Question from Joanne:
Help! People give me Phalaenopsis orchids. I love them of course and put them in the brightest spot in my dark house where I can enjoy them, but I have tried everything to get them to come back into bloom. I feed them and care for them and feel stupid but they won’t bloom again for me like they do for some of my friends. I offer the bloomed-out ones to friends but no one wants them. I feel badly that I can’t find homes for these bloomed out orchids, and my house is filling up with bloomed-out orchids. I think I have nine or ten of them and they are taking up the room I need for other house plants.
What do you suggest I do?
Answer from Pat:
The most important requirement of phalaenopsis orchids is that they must have a spread of at least 10 to 20 degrees of temperature between night and day in order to re-bloom. They also need bright light (not a dark house.) So don’t blame yourself if you can’t get these orchids back into bloom. Your friends who succeed probably have homes with all the necessary requirements. (See below.)
I can also understand why your friends might prefer to start with a blooming plant and not one that is out of bloom. In order to rebloom a very healthy and strong phal. one needs to keep the spike in place, if strong and green, and cut it back to an inch above the next bud back and fertilize. In most cases it’s better to cut the spike all the way down, repot the plant and start over. If your house has the ideal spot for growing phals, you can have great success and a forest of blooms year-round. I know people, including one of my daugters, whose homes have such a spot.
To sum up: Phaleanopsis orchids need bright light with some sun, such as from an east-facing window, but without burning hot sun, and they need warm days and cool nights. Probably the most important requirement of these orchids is that they must have that spread of temperatures mentioned above—at least 10 to 20 but better yet 25 or 30 degrees (50 degree nights and 80 degree days) between night and day temperatures in order to re-bloom and ideally it should also have moisture such as in a bathroom. Additionally these orchids also like to go slightly dry between waterings and taking one from someone else is a bit tricky since the plants might not have had all this care.
My home, like yours apparently, doesn’t provide the necessary requirements. Many people give me these plants. I am always very grateful for them. I enjoy these moth orchids hugely when they are in bloom and they stay in bloom for months. After that I feel no compunction about throwing them out. To me most potted gift plants are like cut flowers, only much longer lasting and therefore superior. By purchasing them we are supporting our local agricultural industry and by throwing them out we are just making room for more. It is not a sin to throw out a worn-out plant. My advice is give your worn out plants a decent burial and buy more!
You are not alone in worrying about this. I have had questions on my blog before about similar quandaries. Many thanks for asking! A great plantsman, the late Chuck Kline, Horticulturalist of Sea World, once said to me: “Try out a plant and if it doesn’t work, don’t feel bad. Just yank it out and try something else.”
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