Glen, about the house…

June 25th, 2024Glen, about the house…

Hi Glen, I am sure you are the one who can tell me whether those beautiful moth orchids really do live and flower for years, and if so, what am I doing wrong?
Pictured above, a three-year-old moth orchid in a south facing kitchen windowsill with its second year’s crop of bloom

Hi Glen,

I am sure you are the one who can tell me whether those beautiful moth orchids really do live and flower for years, and if so, what am I doing wrong? Because mine flowered just once with two blooms on the same stem. Then after a couple of weeks they just shrivelled up and fell off, leaving behind a bundle of dry sticks amid a rosette of large green leaves.

Should I just grin and give up? Or can you point me in the right direction for success? This was my second year of failure but when I am confronted by those magnificent living carpets in the stores I can’t resist their call of “take me home, I’m yours”.

Hoping to hear positive words of encouragement, or should I just give up and plant some geraniums? Can’t wait for some good news. – Miriam, Kyneton

Hi Miriam,

As much as I like and grow geraniums, not really, the answer is quite simple – it is a patience and confidence. Moth orchids, phalaenopsis, are probably the most favourite orchids because of their multi-coloured, long lasting flowers.

They are sturdy and need little care in our climate and, as long as they are planted in a sheltered spot, they make ideal indoor plants when grown in a well lit window but out of direct sunlight.

When grown out of doors they will bloom just once, either spring or summer, but they can usually be encouraged to bloom several times a year if they are treated kindly and allowed to rest in a state of dormancy in-between time.

Moth orchids bloom along slender flower spikes which can often bloom more than once, so don’t be in a hurry to remove the spike because you can often encourage the plant to have extra flowers. So always keep an eye out for the buds on any healthy looking spikes but remove any that are starting to turn brown or wither.

Clip them off at the base with a pair of clean and sterilised flower scissors or sharp secateurs to conserve energy.

It is easy to confuse the flower spikes with aerial roots but these can be easily spotted – they are lighter in colour and have rounded tips. Their appearance is usually a signal that the plants’ root system is getting a little crowded and nourishment sparse.

There’s little need to remove any aerial roots unless they are overcrowding the plant and then it is maybe time to consider repotting them into larger homes. This will improve their health and make flowering more likely, especially if the plant is still in the pot your brought it home in.

Store-bought moth orchids are usually potted into various types of moss and placed into plastic containers which retain too much moisture which can cause roots to rot. This can be avoided by being repotted into a larger pot with drainage holes and using a bark-based orchid mix that allows the water to drain freely.

Fertiliser, especially developed for orchids and similar plants, can help maintain the health and growth of the plant, as can most organic liquid fertilisers made with kelp or fish emulsion, when diluted to one quarter strength with water. – Glen

Got a gardening query? Email glenzgarden@gmail.com

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