Buying Orchids and What to Look For
The type of orchid you should purchase will largely be determined by the kind of position you are able to offer it. Everything else is a matter of personal preference for the colours and shapes of the flowers. Of course, cost may also play a part in your choice. If you are dealing with orchids for the very first time, it is advisable not to reach for the stars right away, ie. the very expensive rarities – but to start with tried and tested varieties.
Where to buy orchids
Like all other special and exclusive things, you should buy your orchids in a good flower shop, in a reputable nursery or, best of all, in a plant nursery that specializes in orchids. Advice from knowledgeable employees is invaluable and essential when buying orchids which can be costly if they are rare. Furthermore, an orchid expert is in the position to put together a selection of plants tailored to your requirements, which will save you later disappointments. If you go to the trouble of making an appointment, they will probably even help you with repotting older specimens.
Nearly all orchid nurseries are geared to mail order sales. Some produce catalogues containing beautiful pictures, which you can obtain for a small charge that is often refunded when you make a purchase.
Advantages for the beginner:
If you are ordering orchids for the first time and are still uncertain about what to choose, you can ask the nursery to find you a suitable plant or even put together a selection. Orchids will flourish only in the right conditions, so it is important to describe to the nursery staff the position where you intend to keep your plants. They will need to know about the availability and intensity of light and you should also give them information about the average summer and winter temperatures of the site in which your orchid will live. Also, do make sure to state the colours you prefer!
Advantages for experienced orchid lovers:
You can find everything in an orchid nursery, from unusual hybrids from foreign countries to attractive wild forms. There should be no problem if the nursery happens not to have the exact orchid of your choice. There are so many varieties that it is nearly always possible to find something very similar.
If you wish to purchase orchids by mail order, you must realize that nurseries will postpone sending orchids if the weather suddenly drops to below freezing or if there is a heat wave.
What to look for when purchasing orchids
Naturally, you may find yourself tempted by the glorious flowers but do not forget to check over the rest of the plant. A healthy orchid is recognizable by the following qualities:
- firm, perfect pseudo-bulbs
- numerous new shoots
- healthy, spotless foliage
- a large number of flower-bearing shoots and buds.
Further tips when purchasing
Unlike almost any other plant species, orchids are directly dependent on conditions of light and temperature. Whenever you are purchasing orchids, therefore, do make sure to check whether the variety you have chosen is suitable for the intended position.
Check the temperature range:
Orchids can be assigned to three different categories of temperature and are therefore referred to as cool, temperate or warm orchids. Similar plants like to live together, so if you already own some orchids, choose orchids for the same position or to be in the same room from the same temperature range.
Buy well-known orchids!
If no name tag is present, the names of the parent plants should at least be noted on a label. Unknown or nameless plants will present you with the difficulty of having to work out the right care.
Purchase older specimens!
They are usually a bit more expensive than young plants but will also be less sensitive.
Choose plants with fully open flowers
Choose orchid plants with their flowers fully open but also with some buds. They are best able to cope with transport and repositioning.
Choose hybrids instead of natural specimens!
As a rule, hybrids are easier to care for and better adapted to an artificial climate and varying amounts of light.
Buy meristem-propagated plants!
Meristem propagation is a special form of propagation. Orchids propagated in this way are cheaper as this method shortens the growing period. In addition, only healthy, well-grown parent plants that flower profusely are chosen for this method of propagation, which offers some guarantee of good health and abundant flowers.
Protection against cold when purchasing in the winter!
Orchids bought in the winter should be packed up well. This is especially important for specimens in bud, which would immediately lose all their buds if subjected to the slightest touch of frost.
Spray-mist your plants instead of watering them right away!
Once you have unpacked your new orchids at home, spray them with a light water mist. Leave regular watering until the next day at the earliest – and only do it then if theis really dry.
Holiday souvenirs and the protection of species:
If you go on holiday to Thailand, the Caribbean or South America, you will be able to purchase the most splendid orchids for mere pennies. Please resist the temptation. The same goes for taking orchids from the wild – it is not only wrong, it really is not worth it! The plants you transport home will not adapt to this change as you will be unable to provide them with the conditions for acclimatizing that professional gardeners have at their disposal.
Most plants will not even survive the journey. In addition, you will need various official documents in order to carry plants across national borders plus a certificate to prove that the orchids are healthy, not to speak of all the formalities engendered by international plant protection regulations connected with the protection of species.
Of all flowering plants, including, orchids are those most threatened with extinction. There is an absolute prohibition on the purchase of any orchids listed in Appendix 1 of the Washington Agreement on Protection of Species. One of these is skinneri. My advice is always to buy orchids in a reputable nursery and to check that your supplier possesses all the documents required for trading in orchids. Many orchid nurseries sell species which are endangered in their countries of origin, or are even extinct in the wild. These plants will have been grown from seed or propagated by meristem.
Orchids for beginners
Orchids suitable for beginners are those natural forms and hybrids which are very adaptable and which will grow fast and flower regularly without coaxing. In general, but not always, hybrids are less sensitive than species as the raiser will have made them suitable for growing indoors.
Orchids in hydroculture
Orchids can be grown quite successfully by this method. However, you should buy your orchids in a hydroculture container from the start, as a changeover fromto hydroculture is time-consuming and some orchids will not survive the process. Orchids grown in hydroculture should never be allowed to get “cold feet”. Place a warming pad underneath the plants or insert a heating cable into the plants’ container.
My tip: Use only waterproof mats and cables to avoid any accidents with electricity.
Orchids suitable for hydroculture: hybrids of Cattleya,, , , as well as Vuylstekeara “Cambria” and Doritaenopsis.
Not suitable for hydroculture: epiphytes which obtain water and fertilizers solely via their leaves, andwhich need to be placed in a very cool position.
Orchids for cut flowers
In florists’ circles, orchids stand for luxury, although they are not as sinfully expensive as they used to be. The high price does actually justify itself as orchids usually last much longer than other cut flowers:
- Cymbidium about four weeks
- about three weeks
- Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis about two weeks
- Cattleya, Laelia and about one week
If you wish to cut a flower from your own orchid collection then, if possible, choose specimens from the above-mentioned species or their hybrids. Among other orchids, the only suitable types are those whose flowers possess a firm, almost hard surface, are shiny or look as though they have been coated with wax. Delicate flowers with matt surfaces will not keep long when cut.
Tips on cutting
or panicles should be cut under running water.
- Dendrobium panicles should be briefly dipped in alcohol.
- Only use lukewarm, boiled water in vases.
- Cut the stalk again every two to three days.
- Top up any evaporated water.
- Stand the vase in a cool position at night.
- Avoid draughts.
If the flowers tend to fade too soon, slit the stem up by a few centimetres and stand it, up to the flowerhead, in softened, lukewarm water for several hours.
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