I have seven Phalaenopsis which I purchased throughout the year. All the flowers dropped off at least six months ago and there have been no signs of new spikes. Why is that? Angela T.
It is both a blessing and a curse that Phals (moth orchids) are seasonal. It is a blessing because the blooming time is predictable and occurs in the dead of winter when everyone is yearning for flowers. It is a curse because, although the plants are available for sale year round, they will only re-bloom for the hobbyist between the months of January and May. New plants may have to be purchased at other times in order to maintain the ‘addiction’.
Flower spikes are triggered by cool night temperatures in the fall. General recommendations are 50 degrees F for three weeks starting around mid-September. Watering should be decreased during this ‘big chill’ period to minimize the chance of rotting. By mid-October, the growing conditions can be returned to normal with the expectation of fresh flowers soon after the new year.
My mother was a horticulturalist and when she died 8 years ago, she left a huge orchid attached to her tree. She referred to the plant as a 'ghost orchid' and it blooms with as many as 32 blossoms. Recently, I did some research and found out that the 'ghost orchid' is on the endangered species list. Is this plant valuable? Rick B.
One thing is for sure...your 'ghost orchid' is not the same type as the one made famous by Susan Orlean's book 'The Orchid Thief' (photo above with permission by Roger L. Hammer). Polyrrhiza lindenii (or 'many roots') is unique in that there are no leaves or canes, only a tangled mass of roots so that when it blooms, the flowers appear to be floating in mid air, giving a ghost-like appearance. Cultivation of this spooky rarity outside its native South Florida swamp habitat has proven to be nearly impossible even for the experts.
Most likely, the specimen in question is a common orchid that has white flowers. Your mother was either using an outdated horticultural reference or a fun nickname. Next time the plant blooms, take some pictures for positive identification.
I have repotted orchids before but am not sure what to do with this one. The tag reads Brassavola nodosa and the roots completely cover the pot. Any suggestions? Patrick T.
Brassavolas are grouped in the cattleya alliance and are often bred with one another to make miniature hybrids. The species, nodosa, is a charming plant that has long narrow gold sepals and petals and an oversized white lip. Commonly known as 'Lady of the Night', this orchid is fragrant only during the evening hours.
Two repotting options are available for plants whose roots are hopelessly attached to the outside of the container. The first and easiest technique is to simply place the existing pot into another slightly larger pot and fill in with small bark chips or sphagnum moss as needed. Nothing gets damaged and the plant continues on oblivious to what has just transpired.
The second choice requires some surgical talent and assorted cutlery. Leaf and root debris will be flying as the plant is chopped into smaller more manageable pieces - preferably 4 to 5 pseudo-bulb divisions, each retaining the cuteness of the original.