Phalaenopsis orchids are beautiful and prolific. If left alone, each spike produces five to 10 blooms at a time, and each flower can last up to three months. With a little care, however, you can coax even more flowers out of a Phal. Here’s how you can enjoy almost never-ending blooms on a Phalaenopsis.
Check Your Phalaenopsis After Blooming
Before trying to entice a Phalaenopsis spike to produce more blooms, you need to check the plant and the spike’s health. First, only healthy, green spikes should be coaxed into flowering a second time. If there is any yellowing on the spike, it’s drying out and will eventually die. It should be cut back to the base, even if just the tip is yellowing, to let the plant focus on developing its root system and growing leaves. The orchid should flower the following season, within 12 months, and its flowers will likely be larger because the roots and leaves will be more developed.
Second, only spikes that don’t have any more buds on them should be trimmed. Occasionally, a spike will cease growing and flower, only to grow again and produce more buds. If there are more buds on the tip of the spike, leave it alone until they finished flowering.
Cutting Back a Phalaenopsis Spike
As long as a spike is healthy and has no more flowers, you can try to coax more flowers out of it by trimming it back. Instead of cutting it all the way back to the leaves, leave two nodes on the spike. Cut it about ½ inch above the second of the two nodes. (Nodes are the little bumps on the stem.)
Most of the time, if the plant is healthy, and conditions are right, one of the two nodes will produce a side shoot. This side shoot will begin flowering within eight to 12 weeks. Although these flowers may not be quite as large as the initial group of blooms, they will still be beautiful and last for a long time.
In some cases, the node will form a keiki, which is a little plant. Keikis must remain attached to the mother plant for two years, at which point they will begin to develop roots and can be planted on their own. During these two years, however, a keiki will send up spikes of its own, which will produce flowers.
Timing Your Trimmings
As long as a Phalaenopsis is healthy, you should be able to continue cutting its spike back to produce more side shoots and additional flowers. If a Phal has more than one spike, timing your trimmings can produce virtually never-ending blooms, because flowers can last for up to three months, and side shoots will produce blooms within two to three months.
Keep in mind that when you keep flowering on the same spike, it will slow down the plant’s growth. It takes a lot of energy and nutrients for an orchid to grow a spike and flower. Just like people need a nap after exerting a lot of energy, your orchid will need a rest period after flowering to stay healthy. So, be sure to strike a balance between continual growth and rest periods.
Watering and Feeding Your Phalaenopsis
Between blooms, you should continue to water and feed your Phalaenopsis as normal. Its soil should be kept moist, although not soggy, and it should be fed twice a month with an orchid-specific fertilizer. If you’re trying to coax more blooms out of your Phal, alternating feedings between Orchid Plus® Plant Food and Orchid Better Bloom Plant Food will help maintain a healthy plant and produce beautiful blooms.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!
Delicious Scent & Taste: The Vanilla Orchid
Widely used in sweets, perfumes, candles and more, did you know the vanilla bean originates from an orchid plant called the Vanilla planifolia? The Totonaco people of Mexico were the first known people to cultivate vanilla orchids to produce the sweet aromatic spice that is so commonly used today.
If you are looking to add this exotic orchid to your collection, know that it does take special care. In its natural habitat, Vanilla planifolia can grow over 100 feet long zig-zagging up tree trunks in a vine-like fashion with dark green alternating 3.5” sheath-shaped leaves. Clusters of aromatic cream-colored flowers will eventually form fleshy pods that can grow up to 10" in length.
The vanilla orchid can be grown in a greenhouse under conditions similar to most other orchid varieties - tropical rain forest type conditions with filtered light, high humidity, and 60-70 degree temps at night and 80-95 degrees during the day.
The vanilla flower blooms just one day, opening in the morning and closing late in the afternoon. Pollination through natural means is very difficult unless you live in Mexico where Melipona Bees are found. Otherwise, you will need to hand-pollinate your vanilla orchid to bear fruit. Flowers that go unpollinated simply shrivel and die.
Worth the Wait
A vanilla pod can take up to nine months to mature for harvesting. Wait until the bean has turned dark brown or black and is showing signs of splitting before you remove the pod from the plant. Removing the pod too early can result in a less flavorful bean. After the bean has been harvested, you will need to either sun dry the bean or place it in hot water for several minutes. In either case, the bean will need to dry in a ventilated location for 2-4 weeks after the sun drying or hot bath to produce similar results to commercially grown beans.
Easy to Make Vanilla Extract
If you are lucky enough to harvest your own beans, you can make your own vanilla extract. Simply split the cured bean down the middle and place the entire bean into your favorite flavorless rum or vodka. Shake every few days. In approximately eight weeks, you will have your own vanilla extract. Wait even longer to allow the flavor to intensify. If you don’t have the patience to grow your own vanilla, try this trick with store-bought beans for a cost effective vanilla extract.
Buying the Vanilla Orchid
Most nurseries and garden stores do not sell vanilla orchids, however, there are growers online that offer these plants. Just be sure to purchase the flat leafed vanilla orchid as there are other orchids in the same family that do not produce the commonly desired vanilla bean.
The Totonaco people discovered this delicacy deep in the tropical jungles. Myth has it that the blood of two lovers had fallen onto the floor of the forest and from that blood sprouted a vine with beautiful cream-colored flowers. The flowers gave way to this gift from the gods that filled the air with the scent of love and beauty.
Some cultures believed the vanilla bean to have medicinal properties sure to treat headaches, indigestion and animal bites, while the Aztecs and Europeans believed the delicate spice to be an aphrodisiac.
In modern times, Vanilla planifolia is not only a pretty orchid to enjoy but also a favorite flavor for many.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!
It's likely that you have stopped to admire a Vanda at your local garden center or even seen them growing in a greenhouse or your neighborhood. These eye-catching orchids certainly attract attention. Less common than Phalaenopsis and Cattleya orchids, Vandas require slightly different care than other orchid varieties, but they are well worth the effort!
Vandas are showy, long-lasting, frequent bloomers. They are very rewarding to grow and often times fragrant. Prized for their intense colors, they are commonly available in hot pink, orange, red and purple. The Vanda genus also includes a species with vibrant blue flowers called Vanda coerulea or the Blue Orchid (shown right). Unlike many other orchids that bloom just once a year, healthy Vandas can bloom throughout the year.
Leaves and Types
Vandas are different from Cattleyas and Oncidiums in that they don’t have pseudobulbs. Water is retained in the plants' leaves which is why they need to be watered more frequently.
Vandas come in three types and are easily distinguishable by looking at the plant's leaves.
Their natural habitat ranges from India and the Himalayas to China, the Philippines and New Guinea. A few species are found in the Western Pacific Islands and Queensland, Australia.
Most species in the Vanda genus are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants without harming the host plant. By clinging to trees, Vandas have access to more sunlight versus growing on the forest floor, while still being shielded from direct sunlight by the tree canopy. In addition to growing in trees, some Vandas are lithophytic which means the grow on rocks, and some are terrestrial (grow on the ground).
Vandas come in many sizes. Some are tiny and can fit in the palm of your hand whereas others can grow up to 6 feet tall.
Individual flowers range in size from less than an inch to four inches. They grow in clusters with up to 15 flowers per stem. Vandas are easily recognizable from other orchids due to their long, rambling roots that enable the plant to cling to trees. Often times, you will find Vanda roots growing two to four feet below the plant. Vandas are unique in that they do not grow in traditional orchid plant media like fir bark and charcoal.
Caring for Vandas
If you are interested in learning more about the ideal conditions for growing Vandas, please visit our Vanda Care Instructions on the Better-Gro website. There you will find recommendations for temperature, light, watering, feeding and humidity.
We hope you will consider bringing home your own Vanda in the future. Please send us your photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #BetterGroBlooms.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!