Brooklyn Orchids

Tips on Caring for a Sick Orchid

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Exhibit A: wrinkled, limp, yellowing leaf

A few of the most common questions I hear from readers are:

  • “My orchid’s leaves are wrinkled/turning yellow/drooping/falling off, what does this mean?”
  • “My orchid’s roots are brown/mushy/hollow, what should I do?”
  • “My orchid is sick, how do I save it?”

So I thought it was high time I wrote a post with advice on how to nurse an orchid back to health. Please note that these tips specifically refer to Phalaenopsis (aka Moth Orchid) care, because that is the most popular type of household orchid. Also, I’m not going to discuss how to treat orchid pest or viral/bacterial problems in this post…we’ll save those for another day.

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When and How to Stake an Orchid Spike

Fall isn’t traditionally the time of year for new plant growth; fall is the season in which the leaves on many outdoor plants start to turn all manner of fiery colors and drop off. On the other hand, certain types of household orchids, such as the ever-popular Phalaenopsis, often begin to put out spikes in the fall that lead to spectacular blooms in the winter and spring. When left to grown on its own, an orchid spike can become heavy with blooms that droop down over the side of the pot, so I highly recommend staking your orchid’s spike to secure it and to make for a lovely cascading spray of flowers like so:FL_phals

The only materials you’ll need to stake an orchid spike are a bamboo flower stake and some flower clips or twist ties, all of which are readily available in gardening shops, big box home improvement stores, and online. Oh, and a little patience helps too.  🙂 Read more

New! Orchid Care FAQs Page

A cheerful orchid to brighten this chilly day.
A cheerful orchid to brighten this chilly day.

Happy Almost Friday, orchid lovers! Just wanted to drop a brief update here: I’ve added an Orchid Care FAQs tab to the main menu up at the top of my website. I’ve been meaning to collect and organize these blog posts in one location for some time, because I know not everyone can quickly or easily find my blog’s Orchid Beginner Tips category (and I fully admit the category is not super organized once you’ve navigated there).

So here the Orchid Care FAQs are here: click on over to find a list of links to my orchid care tips for newbies.

I hope you find this newly organized hub helpful!

How Do I Get My Orchid to Bloom Again?

This orchid has bloomed several times for me!
This orchid has bloomed several times for me!

I’m willing to bet that most orchid growers are introduced to the hobby through Phalaenopsis orchids (aka moth orchids) that are already in bloom. Phals are attractive houseplants even when they’re not in bloom, but let’s be honest: when was the last time you fell in love with an out-of-bloom Phal in the store and just had to have it?

With some basic care, it’s not hard to keep a Phal alive through its blooming cycle, but once those pretty blooms fade and you cut the flower spike, how do you get an orchid to bloom again? Too many people feel intimidated at the thought and just toss the “dead” plant away. Please, I beg of you: do not throw your no-longer-blooming orchid in the garbage! Getting an orchid to re-bloom can feel challenging, but once you get the hang of it and your orchid flowers again for you, it’s SO worth the bit of work you put in. You CAN get a healthy orchid to re-bloom! Here are the basics… Read more

What Are Aerial Roots and What Should I Do with Them?

Phals with aerial roots
Phals with aerial roots

If you’ve asked the question above, you are not alone! Let’s first geek out a little about words and define “aerial roots.” The prefix “aer-” is derived from the Latin word aer, which means air. So the word aerial itself is the key to unlocking the meaning. In orchids (as well as many other plants), aerial roots are roots that grow from the base of the plant upward, or out into the air, rather than down into the soil or inside the pot.

What is the purpose of aerial roots? Well, a great many types of orchids, including the most popular household orchids—Phalaenopsis—are epiphytes, as are Dendrobium, Oncidium, Vanda, Cattleya, and many many more. This term is used to describe plants that grow attached to other plants, trees, branches, stumps; in other words, epiphytes do not grow in soil. Rather, an epiphyte’s roots are exposed to the air (hence the term “aerial roots”) and cling to the surface of tree trunks and other organic matter while soaking up water and nutrients from the plant’s environment. These roots form the building blocks of the orchid and are absolutely vital to its ability to thrive. Read more

Keikis: What They Are and What to Do with Them

Keiki: A baby orchid!
Keiki: A baby orchid!

Say you have a lovely Phalaenopsis orchid and one day you notice that there’s something growing off of its spike, something that doesn’t look like a flower bud. Maybe it looks like a new leaf or two (like in the photo to the right)…and after awhile what looks like a root starts to appear. What is this growth? Is it normal, and what should you do with it?

I get a lot of questions like these from readers, so it’s well past time to dedicate a blog post to the topic. The growth I described above is a baby orchid or plantlet, known to orchid lovers as a “keiki” (the Hawaiian term for “the little one”). Keikis are clones of the “mother” plant and can either be left attached to the mother or removed and potted individually once they have grown large enough. Keikis can grow off of the spike or stem of the mother, or they can begun to sprout from the plant base, in which case they are referred to as basal keikis (I currently have two of these developing on one Phal). Read more

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