Orchids are beautiful tropical plants with stunning blooms. In the past, orchids were considered hard to grow, exotic plants and were only produced by a small number of specialty growers. Recently, however, their popularity has "blossomed" and they are more widely grown. Many beautiful varieties are now available from most full-service garden stores and even in some grocery and home stores. With their beautiful, long-lasting blooms and widespread availability, orchids have probably surpassed poinsettias as the most popular indoor plant in American homes.
Orchids were one of Martin Viette's (Andre's father) favorite plants. He grew many different varieties in his 10-acre tropical gardens in St. Thomas, USVI. His favorite was a beautiful white Phalaenopsis.
The Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the easiest of all the orchid types to grow as they usually grow quite well under the conditions found in most homes. They come in a wide variety of colors including white, pink, lavender, and yellow. Some have interesting stippled or striped accents on the petals and sepals. The beautiful 2"-5" flowers open sequentially from buds which form along arching flower spikes. These flower stems need support so be sure to provide a plant stake that you can attach them to. Many types of orchids, including Phalaenopsis, will bloom for 3 months or more. Each individual flower can last up to a month on the plant!
Phalaenopsis orchids prefer the bright light of an east or west facing window but they can also tolerate low light conditions. Avoid locations where they will be exposed to bright noon-day sun. Orchids grow best when the humidity levels are between 40 - 60%. During the winter, when the air tends to be drier in the home, it can be advantageous to set the pots in a tray of moist gravel but do not allow the pots to sit in water.
Do not over-water orchids! Water them thoroughly and then let the planting medium approach dryness before watering again - about once every week or 10 days depending on the temperature and humidity levels where they are growing. One of the the easiest ways to water orchids is to put 3-4 ice cubes in the pot once a week. It's easy and seems to work well.
Feed orchids with half strength orchid or African violet fertilizer about once a week in the summer and once every other week in the winter.
The aerial roots of orchids are important for providing the plant with essential water and nutrients from the atmosphere. It is important to leave these on the plant - do not trim them or cut them off. I think they add to the uniqueness and charm of these beautiful plants!
Special thanks to my friend Ellen Pentz for allowing me to photograph her beautiful orchids. She has grown orchids for years and insists that "they are easier to grow than you might think!" She grows them in a bright room in her basement and brings them upstairs to grace the sunroom when they begin to bud out and bloom.