Dendrobium orchid

Dendrobium orchid
Dendrobium orchid from my collection

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where to buy cheap orchid plants

It used to be the case that you had to buy orchids from specialty orchid suppliers, and they also were quite expensive. Of course, even now rare varieties of orchids can run into the thousands of dollars for a plant. However, you can now find relatively cheap orchids for sale. They are becoming more and more common on supermarket shelves, and in home improvement stores like Home Depot. Many of these are the very common varieties like Phalaenopsis, which are actually excellent starter orchids as they are easy to grow and produce very showy blooms with little needed by way of specialized care.

However, less common varieties are getting to be found in supermarkets too. Trader Joe's grocery stores often stock a nice variety of orchids, not just the common Phals, but also Miltoniopsis (the Pansy orchid), Dendrobium, Oncidium and even the the very desirable Paphiopedilum or slipper orchids. It used to be hard to get such orchids anywhere except from a specialty supplier or at an orchid show. The other nice thing is that Trader Joe's sells all these orchids for relatively cheap, at about $15 for a plant in bloom! While it is not unusual to see Phalaenopsis on sale at these prices, the other varieties are rarely found in the less than $35-40 range, if not higher.

The internet has made it easy to buy a wide variety of orchids at good prices. has a nice selection from a number of breeders.

Finally, please be an ethical buyer if you do decide to take up orchid growing as a hobby. There are plenty of legally available, showy and domesticated varieties of orchids to choose from, without endangering wild populations of orchids.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing orchids outdoors in the summer

Living in a temperate climate, it can be challenging to grow many kinds of orchids, as the showy ones that we like to keep as houseplants often have tropical origins. However, with a little ingenuity, it is quite possible to grow a wide variety of orchids even in cooler climes. One thing you want to do is to take advantage of the late spring and summer when you can put your orchids outdoors to benefit from the natural lighting and relative warmth of the season. I have found that this can make a big difference to the overall health and blooming potential of my orchids. And while it possible to go all out and spend a lot of money on climate controlled greenhouses and special grow lights for orchids, there's a lot you can do even without spending much. Consider my simple home-made planter shelves that I put together to put my orchids out in the backyard during the summer:

My home-made plant shelves for orchids
All it took was six milk crates (two in the front, four in the back) with the ones in the back stacked two deep to form a step. Then I straddled the space in between the two sets of wooden crates with 2 x 4 wooden planks (two per step) that I bought at Home Depot, and I was all set! The milk crates cost nothing, and the 2 x 4s cost less than $3 apiece for an 8 foot beam, which I had sawed in half so I could use the two halves side by side on each step. This was way cheaper than the stepped plant shelves on sale for over a hundred dollars in some cases!

Here are more view of my orchid plant shelves, from the top and front:

Home made orchid plant shelves
Another view - my home made orchid plant shelves
Lastly, I wanted to make sure the orchids were getting enough natural light without getting burned (most commonly grown orchids like bright light, but not direct sunlight, especially in the hotter parts of the day). So I bought some shade cloth from a local garden and draped it over my planter benches. The shade cloth's shade rating is 50%, which seems about right based on what I have read in various web forums regarding requirements for shade cloth for orchids (they mention in the 50 to 65% shade range as I recall). I have my planter shelves facing southward to catch the morning sun.

Using a shade cloth for orchids

 And there I have my orchid greenhouse on the cheap!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My lifelong fascination with orchids

Hello! This is my first post on my experiences growing orchids at home on a budget, and in fact, on anything orchid related that catches my fancy. I have had a fascination with orchids for most of my life, and have maintained my own orchid collection for many years on and off. When I get a chance, I also like to visit parts of the world where orchids grow naturally, and to marvel at these beautiful blooms in their native habitat. Join me in my journey as I experiment with ways to grow orchids with minimal equipment and set up, i.e., how most people might grow them at home. And I hope you enjoy my accounts of orchids I have met and enjoyed on my travels.