I have a confession to make. I feel compelled to buy orchids even though my budget doesn’t allow for it. What can I do? Ruth Ellen H.
I must say, orchids do have an addictive quality to them. It is not uncommon for a first timer to start with one or two plants and within a year, have a hundred! One can hardly go places and not see an orchid somewhere – restaurants, home improvement warehouses, even grocery stores. They’re everywhere and they aren’t going away any time soon.
Of course, feeling ‘compelled to buy’ and actually buying are two different things. If you can walk away, then it is not a true addiction.
What is the best way to manage an orchid addiction? Most people acquire enough plants to always have something in bloom and this can be a good place to stop. If a new plant is brought into the collection, the least desirable one is given away. This ‘stuff’ management is not much different from buying new clothes and giving old clothes to charity so as to not be overrun by ‘stuff’. The key is to finding the optimum level of ‘orchidness’ that is right for you.
Lets say you have 500 plants in your collection and you see a purple polka dotted oncidium that you must have! Find an old plant that doesn’t quite move you anymore and give that to a friend. The collection stands firmly at 500.
Another technique in managing orchid addictions is to minimize the purchase of necessities - i.e. food, gas, clothing, etc and redirect the funds to the orchid budget. Consider eating instant rice, biking to work, and wearing hand-me-downs. In the interest of financial responsibility, it is best for everyone to live within their means. If it’s any consolation, the price of most orchids has dropped dramatically in recent years as the hobby has become mainstream and orchids have become the number one houseplant.
I once had a client trade me her beloved BMW for orchids. I still drive it today.

I read where clear plastic pots increase plant growth. Is this true? Leslie J.
A recent development in the ever-changing world of orchids, to go along with dragonfly clips (clever!) and peloric flowers (yuk!), is the use of clear plastic pots in large scale Phalaenopsis production. The idea is that roots are able to photosynthesize through plastic and give plants added growth. After all, epiphytes have exposed roots in their native jungles that cling to trees and rocks.
Should hobbyists drop everything and repot all their orchids into clear plastic pots? Consider these mitigating factors. Most people display their flowers in decorative containers – be it clay, ceramic, tin, etc and cover the top with Spanish moss. This lovely arrangement does not allow light to get to the pot so the use of clear plastic would not improve anything. Orchids are naturally top-heavy so a heavy base is often essential to keep the plant from tipping over. Many plants are actually grown in clay for this reason as well as asthetics. Let’s face it – nothing cheapens the look of a $50 orchid faster than a 2 cent plastic pot –regardless of color. Clear pots are probably best left to the mass market growers who are trying to produce the biggest plant in the shortest time for the lowest price.

Sunday, June 1, 2008 - 17:45