TUTORIAL: HOW NOT TO KILL AN ORCHID #1 THE BASICS

by Andi Saw March. 16, 2018 660 views

Everything you always wanted to know about orchids, but you never asked.

Many pictures are old and taken with my cellphones. This is a tutorial. Pictures are here to show you what I'm talking about.

Audrey. My very first orchid. Well, the very first I didn't kill. Everything started here. 40th birthday present. Thank God I have an expert friend. Ps. I hate the color, but every time, flowers have a different one.

Audrey. My very first orchid. Well, the very first I didn't kill. Everything started here. 40th birthday present. Thank God I have an expert friend. Ps. I hate the color, but every time, flowers have a different one.


What is an orchid?
Officially is a tropical plant, but, if you're not living in a tropical zone, they are all hybrids, coming from greenhouses in your country.
There is a ridiculous number of species. Some have delicious smell, some other don't. Some keep their roots in the ground, some don't. Some you can extract vanilla from, others are not edible.

What species of orchid should I keep or give?
The most famous, and the easiest to keep in your home is the Phalaenopsis.
There are basically 5 orchids you can easily keep in your apartment
Phalaenopsis
Dendrobium
Paphiopedilum
Oncidium
Cymbidium
I will talk about the Phalaenopsis, because it's super common, and you can find it everywhere.

Are greenhouse owners criminals?
Most of the times yes! They don't actually care about the plant. They need to sell them, so they create a huge amount of tiny orchids, knowing this plant is cool, and they can sell them overpriced. (This information will be useful in "How not to kill an orchid #3 repotting)
I always repot my orchids when I buy them. As you can see in the following image, pots are too tiny, and full of moss or sphagnum, and the roots need to be cleaned, and checked. Orchids cannot stand "in water". Especially Phalaenopsis are aerial plants. They choke if you leave them there.

Cairo

Cairo

Valhalla, my yellow orchid. Birthday present.

Valhalla, my yellow orchid. Birthday present.

Should I give an orchid to my girlfriend/wife/friend/mom etc...
1. If the person is a plant lover, and has time and is willing to learn how to take care of an orchid, YES.
2. If the person has no time, and you know she's not committed to take care of her plants, and is not willing to learn NO!
Orchids need time, and care. This is why, a ton of people get an orchid for whatever celebration, they let them die, and they don't buy another one ever again. (I was an orchid killer too).
If you buy an orchid for its flowers, and you throw it away when the flowers die, STOP BUYING ORCHIDS. (And find a good therapist, because you have a huge problem)

Biles

Biles

This is BILES (Named after Simone Biles, because she was adopted, had a difficult start, but everything's fine now).
I found it outside a dumpster. It's ok. The old owner left it outside, hoping someone would keep it. It was Summer. This is an extreme but good way to leave your plant. (Especially if I'm around, because I will keep it for sure!)
As you can see, the leaves are down, she was thirsty (The standing leaf has a stick behind). It was in a wrong pot, with the wrong soil.
Now it's blooming. It took almost 2 years to be happy again.

After a good bath, repotting, some drugs :) See? It takes a little care, and in a couple of weeks a desperate dying orchid can find happiness again! It's HUGE. The main leaf is 60cm (23 inches)

After a good bath, repotting, some drugs :) See? It takes a little care, and in a couple of weeks a desperate dying orchid can find happiness again! It's HUGE. The main leaf is 60cm (23 inches)


I gave my girlfriend/wife/friend/mom an orchid, and i think she's killing it
An orchid takes ages to die (Biles, picture above, was without water since a month, at least. Maybe more). It's basically impossible not to understand an orchid is dying. Give the plant to someone who already has one. An orchid lover would never say no. Saving orchids from "bad" people is our secret mission. Write on your facebook page, ask everyone, if it's Summer, leave it outside with a note "For free" or "For adoption". It will disappear in 2 hours!

How much should I spend for an orchid?
As we're talking about Phalaenopsis, you should spend from a couple of euros to 25/30 maximum. (5-20 is the best)
5€: Ikea, supermarket, tiny flower shops (Mini orchids)
25/30: serious florist. (Medium / big)
PS. If you see an orchid in bad shape, you can ask the florist or supermarket a discout. Maybe you can have it for free
PPS. You can find "Specialists", selling only orchids. They would charge you 50E/$ for a Phalenopsis, or more. No thanks!
PPPS. Extremely rare orchids can cost thousands of euros.

How to buy a good orchid
If the orchid has already a nice paper around, some ribbons and it's ready to leave the shop, SKIP IT!
Florists know you have no idea what you're buying. That's why they wap the plant, so you don't check the basics. Same story if the orchid is in a ceramic pot.


BASICS (What to check)
1. The pot must be a transparent, plastic one. You should be able to see through.
2. If you can spot traces of moss, SKIP IT! Check the bottom of the pot. (Until my 3rd episode, then you can buy it, because I'll teach you how to repot it) :)
3. Roots should be green and heathy. If you see dry roots (Light brown, super dry), few roots, dark brown roots SKIP IT! (One or 2 roots can be damaged, but it the majority is damaged, skip it)
4. Leaves should stand up, and be rigid and smooth.
5. Flowers are not a good indicator of anything. Usually it's the only thing someone looks at before buying an orchid.
6. PLEASE, don't buy blue orchids (Or blue roses). They are painted. They are fake. Don't waste your money.
7. Check if there are buds (Flowers in progress). Don't buy an orchid already fully bloomed. The new owner would miss the magic of the first blooming flower.
8. Smell the botton of the pot. If you smell mold, skip it. (Until episode 3, of course)

What to ask the florist?
Ask the florist to wrap your orchid in cellophane (Well, it's not cellophane.. that transparent plastic wrapper usually used for flowers... you know what I'm talking about) Especially if it's cold outside. It will help protecting the orchid until you get home.

Should I buy an orchid at the supermarket? Better go to the florist?
I think there's not this huge difference. They basically come from the same greenhouses. The most important thing is HOW you take care of it. Every orchid can survive.

Better a tiny orchid, a medium or a huge one?
Big orchids are more resistant, because they are "old" enough.
Mini orchids you find at the supermarket for a couple of euros are really young and delicate, but you can do it! It's not that if they are mini, they will die for sure.
But if they die... well, don0t get upset. It's probably not because of you. (I'll explain in the repotting post)

Mini orchids become big orchids?
No. Real MINI orchids stay tiny. But many times you will read MINI orchid on the label, but it's a young orchid, and it might grow.

Take away those clips ASAP, and replace them with a soft ribbon. it's nicer and it doesn't hurt the spike. Save fabric ribbons  from presents. You will use them on your orchids! :)

Take away those clips ASAP, and replace them with a soft ribbon. it's nicer and it doesn't hurt the spike. Save fabric ribbons from presents. You will use them on your orchids! :)

I bought an orchid, it was beautiful, but, in a couple of days, the flowers were gone!
Expect it!!! It's a classic.
While florists know how to keep an orchid alive and heatlhy (It's their job to sell it to you), you are not an expert and you don't have "Orchid drug" to keep it WOW for a long time.
The plant changed owner a couple of times recently (Greenhouse, market, you), travelled by truck, changed temperatures, lights, orchid friends... The moment you bring it home, and it gets some rest, flowers die! IT'S NORMAL!!! Don't through it away. Orchids are beautiful even if they don't have flowers.
PS. remember when you bought the orchid. If you bought it in Winter, it will probably bloom every year in Autumn/Winter.
I keep an orchid journal with all my experiments, bloomings, repottings, new leaves, died leaves etc...

Andi, I bought the best orchid I found, I followed your suggestions and now I'm at home, with the pot in my hands... What's next?
Now you should repotting it... but I'll tell you everything in #3

Why should I repot it?
Because it was in a greenhouse with 20.000 other orchids and it might have smails, fungi, whatever... You need to check the root system, cut the rotten roots, check the medium is ok (No mold)

Where do I put my orchid?
Phalaenopsis need a sunny place, but they dislike direct sunlight.
Very close to a window, but NEVER, EVER direct sunlight.
The moment you choose a place, don't move the plant! Orchids are very susceptible to changes. They get offended easily, and they should stop blooming for a year, only because you changed its original place.

Should I put 2 mini orchids in one pot?
Nope!
1. Orchids, like every plant, can get sick and get parasites. If one plant gets sick, it will infect the other one.
2. The roots will tangle, and you won't be able to separate them, when they grow up, and they need to be repotted.
3. Orchids syncronize. It's fun. Keep them in separate pots, but let the leaves touch. They will slowly syncronize and bloom at the same time, or growing a new leaf in the same moment.

My orchid doesn't bloom anymore.
Give it time.
Orchids can NOT bloom for years.
For example, I restyled my home, and the 'babies' suffered a lot. This is the first year they are all blooming. I finished the restyling 2 years ago

What might cause a not blooming year / flowers to die suddenly and fast?
1. Change of temperature. It's Winter but you open the window to get fresh air. This is enough. An orchid should die for this. It's ok to change the air in the room, but it's not ok to freeze your plants
2. Change of place
3. Change of light. E.g. Your orchid started blooming. It rains for 2 weeks straight. It's dark outside. Poof... buds don't bloom or flowers die. IT'S NORMAL!
4. They fell (Or a cat throw them down) = stress
(Windows exposed to North are the best) (They say). I have space only towards South, and they are fine.

But my friend has an orchid and its blooming perfectly, with a ton of flowers, 152 spikes and ...
Your friend has the best light, water, care, bark etc... Don't freak out, don't throw away your plant, and don't dispair. Orchids need you to be patient! They will teach you how to be. Stay calm. An orchid without flowers is an amazing plant anyway. ( + it will bloom again someday)

How long will flowers stay alive?
If you're lucky, the light is right and the plant is happy, a couple of months.
If something goes wrong, a couple of weeks.
Some orchids bloom a couple of times a year (Flowers: a couple of weeks). Some bloom once a year (Flowers for a month or more)

What's the difference between a purple spike and a green one?
Purple spikes mean that the color of the flower will be purple and very intense.
Big 'from pink to purple' orchids has purple spikes. White and yellow orchids have green spikes. You can find purple in your leaves too. It's related to the color of the flowers.

My orchid suffered because of (You name it: repotting / the cat throw it downstairs / I left for the Caribbean Islands and nobody gave it water... ), now there's only one spike and 3 flowers.
It's NORMAL. The plant will adjust itself. Be patient

What is this?

This is a sun burn. It happens when the orchid receive direct sunlight.
It's very common during Summer. And it's very common, even if you're an expert.
it was October, I thought the Sun wasn't so strong anymore, and I i did not draw the curtains... I was WRONG. This leaf burned in a couple of hours.

I burned a leaf, what should I do?
NOTHING.
You keep the plant with the burned leaf. Don't cut the leaf! NEVER. This would cause a huge struggle for the orchid.
You should NEVER cut a leaf. When a leaf is ready to die (It takes years), it dries and fall.

I broke a leaf... an now?
It's a classic. DON'T CUT IT. You should cut a leaf ONLY if it's really sick. This is not the case.
Buy Neem oil and with a Q-tip, gently rub the cut. If you don't have Neem oil, use CINNAMON. Yes, cinnamon. It's a disinfectant!
The cut will turn dark brown/black in few days.
End of the story.
Not nice to see, but it's ok.
Orchid leaves take years to die. 2, 3, 4 it depends on the plant and the environment. So, never cut a leaf. The plant needs it.

Guess what bastard cat used his pow to throw Biles off the shelf! Now I keep my orchids on the floor!

Guess what bastard cat used his pow to throw Biles off the shelf! Now I keep my orchids on the floor!


QUESTIONS?
Ask in the comment.

Future posts about
2. Orchids and water (Probably today)
3. How to repot an orchid


Join the conversation
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There are 14 comments , add yours!
Jenny Tanghe 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm glad i have a little more time now to explore your blog, the last 3 weeks were crazy, i only had time to send some pics on my blog to try out the site ! And now i found out you know a lot about orchyd (me i don't) this will help me to keep my orchyd alive ! (i have it since 5 months now !

Thanks for all your precious informations !

2 years, 1 month ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Jenny Tanghe 2 years, 1 month ago

Ask me anything, and if you have problems: 
[email protected]

2 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jill Bahm 3 years, 4 months ago

This is great information! I have one orchid that is a little over 1 year old, one that is about six month old, and one that I just received yesterday (that looks a tiny bit sad). I would love to get them all blooming again sometime.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Jill Bahm 3 years, 4 months ago
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3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Jill Bahm Replied to Andi Saw 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you - I will send you photos soon!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab 3 years, 4 months ago

Honestly reading your tutorials makes me want to try my hand at growing an orchid ( BTW I've been reading your tutorials backwards, since I missed them when you initially posted). I know in tutorial #3 I said no way , I have a black thumb, but after reading the basics, there is a good chance for me. Although, I must add....4 years ago I bought a pineapple. Cut the head off 
(ate the rest) and planted it. This tiny head...you can image the size based on what pineapples are available at the grocery store, grew into a pretty big "tree". I've re-potted 3 times.  The leaves got so long had to cut some of the tips off, otherwise you'd get poked every time you walked by it. Now it sits in a corner. It just sits...not dying, not growing, just sits. That is the extent of my green thumb :)

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Camellia Staab 3 years, 4 months ago
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3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Andi Saw 3 years, 4 months ago

smileexclamation

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Joe Zink 3 years, 4 months ago

WOW, Andi, you really did a great job with this post ! Very well put together, perfect detail in the photos !
I'm always amazed by people who can make plants flourish, especially with one as difficult as an orchid...unfortunately, I'm on the side of the room with the other people who should never buy plants or flowers and expect them to live persevere

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Joe Zink 3 years, 4 months ago

I am with you Joe....no matter how I try I can't keep them alive either.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Jan Barlow 3 years, 4 months ago

Of COURSE - I read your 2nd post first and now this one. Sigh. But I think all my questions were (very well) answered on THIS post that I left in the comments on the last post...if that makes sense. Thank you!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 3 years, 4 months ago

I LOVE it! Especially for this sentence: "If you buy an orchid for its flowers, and you throw it away when the flowers die, STOP BUYING ORCHIDS. (And find a good therapist, because you have a huge problem)".
My daughter is a specialist too and everything aroung orchids is perfect. I'm on the other hand a orchid killer (no I don't do anything wrong!), because they just don't like me! Every orchids will end up in Victoria's care!
My mother is an orchids nightmare. She never ever will listen to one of us. She does the same idiotic soil thing as Biles former owner! Explanations don't help, she only will get angry, because she "invented" gardening (orchids in the garden - for the sun, orchids in the earth - it's only dry old "soil", orchids in water, its dry inside the pot ...  *giantmegasigh*).
When we visited Hannover (Germany), we wanted to see one of the biggest orchid collections worldwide. Some orchids are named after Herrenhausen. https://www.hannover.de/Herrenhausen/Herrenh%C3%A4user-G%C3%A4rten/Berggarten/Orchideen They actually sell rare orchids! When we drove back to Vienna, there was a small tropical garden on the seat left from Victoria ...

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 3 years, 4 months ago
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3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Andi Saw 3 years, 4 months ago

thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Victoria I. Strohschneider Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 3 years, 4 months ago

Unfortunately, these special orchids from Hannover all died over the course of 2 months! cry
I exposed them to too much sunlight and the transport from Hannover to Vienna by car had already weakened them ...disappointed relieved

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Victoria I. Strohschneider 3 years, 4 months ago

... such tiny beauties - I'm still sad too.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Victoria I. Strohschneider 3 years, 4 months ago
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3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Andi Saw 3 years, 4 months ago

PLEASE Andi - if Victoria will ask me to do that, I will send her to you ... anguished

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
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