Choosing your first orchid – what to look for

Purchasing your first orchid can be both exciting and a little daunting. What’s the best one to buy? What care does it need? Should the flowers be an indicator of its overall health?

For a beginner, simple and easy to care for orchids are best. For your first orchid, I’d suggest a Phalaenopsis orchid as they are fairly tough and are the most widely available. They are forgiving plants so long as you provide the right care.

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So, what should you be looking for if you are considering buying one? It depends partly on your environment and where you want to place it. If you don’t have a lot of space, then a mini Phalaenopsis is ideal. These are great space savers and can produce a lot of blooms from one spike. If you are looking for more of a ‘showy’ orchid, then opt for one of the larger ones. Both should be available in your local supermarket or garden centre.

First rule, never use the flowers as a measure of how healthy a plant is. If you go on flowers alone, you will miss the overall health of the orchid. Check the roots of the orchid first. Most Phalaenopsis orchids are potted in clear plastic pots so you should get a good look at the root system; the more roots the better, especially if they look plump. If the roots look flat, put the orchid back and walk away; it will be more hassle than it’s worth.

Secondly, check the media the orchid is planted in. If you’re able to, try and smell the media. If it smells like mushrooms, you will need to do a repot fairly soon after purchasing. Mushroom smelling media is an indicator that it is breaking down and the orchid is at risk of deteriorating. My advice would be to repot the orchid as soon as it is finished blooming. You don’t know how long the orchid has been sitting in that media for and what potential problems it may be causing.

Thirdly, look at the leaves. What condition are they in? If the store has been looking after their stock properly, the leaves should not be shrivelling. Wrinkles on leaves indicate that the plant is dehydrated which is either caused by a limited water supply, or the roots are starting to rot.

Only after you have checked the roots, media and leaves, should you consider the flowers. My advice is based on my own experience, but it is of course up to you what orchid you buy, and on that note…

…Sometimes, you will come across ‘blue Phalaenopsis orchids’ in supermarkets or garden centres. These orchids have had a blue dye inserted to their flower stem in order to turn them this colour. Over time, the orchids will return to its natural colour, which will more than likely be white. If you are happy with an artificially dyed orchid then by all means purchase one. Just be aware that in a few months it will change back to its original colour.

I hope this has helped you decide whether to buy your first orchid, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment.

For information on how to care for your Phalaenopsis, you can look here.

Happy growing.

Clare.

 

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