Thursday, July 2, 2009

Look What Happened!

I love Moth Orchids. They're so beautiful, with their odd, winged flowers and glossy-green leaves like leather straps. They're widely available as potted plants all over--grocery stores, hardware stores, even drug stores carry them. And they sport multiple flowers that pop out on one stem and last for weeks and weeks. They can be kind of pricey at $20 or more per plant. But when you figure how many weeks of flowering you get before the petals all drop off, it's not a bad tradeoff. In fact, the per-week price on a Moth Orchid probably is less than your standard grocery-store bunch of mismatched Carnations, Gerbera daisies, and Statice.

But I've never been able to get a Moth Orchid to bloom more than once. After the flowers are gone, I put the spent plant in my dining room (a.k.a. Moth Orchid graveyard). It hangs out with the other flowering plants that sulk and refuse to bloom, like my African Violets.

They sit on a mid-20th-century painted Tole tray and look grumpy together:

Occasionally, one of the orchids will crank out little green nubbin, like Junior, here below. I get all excited, thinking at last I have a flower on the way. But no dice.

And that's the way it was: Buy a plant, wait 'til it drops all its blooms, then shove it in the dining room. Until I wandered into the room and saw this snaking up from one of the plants:

Cowabunga! A flower stalk!

With some really big, fat flower buds on it!

Unfortunately, this happened right before I went away to the mountains for a week. So I had to wait for seven days, biting my lip and hoping that the house-sitter didn't kill it or feed it to the dogs or anything. And when I finally returned, I had...

This! My first-ever reblooming Moth Orchid. Not only did it produce this gorgeous blossom... made three more of them! And in a frankly unprecedented fit of floral generosity... has cranked out three more buds, besides. I can't wait to see all seven of these beauties nodding on their flimsy stalk.
So, what did I do to deserve this spectacular display? Not much, as it turns out. This is what I think helped the plant to bloom:
1. After all the flowers were spent from when I purchased it, I cut back the flower stalk so it was about 1/3 of its former length.
2. I moved the plant to an East-facing window. Although the photos above don't show it, usually this window has sheer curtains drawn across it, further diffusing the light.
3. On one big tray, I grouped plants together: about four orchids and three African Violets. Not only do they look better massed together, I've read that plants like being near other plants for the moisture they all produce. Anyhoo, it was worth a try.
4. Lastly, I deep-watered all the plants just once a week. (This is best done in a kitchen or bathroom because it can get a little messy.) I used room-temperature tap water that had sat out at least 24 hours (to help dissipate the chlorine). The violets got a top-down soaking, and the orchids sat in a small saucepot, submerged up to their decorative bark chips in water. After about 10 or 15 minutes, I removed the orchids and let everybody drain thoroughly before returning them to their spots by the window.
And now if you'll excuse me I'm going to whisper encouraging things to the three buds left.

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