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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

The Joy of Out-of-Bloom Orchids

If you want top pick up orchids on the cheap, and you’re feeling lucky, buy them when they’re not flowering. They’re usually half-off or more. The challenge, then, is to get them to rebloom.

I picked up this Paphiopedilum at Paxton Gate here in San Francisco almost a year ago. It was out front, sans-flower, 50% off. I bought it because the leaves were (and still are) beautiful. It was my first Paph.

alien label

This orchid is a hybrid: Paphiopedilum Hsinying Alien x Paphiopedilum Sue Franz. I always take a photo like this when I get a new plant to remember the name.

I repotted him immediately. His roots looked okay, not great. Then I set him in a corner and waited. Months went by. A few weeks ago, I noticed the flower bud beginning. This week, it finally opened. Now I know why one of the parents was named “Alien.”

alien bloom

The really exciting part when you buy out-of-bloom orchids is that you have no idea what the bloom will look like, so when it blooms it’s a joy to behold. This is the first time I’ve gotten to see this guy bloom. I hope it won’t be my last.

If you’re going to buy an out-of-bloom orchid, here are some tips:

Buying any plant is a risk. It may be happy in your home, it may die. But buying out-of-bloom orchids is particularly thrilling because the flower will be a surprise. And they’re much cheaper, so if you kill it, at least you didn’t waste a ton of money.

If you want to give it a try, check your local plant stores. Some grocery stores and florists carry live orchids as well. Ask around – sometimes stores don’t put the out-of-bloom orchids out because they don’t sell. They may have some hidden away somewhere. And as always, tell ’em Plantgasm sentcha!

Have you ever bought an out-of-bloom orchid and gotten it to rebloom? Tell us all about it.

See Also

4 Responses

I use the same strategy but for African violets. I like to buy the most pathetic sad on-sale-for-a-dollar ones I can find at lowes (or sometimes at a real nursery but they are more savvy and don’t kill their plants as casually) and then nurse them back to health. I find it immeasurably satisfying.

Posted by cw on 4 September 2011 @ 4pm

Hey Derek!
I have had a lot of success getting oncidiums, encyclias and phals to bloom but haven’t grown paphs before! For me the secret is giving them enough light, pure and simple. I get about two blooms a year from my oncidiums and on average about 1.5 blooms a year from my encyclias. Phalaenopsis are great because they bloom on the same stalk and even put out a keiki once in a while. PS… the Dracaena fragrant is thriving btw! I’ll have to show you a picture soon.

Posted by Steve Asbell on 4 September 2011 @ 4pm

Wow, what a beautiful flower! Reminds me of Predator’s jaws. I have always been hesitant about buying orchids, but it’s great to find a list of what to look for.

Posted by Michaela Walkup on 6 September 2011 @ 9pm

When I was given my orchids they were all all out of bloom. I have a couple of varieties (of which I am not totally sure their variety – still learning) and one recently bloomed.

The orchid is a Paphiopedilum (thank you Derek for ID), the exact variety is unknown (my friend who gave them to me did not retain the plant ID stakes).

I must have made every mistake one can make with an orchid – orchids are new to me. I added, GASP! potting soil (I know, I am lucky they are still alive), I left them out in full sun, until I noticed they didn’t look very happy (go figure), and it was time help them.

I did a lot of research, re-potted them with a good orchid bark, moved them to a better spot in the house (indirect sunlight w/ good air circulation) and watered every 7 – 10-days (deeply) and am now being rewarded for my efforts to right my wrongs by this beauty of flower:
I am super happy!

Posted by Noah Froio on 24 September 2011 @ 11am


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.