Phalaeonopsis are reportedly one of the easiest orchids to grow. It's a popular variety, commonly found on grocery store aisles and in garden centers. My husband gives me one every year for Valentines Day, and their flowers are a welcome winter treat....at least while they're in bloom. Getting them to flower the following year is a hit or miss proposition for me. My husband's loving intentions have resulted in a growing accumulation on my windowsill. If they're going to take up space, I want flowers, not green leaves. I don't overwater, feed them occasionally and give them light in a southeast window-what gives?
I have to admit that I find growing orchids a little intimidating, but my friend Martha Lightfoot, a confirmed orchid afficianado, insists that it's easy to coax them into flowering again. She grows phalaeonopsis,dendrobium and cypripedoideae orchids to die for. Hers rebloom perfectly and look like they never left the store. She has a lot of them, and during the winter, they bloom continuously in every corner of her house.
Last weekend I decided to find out exactly what her secret is. "I keep them in the basement," she told me. I followed her down the stairs,expecting to see some sophisticated type of grow light system. But no, what I saw were a bunch of deadlooking plants sitting next to the washing machine and packed together on a table in a shadowy basement room. Although the window does face south, you can see that they aren't getting a whole lot of light.
Hmm..not what I was expecting. But according to Martha, the key is a 2-3 month period of dormancy, and that's what they get in her basement.
During the summer months, she keeps them in a shaded corner of her greenhouse, waters them sparingly (every three weeks) and mists the foliage regularly. If you don't have a greenhouse, just tuck them into a corner of your garden or patio and keep them out of direct sun so the foliage doesn't burn. Around the end of September or early October, hers go down to the basement where the temperature is cooler. The dormant period is what they need to store up their resources for the next bloom.
Here's the drill:
1. Bring orchids to a cool room or basement-make sure the temperature does not go below 50 degrees. They should have some light-a southeast window is perfect.
2. Do not water.
2. Around January, move them into a warmer room and put in a southeast or east facing window.
3. Feed the soil with a fertilizer formulated for orchids or a 12-12-12 balanced fertilizer such as Miracle Gro. Fertilize the foliage by misting it with a sprayer.
4.Water and feed every 3 weeks.
Sounds easy doesn't it? I don't have a basement, but next winter I'm going to put mine in the upstairs bedroom where I have a southeast window and the heat is set low. If I can get the same results as Martha, I'll have something to smile about all winter.