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February: Orchid Plants

It never ceases to amaze me how many orchid plants we sell from our houseplant department.  They are such good value very often costing less than an arrangement of flowers.  They need very little looking after and they can be in flower for up to six months of the year particularly if you choose a Phaelanopsis orchid.

Phaelanopsis, (known as the Moth Orchid), in the wild grow mainly on moss covered branches over water.  They thrive best in the home near a north-facing windowsill at living room temperatures of about 70oF.  Water about once each week but never let them stand in water, as the aerial roots will soon rot.  Interestingly I believe, they are the only plant that produces chlorophyll in the roots and so receive energy from the sun as they do from leaves.  This is why you will see them on sale in transparent pots.  When in flower place in a decorative pot cover but after flowering remove the pot so that light can get to the roots.

When the flowers die do not be tempted to cut off the flowering stem at the base as there is a very good possibility that new flowers will appear again in a few weeks time.   Cut back just above the node nearest to the top of the stem to encourage the repeat flush of blooms.

These beautiful plants are available in many colour shades such as white, pink, purple and cream and are from a family of about 25,000 species, almost 8% of the worlds flowering plants with more than 50 orchid species to be found in the British Isles alone  the majority originating in the tropical rainforests.  Of South America and Asia.

Those of us who have been to Singapore will have seen the lavish displays at the airport and botanical gardens and have marveled at the beauty and diversity of these extraordinary plants.

The orchid gets is name from the ancient Greeks who used the tubers to treat a gentleman’s private parts.  The word orchid is derived from their word for testicular ORCHIS.  They are valued in many parts of Asia for their cure of many ailments, in India it is used to treat coughs.

Because they do not tolerate cold drafts we have been trailing growing them in tall glass vases, this has been highly successful, not only does it protect the plant and flower it also creates a mini tropical environment with the evaporating moisture rising through the plant.  Water a little when you see the bark compost become light in colour, about once every 10 days or so, this is all the attention it needs.  Remember, too much water will rot the roots.

We have had an orchid in one of these glass vases standing at the side of the fireplace at home since well before Christmas and it is still in full flower, the glass adding a completely new dimension to the beauty of the plant.