Selecting an orchid to buy can be quite a decision. For those who simply want the instant gratification of something lovely to display in their home, the “Oooh, pretty, I’ll take it!” method works just fine. But if you’re buying an orchid with the long term in mind, there are a few things you’ll want to look for before you head to the checkout counter. Bear in mind that these tips are mainly for Phalaenopsis orchids, but the general principles will work for many other orchid varieties as well.
As always, I’ve included photo examples for your viewing pleasure.
Signs of a healthy orchid are:
- • Firm, grassy green leaves
- • Green or silvery-green roots (it’s best if the plant is in a clear plastic pot so you can see the roots)
- • Fresh-looking flowers and/or plump buds (like in the photo at the top of this post)
- • Any sort of new growth is a plus: roots, flower spikes, leaves
The following are signs that the orchid is not in good health:
- • Limp leaves
- • Yellowing or brown leaves
- • Brown or twig-like roots; hollow or mushy roots
- • Visible mold or bugs in the potting medium
You can’t tell just by looking at this last photo, but the roots on that orchid were hollow and dry—not a good sign. When I removed the plant from its pot, the roots reminded me of big spindly spider legs, which kind of terrified me and made me want to chuck it in the garbage. Well, the plant wasn’t healthy and died within a month, so I ended up having to toss it anyway.
If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself geeking out in stores: freakishly picking up every orchid, obsessively inspecting the foliage and invasively poking around in the potting medium to have a look at the roots. You may get some odd looks, but as long as you’re satisfied with the plant you take home, it’s all good!