An Orchid Rescue

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The first step in becoming a better plants woman was admitting that when it comes to indoor plants I am all black thumbs. The second step was knowing I needed a little instruction. Which begs the question, if I am less than successful with indoor plants, why do I continue to buy them? Several months back, on a dreary day, I was seduced by the warmth, the soft music and the table of orchids at my local organic grocery store. I ignored the little voice in my head that said, if you bring that orchid home it is doomed!

Mark House takes a closer look at the orchid.

Mark House takes a closer look at the orchid.

For a few weeks the orchid, a Phalaenopsis, bloomed and brought a bit of cheer to the kitchen. It was surviving, or more likely living on borrowed time. I feared I was pushing my luck with the orchid and knew that the only way to secure its future was to turn to an expert for help. Lucky for me Mark House, plant expert, Horticulture teacher, orchid whisperer and assistant manager of Cincinnati's Krohn Conservatory offered to take a look at my orchid and give me a crash course in orchid care.

Orchid Care Tips:

Light- Insufficient light will result in foliage, but little or no blooms. If your foliage is dark green, your plant may lack light. Leaves are more of a softer green and upright in habit when grown in sufficient light.

Water:  Water until water runs freely from the container. Use luke-warm water that is not softened with salts. Do not overwater. You will want your plant to be evenly moist. If you are not sure if it is ready for watering, wait a day and then water. Weigh it! Let the orchid dry out and weigh the plant in its container. Then water until the water run freely through the container. Weigh it again. You now have the dry weight of your plant and the well-watered weight. You can now weigh your plant to see where it falls in the dry to wet range when in doubt.

Air circulation: It is breezy on the those tree limbs. Still air is not ideal for orchids. Use a ceiling fan or small oscillating fan to keep the air gently moving around the plant.

Soil: Use an orchid mix. Chances are, the orchid seller from the store used an inferior product to save money and reduce shipping costs. Orchid growing medium will hold water, yet is loose and open enough to allow for air circulation around the roots- vitally important when it comes to the health of the plant.

Fertilization: Feed your orchids weekly, but at a diluted 1/4 strength mixture.

Here's the issue, rotting roots.

Here's the issue, rotting roots.

Cleaning out rotting roots.

Cleaning out rotting roots.

Jenny Smith, AKA The Landless Gardener, is managing editor for Horticulture magazine and the author of The Garden Life.