid and never have it re-bloom. Please advise.
01/27/2010 2:49:11 PM CST
Sandy says ...
Delightful article. As a first time orchid owner (Oncidium 'Mishima'), I knew nothing of orchids except that I found their beauty breathtaking. Quite by accident I discovered, as mentioned in the article, that a change in temperature could produce bloom. It happened for me when I moved my orchid from my east facing kitchen window sill in the late summer/fall. I moved it to a stand next to a french door (south facing). The light and temperature change during the day/night miraculously produced a stem of blooms. I was thrilled and announced her birth to all of my garden club friends who I knew would share my excitement. I am so proud of my unwitting success. Now I want another and want to know more about these amazing flowers
01/27/2010 8:53:35 PM CST
parkerj says ...
Hey Kathe Hale, “Nippy” is not in fact an industry temperature designation and I should have realized that my nippy may vary wildly from someone else’s. Chill time in an industry context is 40-50 degrees 8 or so hours at a time over a period of approximately 2 weeks. It also helps to feed the plant (most nurseries sell orchid food) right before you try to get it to bloom again. I suggest for your climate you keep the plant indoors and place it right next to a window or door if possible (these are generally the areas of most houses that are coolest).
01/28/2010 9:31:31 AM CST
Roi says ...
Do you sell orchid fertilizers @ the Whole Foods?
02/04/2010 4:07:25 AM CST
Tamara says ...
Great article! I too love orchids and have many of them, you are so right they are like "happy children". I recently read also where they are very sensitive to room sprays, and may drop all of their blooms if placed near any ripening fruit due to the ethylene gas released from the fruit. And that did happen to me once. I was so excited to see an article about orchids on here!
02/04/2010 8:20:33 AM CST
Becky15349 says ...
Great article! I've been growing orchids for about 10 years and enjoy them immensely. I have always seen the orchids at Whole Foods and they are excellent quality. If you've never tried growing an orchid before, do get yourself a phalaenopsis and give one a try! Water it just 1x a week, give it moderate bright light (an east or west window is perfect), make sure there is good air movement, and you should be set! Phalaenopsis are very adaptable and make great houseplants, and when it reblooms, there is NO better feeling of accomplishment!
02/05/2010 10:26:58 AM CST
Marina Caraway says ...
Hello: my boyfriend gave me a orquid plant for Valentine's day, I placed in my living room close to the window and I water it a week later,now her flowers starting to fall and above the groung roots are getting dry. I don't want it to die what should I do Thank you
03/02/2010 11:17:48 PM CST
parkerj says ...
Hi Marina- I can think of a couple of things that would cuase your blossoms to drop but if you are running your home heater alot (liuke most of us right now) it may be drying your plant out. I keep a spray bottle to mist my orchids occasionally for just this reason
03/16/2010 1:13:33 PM CDT
vaughnm says ...
Our product selection varies from store to store, so you'll have to check in directly with your local store/s. Thanks! http://bit.ly/allstore
03/18/2010 9:49:23 AM CDT
Rick says ...
I learned something new today. I live Florida and near a large grower in Fort Pierce . I new colder temps. promoted reproduction cycles,but never heard of them users coolers to do it. I am interested to know about how they control temps during the process. Anyway thanks for the tip.
07/25/2010 4:47:57 PM CDT
Mary Ann says ...
It is amazing what people can do to have these flowers bloom. What is more amazing is how many species of orchids there are. I wasn't realizing what a long process it is to produce a new color or characteristic. It's very interesting to get a look at this from your perspective. As an orchid grower, are there any <a href="http://www.orchidcarezone.com/orchid-growers-3-key-questions/" rel="nofollow">orchid care questions</a> you would add to this or change? Thanks!
12/10/2010 6:35:34 PM CST
sareh says ...
Hi I have a lot of interest in the orchid greenhouse, especially greenhouse flowers But I really do not know where should I start Plant Protection is my field of study But the more I'm growing flowers Lafmnd Can you help me? Meanwhile I'm living in Iran in Shiraz
02/18/2011 6:46:10 AM CST
Sue says ...
Hi...i just bought a beautiful orchid at Whole Foods and had a quick question in relation to watering it. It came with the simple shot glass stating that it needs one full shot of warm water, once a week. My question to you is....how do i know when Whole Foods watered it last? I am just trying to figure out when i should supply this lovely guy with its next shot glass of water! Thanks so much ;-)
08/13/2013 5:02:06 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SUE - For the best answer, I would reach out to the store directly where you purchased the orchid to find out when they watered it last. If it overlaps by a week, it should still be okay!
08/14/2013 3:47:41 PM CDT
Mingchun Cheng says ...
I live in Plano, Tx., where can I find good bargain orchid in the neighborhood ?
07/05/2014 2:27:20 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MINGCHUN - We have a store located in Plano. You can call them directly at 972.612.6729 to find out if they have orchids in stock and if so, how much.
07/07/2014 12:59:30 PM CDT
Ellen says ...
However, hectic healthcare facilities, inept employees, as well as defective tools occasionally cause avoidable birth wounds.
12/20/2015 1:57:08 PM CST