Fake Blue Phalaenopsis


I thought I was going to pass out at the grocery store after seeing what looked like an entire display of blue orchids! They don’t look real but what exactly am I seeing? Debbie T.


Just in time for Easter. Put away your eggs. It’s time for dyed orchids!

My father recalls a time when cut white carnations were soaked in dye and passed off as pink. Or red. Or orange. They sold like hotcakes. Of course, no one had to be concerned with what the cut flowers looked like on their next blooming a year later.

Plants are different. A typical homeowner has an odds-on chance of re-blooming most orchids found on the market today. Imagine the mayhem that would ensue if these epiphytes returned a different color? Yikes.

One of the great appeals of the wildly popular orchid hobby is that the grower can expect to see that very blossom next year and every year after for possibly decades. Art Sr, now 80, still gets a twinkle in his eye when he discusses the plant on the kitchen table and how he acquired it 40, 50, or 60 years ago. Perhaps he tells about the new hybrid he made using the pollen, or the person whom he traded it with, or the special occasion that coincides with its blooming. But never about how it changed color

Orchids don’t change color. At least the real ones don’t. The blue orchids seen in the grocery stores lately aren’t real. Gardening enthusiasts aren’t fooled but the general public is. The plants are flying off the shelves along with the latest kid’s artificial breakfast cereals. And the prices are nearly double that of ‘normal’ orchids.

Close inspection of the ‘blue’ phalaenopsis, reveal the end buds often opening washed out or even white. That’s a clue. A single blossom shows uneven coloring and multiple flowers don’t match. Another clue. Finally, the foliage itself has a blue tint. Something is amiss…

The deal breaker for most consumers is the knowledge that the flowers return white next year – a small detail that is not advertised.

Our nursery is already bracing for the wrath of complaints. Orchid Boarding operates on the premise that the client receives the same orchid that they dropped off and with over 13,000 plants currently in production, there likely will be some blue ones.

The old adage that “if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is” applies here. Except in this case, it doesn’t even look good.

There are authentic blue Phalaenopsis available though, for the most part, they are resigned to lesser known species with lavender/blue hues. One promising plant is P violacea coerulea, which has shown cobalt colored flowers on some varieties. The short inflorescence and diminutive blossoms relegate this plant to orchid society circles.

Vanda orchids boast the best blue shade found anywhere. And these are real. The end buds open blue. Single blossoms are uniform and every flower looks like every other flower. The foliage is a rich green and next year, those blue flowers will return…blue! The lineage of the plant can be traced back to the species with the rare coerulea parents duly noted.

Blue vandas aren’t likely to be found in grocery stores, however. Their care is considered advanced in that the roots, which are exposed, should be thoroughly watered every day. Also, the foliage is best suited for filtered direct sunlight. But for those who are willing to give the proper treatment, this highly sought-after color called blue can be yours. 

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 17:15