I was always afraid of orchids. They seemed so delicate, and difficult to care for.
Until that day that my boyfriend came to one of my rehearsals, and brought me a gift: a beautiful, pink orchid. Everyone oohed, and awed, and I blushed the same color as the orchid, but underneath my excitement, I had a terrible feeling that I was not up to the challenge of raising this exotic plant. My Mom has always been wary of orchids, and I figured if she, a renowned gardener, stayed away from this strange, albeit beautiful, plant then I (a novice gardener) certainly would too! However, here was a gifted orchid in my lap. A sweet present from an awesome man, and I was not content to
let this plant wither away and die. At least not without trying to keep it alive first. The adventure began…
Lesson #1: Only Water an Orchid Half a Cup a Week (or Less)
The first three months with my orchid were relatively painless. I had learned from a few of my plant-savvy readers that I only needed to water an orchid once a week. They suggested I either use half a cup of warm water or a few ice cubes. I designated Saturday as my watering day, and forgot about it the rest of the week. This was a boon in my busy schedule. I did, however, find time to admire the pink blooms on a daily basis. Life was good, my orchid kept blooming for three months, and I began to feel very smug. I rocked at this orchid thing! I even thought of buying more! I obviously had the magic touch. Perhaps I would change my major from Communications to Orchid Care. I had definitely found my talent! Watch out world, Orchid Keeper Extraordinaire was here! Every week when I took thirty seconds to pour a smidgen of water on ye old plant I felt increasingly smug. My pride was about to take a hit…
Lesson #2: An Orchid needs a Much Smaller Pot Than you Think!
After those initial three months, I packed my worldly belongings in my car, and drove home for the summer where I would live before I got married. The orchid, of course, came home with me, along with a money tree that I had bought for my fella (side note: the money tree hasn’t started producing yet. Not even a penny or nickel. Sigh).
Once I got home, I promptly re-potted my fella’s money tree (which sorely needed it). After re-potting my boyfriend’s plant, I began eyeing my orchid. I read online that you should not re-pot the orchid while it is blooming, but being the Orchid Aficionado I was, I threw caution to the wind, found a larger pot, and re-potted my orchid the next day.
Within days my previously happy orchid dropped all of its blossoms, and began noticeably drooping. It had been blooming for so long (three months!!) that this made me sad, but I figured once it got accustomed to the new pot it would perk up again! Little was I to know that it would not forgive me for nine long months…
Lesson #3: Martha Stewart Knows All.
Over the next few months I got married (the orchid drooped) I got back from my honeymoon (The orchids leaves drooped further), I moved to my first apartment with my hubby (the orchid’s leaves began to brown a little) and I started my last semester of college (the orchid continued to die). Every time I looked at my previously perky source of pride, I felt depressed. The tips of Its leaves were browning. Its flower stalk was sagging lackadaisically. And its leaves were splayed about as if they had given up all will to live.
I began to wonder if I should just toss this previously beloved plant into the alley, but my conscience would not let me do that. I figured I could chalk it up as a plant that afforded me blooms for three months, and now was past its prime. In a final act of desperation I went on one last excursion for information using the one source that I figured had the best chance of succeeding: Martha Stewart. I watched this video and learned from my dear buddy Martha that orchids don’t need dirt, they barely need a bit of gravel or potting soil. The only thing they do need (if they are not out in the wild clinging to a tree trunk in a tropical rain forest somewhere) is a tiny little pot that keeps their roots tight, and not spread out.
Evidently, orchids don’t want to live in castles or mansions. They want to live in tiny little cottages where they bang their feet against the furniture, and only have room for one little bookshelf. In essence, orchids don’t need space: they need small.
The light bulb went on.
I grabbed my depressed orchid from its huge pot with all its potting soil, and I re-potted it with hardly any soil in a tiny little pot I had on our back porch, crossed my fingers, fed it half a cup of water, and hoped for the best.
Lesson #4: If You Don’t Live in a Rainforest then Your Bathroom Is a Close Second
In the days following my Martha revelation, and the re-potting of my plant. I did a little more research, and discovered that orchids like warm, moist environments.
There was nowhere in our apartment that was that warm due to my quest to cut down on our electric bills in the middle of winter, but I did know one place that remained relatively humid: the bathroom. I set my orchid on top of the toilet. And hoped for the best.
Lesson #5: Orchids Can Return to the World of the Living, Even if You Think they are Past the Point of No Return
Within days my orchid exploded with growth. In a week and a half there were over a dozen bright green roots growing all over the orchid. Every day I would leap from bed, and run to the bathroom to see the new growth on my old plant friend. It was astounding. This orchid that had been slowly dying for months suddenly recovered its zest for life. Even roots that I thought were dead began growing again.
Making two changes (re-potting in a smaller pot, and moving it to a humid environment) was just what Madame Orchid needed.
Lesson #5: Orchids will Bloom Without Fertilizer!
I was pleased by all the growth, and for the next two months I tried to be satisfied with this new development, but what does everyone want who owns an orchid? They want it to bloom. I am no different. I wanted beautiful flowers again. I yearned for them. I read online that in order to achieve blooms I would have to fertilize, but I just did not want to spend our scanty spending money on fertilizer for my orchid. So I waited.
And one week ago my orchid began budding out. Two long stalks covered in buds which have been growing about half an inch a day. Blooms are a’coming.
**One Year With an Orchid, and I Lived to Tell the Tale**
My boyfriend bought me an orchid, and one year later it is beginning to bloom again. It has been a rocky year for us. I almost killed my orchid. I treated it terribly, and did not give it the situations it needed to thrive or even just survive. But it hung on. And now, one year smarter, with some Martha Stewart tips under my belt, we have made it.
And it was worth every minute of research, worry, and stress. My orchid is thriving.
- If you want to learn even more about orchid care I would highly recommend The Orchid Whisperer: Expert Secrets for Growing Beautiful Orchids. It is written by a guy who has been successfully growing orchids for thirty years. It has beautiful illustrations, and great for a beginner!
- This is the orchid moss I use to repot my plant. I love it, and so does my orchid!
- Eventually, I want to buy a wooden, hanging orchid basket. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a few orchids hanging from the ceiling?!