These beautiful orchids are easy to grow -- honest!
Orchids have a reputation as difficult plants, but that’s not necessarily so.
Sorry to say, Khanh Hamilton now takes care of only (only!) 3,500 orchids in her home. Before her old house burned down, she had 6,000 (really) – all of which grew and thrived without benefit of a greenhouse.Skip to next paragraph
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“It kind of took over my life,” says Ms. Hamilton, who lives in Waukee, Iowa. “You ask my friends: I had orchids in the bathtub. The dining room table would be full of orchids.
With about half the number of orchids as she had before, “Now I can really enjoy it without working to death,” Hamilton says.
She can oversee such a large operation because she sticks (mostly) to orchids that feel quite at home in the home.
“They’re just like a [regular] houseplant,” she says. “They’re so easy.”
“Easy” may not be the word you associate with growing orchids. But it’s possible for anyone to brighten the household this winter with an orchid or two or three.
Here are some basic tips:
* It’s not true that the ubiquitous moth orchid – Phalaenopsis, usually called a “phal” (pronounced “fail”) – gets its nickname because as an indoor flower it is fail-safe. But it is.
Anyone can grow a phal, and it seems these days that almost everyone has. Unlike the common perception of orchids as hothouse prima donnas, swooning willy-nilly like Victorian ladies aimed at a fainting couch, phals are sturdy beasts most comfortable in the temperatures we set for indoor living.
And they bloom for approximately, oh, forever. My personal best: an unnamed white one continuously in bloom for 14 months. This was a birthday present that bloomed for two birthdays in a row.
They are also exceedingly long-lived. Years – decades even – and pumping out tennis-ball-size blossoms at least once a year like clockwork.
But you needn’t limit yourself to an all-white palette. Phals also come in pink, purple, and yellow (my fave), as well as with various spots, stripes, and other novelties. As they used to say in far-too-loud TV commercials: Collect them all!
* But even when seeking orchids with the greatest of ease, you needn’t limit yourself to phals. Oncidiums, which look for all the world like tiny ballerinas, are also deceptively simple. They like it a little warmer and drier than phals, but not so much that it matters all that much.
The variety called Gower Ramsey is just about bulletproof. Like all oncids, its
quarter-size yellow and reddish-brown flowers are arrayed voluminously on 10-or-so-inch spikes, and it’s nothing for a plant to have three or more spikes.
So that would make (even in the new math) oodles of flowers on one plant. Maybe hundreds. And when you and Gower become comfortable with each other, it is possible to make it bloom three times a year. (Reluctant disclosure: my personal best – one in a row.)