As I read this orchid care blog, I couldn’t help but think of the late Thalassa Cruso, the “Julia Child of horticulture,”’ and her public-television series in the 1960’s, “’Making Things Grow.” My interest in plants began early, and as a child, I would sit, cross-legged, in front of the television, watching her show with a kind of awe, impressed as much by her unfailing confidence as by her knowledge of plants.
I’ll never forget one early episode. Faced with a sad-looking specimen, she looked straight at the camera and informed the viewers that some plants simply aren’t worth saving. She then tossed the plant unceremoniously over her shoulder, clay pot and all. I gasped.
“If a plant is unbelievably tatty,” she said later in a McCall’s interview, “dispose of it without the least feeling of guilt.”
I’ve never been able to follow that excellent advice. If a plant under my care is sickly, surely I am partly to blame, right? However, when it comes to orchid care, I’ve learned to harden my heart.
We grow orchids for their blooms, and unless you’ve got an area like a greenhouse, where the plant can recover out of sight and out of mind, waiting years for a sickly orchid to recover and produce flowers is a lot to ask of even the most avid orchid lover.
My advice is to learn whatever lesson you can from the poor plant, then send it off to the great beyond, otherwise known as the “compost bin.” If you have other orchids that are thriving in a similar environment, one failure may just be a fluke. If not, it’s time to consider whether your home or garden is giving orchids what they need to thrive.
Remember that an orchid’s natural habitat is a rain forest. They like a lot of humidity, but they don’t like to have their feet sitting in water for too long. The most common mistakes people make with orchids is trying to make them thrive in a dry area or overwatering them. Sometimes the overwatering occurs when the planting medium is packed too tightly. Orchid roots need a lot more air than other plants.
For those who can’t bear to part with a sick orchid, and are going to follow the advice in this blog to try to save the plant, I would just add that the best time to re-pot orchids is right after it has finished its bloom cycle, when orchids send their energy into their roots.
One final tip: group orchids together. This will increase the humidity around them. Or, as Thalassa herself ordered, in an interview in the New York Times, “Mass your plants, rather than dotting them about!”
Have you had to part ways with one of your plants, even though you didn’t want to? Tell us about it below by leaving a comment.
If you aren’t sure what to do, here’s more information on how to repot your orchid.