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.
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.”
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:
- Look for black spots, especially around the base of the leaves and the stems. That’s rot. If you see any, don’t buy.
- The leaves should be healthy – firm and green, not soft and brown.
- If the species has a pseudobulb (a big, fat stem above the soil) it should be strong and not wrinkled (okay, some are supposed to be wrinkled, but this is a good general rule).
- Look for a stem from a previous bloom. If it bloomed once, you know it could again.
- Scoop away some of the potting medium and look for the roots. They should be firm and white or green, not soft or black.
- Shake the pot (really). If the plant is wobbly, it could be a sign of bad health. The plant should be firm and well-rooted.
- The potting medium should be chunky and coarse, not muddy like dirt. Either way, if you’re buying an orchid that’s recently flowered, it’s a good idea to repot it before the next bloom.
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.