Master Gardener: Nine Orchids | Way of life

How the hell did I accumulate nine orchids? I didn’t know anything about them. I had managed to keep them alive for several years, but none of them ever flowered after they were given to me. I would never have bought one as I thought they were way too difficult to grow.

During the Sentier des Azalées last year, my sister-in-law and I visited the garden of Guy and Joan Pyron. When I walked into Mr. Pyron’s greenhouse and saw all the beautiful orchids in bloom, I was inspired. I asked questions, watched and read everything I could find. It seems everyone had their opinion on the “correct” way and they differed greatly. I found out that the ones I had were called phalaenopsis and they belonged to the orchid family. There are about 28,000 species in this group.

My first task was to expose them to cooler temperatures for a few days, I decided to soak them weekly in water for 15 minutes then let them drain well before putting them back in their pots. A video told me to take a tea bag and dip it in the steeping water until it looks like weak tea, so I tried that too. I removed some potting soil and replaced it with sphagnum moss. I also sprayed them several times a day and fertilized them every two weeks by spraying their leaves. I repotted some of the smaller ones into larger containers and checked them daily.

Imagine my surprise one day when this funny root turned out to be the beginning of a flower. I couldn’t wait for it to bloom and I could take a picture and share it with my friends. It was exciting to think that I had actually done it.

An orchid didn’t seem to be doing very well. Its leaves were soft, and I was sure it was going to be my failure. The decision was made to experiment with its hydroponics. It hasn’t flowered yet, but I’m happy to report that it’s starting to add new leaves and aerial roots. Growing orchids my way takes a bit of time, but it’s not difficult and it’s worth it. I made six of the plants bloom. I have one that has been blooming constantly for seven months.

I’m starting to wonder if nine is enough?

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— The Smith County Master Gardener Program is a volunteer organization affiliated with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

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