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Orchid Care For Dummies from the Orchid Whisperers at M&S 5 November, 2009

Posted by Bethany Wrede Peterson in Bethany's blog.
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The leaves may be falling off the trees, but Marks & Spencer want to keep those blooms on your temperamental indoor orchids all year round.  The rainforest plant, indigenous to South America, Asia, and Africa,  instantly conjures up a sense of true luxury in your home, and with 1.2 million plants sold annually by M&S at carnation-worthy prices (£9 – £59.50), it’s easy to see why the orchid is Britain’s favourite houseplant.

However, the exotic beauty is also notorious for its finicky disposition.  For a plant that purportedly ‘thrives on neglect’, many of us can never get our orchids to bloom after the initial flowers fall from their stems, leaving us frustrated and wary of purchasing another.

While you wouldn’t be the first to admit that you’ve binned your pathetic plant, thinking your less-than-green thumbs killed it when it just…wouldn’t…bloom, M&S florist Simon Richards assures us that to be a true orchid whisperer, all you need to give them is a little weekly TLC…and a whole lot of patience.

Here are his top tips to keep those orchids flowering:

Watering and Feeding

  • Water the orchid once a week with an egg cup sized of soft water (or use cooled water from a boiled kettle, or filtered tap water).  You can also soak the orchid in its plastic pot for 5-10 minutes in the water.
  • When watering, be sure the excess doesn’t pool in the leaves, as this can cause rot and damage. Gently whisk away any water with a soft tissue or cotton bud.

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Flowering

  • Orchids will bloom and then drop off after about eight weeks.  Don’t worry, this is normal!
  • Once the flowers have dropped off, cut back the stem diagonally to the lowest node (the small eye on the stem).  This will stimulate new growth (and if you’re lucky, new flowers!)
  • Continue to water weekly, and a new stem should appear from this node in two to three months.

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Display & Styling

  • Display the orchid in a vase that is slightly narrower at the base.  This will keep the potted orchid snug.  Or, pop a few stones into the bottom of a vase with a broader base to give the roots more circulation.
  • In nature, orchids climb up trees and shrubs, so keep those fiddley sticks attached to your plant.  To enhance the natural display, cut the sticks down so they aren’t as visible.  You’ll need a sharp and sturdy pair of garden scissors for this.
  • If you’re not so fond of the tiny butterfly clips that attach to your orchid stems to their sticks, you can replace them with more decorative ribbon or raffia (just don’t tie them too tight!)
  • Very importantly, unless they’ve become crinkled and crispy, do not cut any of the orchid’s roots.  They gather in moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere, and are an essesntial part of a healthy orchid.  When cutting off dead ends, use a clean pair of scissors, and only remove the old bits.  Most of the time, there will still be a healthy section of root that can be left to thrive.
  • M&S tell us we need to ‘learn to love our roots’.  But if you find them unsightly, or just want to make the orchid look a little more natural in its pot, you can add peat moss to hide the plastic pot and roots.  Don’t forget to remove the moss when watering!  (When the moss dries out, give it a good soak and return to the pot when slightly moist again)
  • As it’s a shade plant, never place your orchid in direct sunlight.  You can, however, place it in a north-facing windowsill, but this should only be done in warmer months, as orchids are quite susceptible to temperature  changes from draughts and the dry heat of radiators.

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Lastly, be patient.  While some plants will continue to flower year round, most of us will find our orchids only bloom once annually.  This is normal, and makes that new blooming season really worth the wait.

But if patience just isn’t one of your strongest virtues, M&S carry a great selection of planted and artificial orchids year round – all in bloom!  Check out our selection here.

And good luck with those green fingers!

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