orchid blooming trick

common white moth orchid, new bloom

After moving downtown from Brooklyn a year and a half ago and losing easy access to the free hot-pink sweet peas I'd grown accustomed to picking under overpasses and in ditches, I got into a phase for a while of occasionally buying common moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) at Trader Joe's, one fuchsia and two white ones; one even came with a double stem. An orchid habit is much cheaper than buying weekly cut flowers, with a stem of blooms lasting a good couple months. But the blooms eventually wilt and fall off, and then you're left with a small hardy green houseplant that you selfishly bought only for its showy sex organs.

Not having the heart to dump perfectly healthy plants and working this school year in a windowless closet impossible for plants, for space reasons I finally ended up giving away a couple of these orchid plants and have since learned my lesson about (not) buying orchids. In my experience, they never rebloom if the entire bloom stem is whacked off to the base. So don't do that. And don't buy orchids if you don't want yet another houseplant. Their flowers, while long-lasting, are only seasonal.

cut orchid stem, post-blooming

orchid stem offshoot
However, there's a tip I picked up from other orchid growers that has worked for me with more than one plant to trick the orchid into prolonging its blooming period, especially in spring and summer when the light is longer. If you'd like a common commercial moth orchid to rebloom, simply cut off the bloom stem just above the lowest bloom node, sit the plant in a bright spot away from direct sun (to avoid scorching the leaves), water it only when dry, and wait. Orchids do things slowly. The stem will look a little silly standing tall and bare tied to its painted stick above its big thick leathery leaves, but if you're lucky, within a few months it will start a new offshoot below the cut stem. The offshoot will usually stick out horizontally and awkwardly from the original vertical, and the process might take months but can be speeded up if the plant has clear temperature shifts between night and day (e.g., turning the heat down in winter at night) and is placed in bright light (though not too direct or too hot).

reblooming common white moth orchid, March 2015

Right now, my last remaining orchid has just flowered again in a single bloom, so now I'll tuck it back away from the sun on a shelf. Flowers, like children, are symbols of hope for the future (though flowers cause fewer heartaches).

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