Last year I was visiting my parents in Florida, and I commented on my Mom's abundance of orchid plants in her courtyard. It was the middle of the hot, hot summer, and her plants were not blooming or anything- they were just hanging out, and hanging on, presumably waiting for cooler weather to put on their show. As my Mom and I discussed her lovely collection of orchids, and compared them to my own, she inquired as to what it was that I did to ensure that my own orchids bloomed every single year without fail. So I shared with her my fool-proof, guaranteed-to-work method of taking care of my houseplants…
I do seem to have this weird success with orchids. However, I follow none of the conventional wisdom of orchid-care such as maintaining the right level of household humidity and careful feeding, watering, and re-potting. To be honest, I barely remember to water them every 2 weeks or so. I absolutely never take the time to re-pot them, having learned that this is what often leads to their demise… not their growth. And I never buy that fancy-shmancy orchid food and give it to them. Okay, I may have bought it…. but remember to actually feed it to my plants? No.
For me, there are only two must-follow rules in orchid-care….
1) When you water them, be extremely careful not to allow the water to get into the middle of the plant. Ever. Instant death. In fact, I try not to let water ever even touch the leaves, because often the droplets will them just roll down the leaf into the middle of the plant- again- instant death. Just water the mossy area under the leaves and let the water run through the pot so that the roots are thoroughly soaked. (All orchid pots will have holes in the bottom).
2) When all of the blooms have shriveled and fallen off, cut off the stem. All the way down at the point where it meets the base of the plant. In 6-9 months, the plant will grow another stem and you will have another 3-4 months of gorgeous flowers to enjoy.
Now I am certainly not telling you that these are gorgeous and thriving orchid plants. Truthfully, I lose a few leaves on each plant every year (something no “real orchid grower” would ever allow to happen)… and after 5 years or so- they look like this:
It's time to throw this sad, sad, looking boy out. He's done.
But what I like orchids because they are a frugal flower. Spend $25 on a bouquet and it's dead in a week. Spend $25 on an orchid plant and it can live for years giving you gorgeous blooms that last for months at a time.
The only other type of houseplant that I own are Christmas cactuses (or should I say cacti?). They were both gifts… one from my grandfather that I have had for at least 15 years and one from my father-in-law, that I've had almost as long. The one pictured above is the one from my grandfather, who is no longer with us, and the cool thing about it is that he gave me and my brother each a cactus that came from a plant he once gave to my Mom. Her's was getting so large that he divided her plant, potted one for each of us, and got them each to flourish. And now I am afraid to re-pot it, although after 15 or so years I know it needs it. But it's a living gift that he gave to me and I don't want to screw it up. Plus this whole neglecting houseplants and watching them thrive thing is working for me so far.