There are so many exciting things about early spring - buying and planting seeds, planning gardens and renovations, looking into hatching poultry - but one of my favourites moments is when I see the first signs of flower stalks on our orchids. I take it as a signal that it really is spring time, that these lovely plants are the first ones to send out flowers.
The first orchid to ever come to us was from my grandparents; a small, oval leafed variety with variegated leaves and stripped purple flowers. It's lovely, whether in bloom or not, and I've never seen another orchid like it. It was given to us four years ago, and it was the spark that fuelled the adoration that has landed us with a current total of nine orchids.
I remember the first time it bloomed, about a year after we adopted it, and me and my mum shared this look that said, "wait, we can keep orchids happy enough that they'll bloom again?!" I'm pretty sure that within a week of that moment we had already invested in a second plant.
Throughout this period of time when we watched our plants grow and bloom, we also devised a growing system which has made growing orchids feel way easier than the feeling you get when reading about how to grow orchids.
The primary difference between the way we grow orchids and the way that it is recommended that you grow orchids is the type of pot. Whenever I go to a green house and see their plants, they're always situated in ceramic pots that look really pretty, but don't strike me as being particularly functional.
Orchids are air plants, so they've evolved to grow in an environment that allows them to absorb moisture through their roots without their ever touching the soil. The ceramic pots that they are usually homed in rarely allow for any air flow, and almost never have holes in the bottom to allow for water drainage, so the plant just ends up sitting in a puddle which eventually leads to rot.
I know that a lot of sites recommend watering orchids with a few ice cubes a week, but that still doesn't strike me as efficient. Sure, the ice melts slowly, allowing for a prolonged watering period with less chance of puddling, but that level of cold must shock these plants which have adapted to live in hot and humid climates. Watering with ice also means that you need to diligently top the plants up on a regular basis, something that my family struggles with, since we all have problems remembering to keep track of little things.
The pot system that we came up with works well for a few reasons. First, the materials are often pretty cheap and we've got a ton of them lying around our property. Second, the pot allows for lots of drainage, evaporation, and air flow. Finally, I really love the rustic look, so this style is extremely attractive to me.
The pot is made up of a terra cotta pipe with a drain plate under it. The pipe is about a foot in length by six inches wide, and is commonly used for drainage systems or as wine racks. With regards to soil medium I typically just use the cheap stuff from the hardware store or sphagnum moss.
Because the orchid plant sits right a the top of the pot, any water that is poured in drains directly to the plate at the bottom of the pipe, where it pools. As the water sits there though, it is sucked up the foot long pipe by the growing medium to the roots of the orchid, allowing for a prolonged period of watering without the risk of root rot. Since the pot is terra cotta, it allows for much more air flow than a ceramic pot, additionally ensuring that the roots don't drown. The length of the pot gives the plant plenty of room to grown down towards the water source, as well as room to expand outside of the pot. So there's lots in the way of benefits.
As a final note with regard to orchids, Gander's Bits 'n Bobs will now officially be accepting any orchid plants that you wish to discard of. Most people don't realize it, but the orchids you get at the grocery store are babies, they haven't been alive for all that long, and it's probably the first time they've ever flowered. You can drop your used orchids off at my farm stand, and I'll ensure that they enjoy a long life.