Peat Moss

I recently had two Phalaenopsis repotted at a local greenhouse and was surprised that the plants were returned in 'ordinary' peat moss and the flowers were cut off in the process. Is this correct? Julia M
The key to successful orchid growing is to duplicate the conditions of the plants in the wild. Phalaenopsis grow near the rainforest floor where they receive constant moisture along with low light. It is generally accepted that the best media to keep roots damp for long periods of time are in the moss family - peat and sphagnum. Though 'ordinary', both types of moss hold water like a sponge and release it slowly as the plant needs it. Bark chips are too airy for 'moth orchids' since their roots would quickly dry out between watering intervals - This is a potentially life-threatening situation for Phals which do not have the ability to store water in pseudobulbs like most other orchids.
You will find that watering Phalaenopsis in either moss type is refreshingly simple (compared to bark). Peat changes color as it dries out (black to gray) so the day it lightens, is the day to water it (thoroughly). Sphagnum will get crispy to the touch and should be drenched just before.
Cutting the flowers off when repotting any orchid is paramount to the health of the plant. It is inevitable that the roots will be injured somewhat during the potting procedure so the plant will need time to repair itself and should not be asked to support a load of flowers. The plant should conserve energy now so that next year, the show is bigger and better.

I have a Cattleya with big fat pseudobulbs and nice shiny green leaves. The last two years, the plant formed flower sheaths that shriveled up. What happened? Nancy C
We need to know the exact color of the ‘shiny green’ leaves in order to explain this unsatisfactory condition. A well grown Cattleya will have medium to light green leaves indicating it received ‘filtered’ sun all day. An orchid that is exposed to shade only or indirect light will have leaves that are dark green and will likely not bloom. ‘Filtered’ sun is more than shade and less than full sun and can be accomplished inside the house by using sheer curtains or blinds in a south-facing window or outside in the yard by hanging the plant from a partially leafed tree limb.
If the plant is getting the proper amount of light, then the next most likely candidate for explaining non-blooming would be the fertilizer. An orchid that is receiving nutrients that are high in Nitrogen will have beautiful leaves but rarely any blossoms. It is advisable to use either a balanced N-P-K ratio or a high phosphorus formulation for mature plants to encourage flowering.
On the bright side (no pun intended), ‘big fat’ pseudobulbs are the result of generally good orchid culture (humidity, temperature, watering, etc) and would have the energy to support several large flowers, should they magically appear. Furthermore, the fact that the plant made two attempts at developing flower sheaths shows great promise. Though Cattleyas often require a greenhouse to thrive, it appears that your particular plant just needs a little extra push in the direction of more sunlight or less Nitrogen.

I received an Easter gift - a beautiful orchid corsage. It came in a box and I was wondering what is the best way to preserve it? Anita R
Fashion styles are cyclical and just when you thought the 1960’s orchid corsages were gone forever, they’re back.
Orchid corsages of today are primarily Cymbidiums which, are grown in the cooler climates of California and, bloom in vibrant colors such as lime green, butter yellow, and shell pink. The flowers are packaged in modern designer boxes with fancy ribbon and stick pins and are becoming popular with prom goers who need floral wear that holds up into the wee hours.
The care for orchid corsages is essentially the same as it was four decades ago when the large flowered frilly Cattleyas were in vogue. Put the corsage, box and all, into the refrigerator on a shelf that won’t possibly freeze and away from the sides. Keep the lid closed so that nothing falls onto the flower. The cold temperature will keep the flower fresh for at least a week.
If the corsage is not too damaged after a full day of socializing (or a full night of dancing), it can be taken apart and reused in a vase arrangement. Just re-cut the stem diagonally ½” from the end and place in water.
Who would have imagined – bell bottoms and orchid corsages all over again…………

Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 19:00