You’d think I’m anxiously waiting for the spring gardening season to arrive. But just between you and me, I’m having a great time gardening indoors this winter. Oh sure, I’ll have spring fever when the time is right, but now I’m way too busy enjoying the January sunshine streaming through the windows, and the houseplants are soaking it all in.
Green plants are awesome, but winter-flowering plants are incredible. Have you seen the colorful orchid plants for sale in home improvement stores and florists? Have you ever wondered if they’re difficult to grow? Well I’ve rarely seen a plant I didn’t like, and these orchids have whispered “Buy me, buy me” more than once. And I’m very glad I gave them a try.
The most difficult task in mid-winter is getting them home without getting them chilled. They must be wrapped for the journey across the parking lot between the store and your vehicle. So when the weather is 30 below zero, and the nice checkout person asks “Would you like that plant in a bag or something?” answer “Yes, that would be nice.” Blowing a puff of warm air into the bag before fastening the top creates a warm protective bubble of air around the plant.
Once safely home, orchids grow very well indoors, which is similar to their native tropics. The orchid varieties sold most commonly are the phalaenopsis types, called “moth orchids” because of their flower shape. They frequently continue blooming for several months after purchase.
Be cautious of the containers in which the orchids are sold. There’s often a pot within a decorative outer pot. If excess water collects in the bottom, rot can quickly occur. A better option is to set the inner pot in a drainage saucer so excess water can be seen and discarded.
After blooms have faded, orchids can be repotted into a container slightly larger than the existing. Clay pots work well because they breathe through the sides, allowing better air exchange than plastic pots. Special orchid potting mix is sold in garden centers and plant stores. It’s composed of bark chunks and composted bark that provides a growing media similar to the natural habitat of orchids. Regular potting soil isn’t recommended.
Orchids appreciate a winter location very close to a window where they receive some sunshine. In summer they should receive filtered sunlight, instead of the sun’s full intensity. A summer vacation outdoors does wonders with morning sun and afternoon shade.
Fertilize orchids every 2 to 4 weeks with a Miracle Gro-type solution. Water runs through orchid potting mix rapidly. Always discard excess immediately. Watering frequency depends on temperature, pot size, etc, but every 2 t0 5 days is an average.
Orchids reward their owners with long-lasting flowers about once a year. Definitely a plant worth purchasing and growing. Until next time, “Happy Gardening!”