Brooklyn Orchids

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

My New Phal from Home Depot

Pretty magenta phal

Today, I went into Manhattan to wander around the Garden District and possibly get a new orchid or two. I was just really, really in the mood for a new one, because none of my orchids are currently in bloom (though two are currently in spike!). While the flower shops on W. 28th St. have a large selection of orchids, they make me a little uncomfortable because you can’t set foot in one without being asked if you need help by about five separate employees. The situation sort of reminds me of the people who stand outside of restaurants in Little Italy and Little India, the ones who try desperately to get every passerby to come in and eat there. It reeks of desperation.

Anyway…so I was again reminded that the orchids in the Garden District are a bit out of my budget at the moment. I did good and left the area without making any purchases. Though I was tempted by some really lovely Dendrobiums and perfect Zygopetalums at one of the stores. I do love me some Zygos! Read more

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