The alluring orchid comes from one of the world’s oldest and largest blooming flower families. Evidence of fossilized orchids on the planet date back well over 100 million years. With over 30,000 orchid species today and over 100,000 hybrids (and counting), there’s an orchid for every taste and preference. However, orchids sent as gifts tend to be one of two main varieties:
Phalaenopsis. The phalaenopsis orchid has rounded flower petals with a pronounced “lip” at the edge. Flower colors tend to be white, pink, purple, or some combination of these. Flowers bloom on a single stalk rising from a lush bed of leaves.
Dendrobium. Dendrobium or “cane” orchid stalks grow from thick canes. It has clusters of blooms in white or purple, which are smaller than phalaenopsis flowers and grow in rows. Its leaves are thin and grow from the cane’s sides.
If you’ve received a gift orchid, you may feel confused as to how to care for it; however, there are really just two main things to remember: avoid extremes, and water it sparingly.
Orchids do not do well with temperature or environmental extremes of any kind, so keep it out of harsh, direct sunlight and away from cold drafts. Orchids love “filtered” light such as through curtains or blinds, reminiscent of the canopy of the rainforest. Orchids also do best in a mild, warm humidity — avoid placing it in very dry air such as near a heater vent.
Water: Less is Best
In nature, orchids grow on surfaces like trees or rocks, not in soil. Their roots benefit from adequate airflow and the natural moisture flowing over them in the rainforest. However, gift orchids tend to come potted in moss in a plastic container, making them prone to too much moisture from watering. To avoid this, water your orchid only when the potting medium feels dry; when in doubt, hold off for at least a day. Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering as well, and don’t let standing water accumulate around the base.
Common orchid pests are snails, slugs, aphids, mealybugs, and thrips. Remove any pests from the potting medium if you see them.
If you follow these basic tips, you can expect your colorful orchid blooms to last for several weeks. When that last bloom falls away, you can also try for a “re-bloom.” Simply cut the orchid about halfway down its stem and continue caring for the plant as usual. If you’re lucky, you just might get the gift of another round of blooming, gorgeous orchid flowers.