What I Learned After I Killed My Orchids

To sum up, to take care of the basic Phalaenopsis (aka Moth) orchids, do the following:

  1. The best way to water is to submerge the whole root base into water for a little bit, then take it out, about once a week. The roots should never stay entirely wet. (Unless it’s packed in moss… then water a LOT LESS FREQUENTLY)
  2. After the first blooms start to fall, to get it to branch off and bloom again, cut the spike (the part with the flowers) just past a node (joint looking part on the spike) and seal it with cinnamon; it will kill bacteria.
  3. After the blooms fall and the spike turns brown, cut the spike down near the base. This is a good time to repot. Be sure to check the roots for any problems (bugs, root rot, disease).
  4. Use Orchid specific fertilizer once a month.

My poor, poor orchids. My husband bought me my first orchid for Valentine’s Day 2010:

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Then he bought me a second one Valentine’s Day 2011:

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Orchids aren’t super difficult to take care of, but I managed to kill them both.

I killed the 2011 one first about 4 months ago. It was tightly packed into the pot with Sphagnum moss when I got it. I didn’t realize how different watering an orchid in moss would be compared to what my first one was, which was in bark. The biggest indicator I didn’t know about until too late was that a new leaf was growing, but it was curling and stunted and not at all like the other leaves. This meant that the plant was in distress and that I should check the roots. So I took it out to check it. Root rot. Everywhere. The moss had held in so much moisture that it rotted out 95% of the roots. I cut off everything that I could but that only left 2 small roots. I figured it was lost, but I repotted it in the bark media and continued to water the small roots. After a few months, I gave up and called it a lost cause.

Then, just last month, I gave up on the 2010 one as well. Before that, I had succeeded to get it to rebloom after the first bloom, then had an entire new small spike last year! I was happy that at least this one had survived. This one was an “Ice Orchid,” which is really just Phalaenopsis orchid where they advertise a more user friendly way of watering (granted it does work pretty well). However, I was bit timid about watering and changed the way I watered because of the fiasco with the other one. I have a cute little plant mister that I was using to water it and it seemed to do ok for a while. What I didn’t realize was that the mister was not getting the water down to the lower level of the roots. At some point I had done the research and I helped my mother-in-law revive her orchids. I don’t really remember telling her that one of the best ways to water an orchid properly was to submerge the entire pot into water, then let it drain, once a week. When I told her that I had been improperly watering them, she told me what I had told her. Oops… How did I forget that? I could have saved them. 🙁

But, this will not be the end of my Orchid adventure! Armed with my knowledge from my failures, I have my eye on some mini orchids!

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