Saturday, January 22, 2011

Orchid Mothering

Working on a college campus can be dangerous. Cafeteria food. Skateboards. The nagging desire to take more classes yourself. Moody, hormonal students. Overbearing, neurotic parents. But the worst for me was the beginning of the new school year. After freshmen had moved in came the vendors, selling everything you needed to put your own stamp on the 6’x10’ box that was your dorm room. I was immune to the posters with witty phrases and photos of popular celebrities. Fish in tiny bowls held no appeal. Even the school spirit banners whose sale benefitted charity didn’t seem like they’d fit in with my home d├ęcor. Then he arrived.

The plant vendor set up shop in the student union one morning and taunted me with his presence for two days. Orchids, succulents, ferns, flowering plants of all kinds, tropical trees. They all looked healthy. They all came in cute pots. They were inexpensive. They were right there!! Finally my self-control was gone. A co-worker was kind enough to go with me and reign me in or I’m fairly certain I would have needed a U-Haul to take my purchases home. In the end I only bought two orchids.

They’ve long been my favorite flower, but I was too afraid to try to grow them myself. I thought they were too finicky, too delicate and too sensitive to live in an apartment and not a carefully regulated greenhouse. But if plant vendor guy was selling these beautiful plants to irresponsible college kids, I should be able to handle them right? Maybe not so much.

I kept one a work and brought the other home. The home one succumbed to my lack of knowledge within 3 short weeks. I became determined not to kill my second orchid and spent long hours at work poring over books and websites on orchid care. When the blooms fell off I cut back the stem to promote growth. I re-potted the plant in specially formulated orchid potting mix. I monitored the leaf color to make sure it was getting the right amount of sunlight. I watered sparingly and protected it from drafts. Lo and behold it survived! When I left that job, I took my orchid home and it has continued to grow. I still watch it carefully, but the new stalk and leaf have given me hope that it will bloom again.

So it is possible to have a full-time job and keep an orchid alive. If I can get it to bloom again maybe that means I’d be a good mom?

Top photo: Newly bought orchid in bloom.

Middle photo: Orchid today. Notice the little new shoot.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. In your last photo: looks like you got a keiki! Sometimes orchid plants produce plantlets on the flowering stalk. Once it gets big enough, you can cut it off and pot it up. Very cool. I've only seen these two times in person (and I've worked with a ton of orchids).

  3. Well it certainly wasn't due to my advanced knowledge of orchids. I'll keep updating with some photos and you'll have to let me know what you think. I love orchids, so I'd like to learn more about them.