What to Look for When Buying an Orchid Plant
HERE IS A LIST OF A FEW THINGS you should look for next time you start out to purchase an orchid plant:
- Foliage should be firm, not wrinkled or floppy. Avoid plants with blemishes on the leaves and par-ticularly shun those that display any seemingly peculiar or uneven patterns of discoloration. This does not include, of course, those orchids with natural, symmetrical mottling on their foliage, such as certain species and hybrids within the genus Paphiopedilum. In most cases, the foliage should be of a uniform hue, and while most orchids have leaves of a medium green color, the exact shade may vary from rather dark green to yellow-green, depending on species and type.
- Pseudobulbs or canes, if present, should also be plump and healthy looking, particularly the newest ones. If they are quite shriveled or discolored, leave the plant for someone else.
- Roots, if any are visible, should also be firm and healthy looking. It is certainly not uncommon for many types of orchids to have roots rambling over the growing medium and even growing over or away from the pot. Consider this a sign of a healthy orchid but note that the time to move the plant to a larger pot may not be too far off. If no roots are visible, it may be wise to gently poke around the growing medium a bit to make sure a healthy root system exists. Many an orchid grower has purchased a seemingly healthy plant, only to discover after getting it home that the root mass is severely rotted or nonexistent.
- Flowers, if present, should generally be evenly or symmetrically colored or patterned. The blossoms should be free of color streaking, color breaks and deformities. Any buds should be plump, not shriveled.
- New growth, depending on the season, can help you choose a healthy, vigorous orchid plant. Plants with new roots or pseudobulbs emerging, new leaves starting to grow, or buds poking out of their sheaths definitely have plans for the future.
- The growing medium should be in good condition. Watch out for a medium that is soft or spongy, as that could indicate that it is decaying or breaking down. These conditions often destroy the orchid’s root system as they rot, thus slowly, or sometimes quickly, killing the plant. The growing medium should be free of weeds too.
- Check the plant carefully for insects. Look inside every flower and on the back of each blossom. Examine the underside of the leaves and the leaf axils as well. These are the places pests like to hide and if you do not check for them it is easy to miss them.
- Labels are important. No serious orchid grower should purchase an unidentified orchid plant, no matter how beautiful its flower. Knowing the identities of our orchid plants helps us know how to care for them, and we can learn about the habitats and gain an understanding of the places they come from. In the case of hybrids, we can explore their family trees and hopefully gain an appreciation for the char-acteristics they received from their ancestors. Knowing the names of the orchid species and hybrids we grow is essential. Indeed, it is the crux of our hobby.
- These criteria apply not only to plants you purchase, but also to those orchid plants that you may receive as gifts or perhaps win from the raffle table at your local orchid society. Keep your standards high. If gift and raffle plants do not pass muster, they should not have a home in your orchid collection.