It’s not that I’m actually killing them. I can keep the plants alive, no problem. Indeed, I am very proud of my houseplant success in general; I have a huge 13-year-old gardenia that bursts into bloom every summer and a jasmine almost that old that provides lovely fragrance from May through July. My Saintpaulias (African violet) and Schlumbergeras (Christmas cactus) have been blooming almost unceasingly for years, not to mention the 30-some other indoor plants I have in various spots. And this is certainly not to mention the hundreds of bulbs I force indoors every year (see some below). It’s almost like I’m running a hyacinth farm—though I give most away.
Orchids, though? Not so much. I’ve had as many as 10-12 of them at any one time, but with little success. They don’t die, but they hardly ever rebloom, which is the measure of orchid accomplishment. Orchid foliage is barely acceptable compared to the gorgeous flowers—which you get if you know what you’re doing AND you have the right conditions.
At the local botanical garden’s February orchid show, I overheard a local grower giving a three-point culture summary to a potential buyer. “Water once a week, fertilize once a month, and repot every two years,” he said. These are the kind of things that growers have to tell people; they have to keep it simple. And it is simple, as long as you have plenty of light and a decent amount of humidity. It’s even better if you have a greenhouse. Light and humidity are not easily had in a zone 5 brick Victorian, however, and I’ve no space for a greenhouse. Someday, I’ll figure it out, but that time is not now. I’ll get to orchids—eventually.