Boarders pay a monthly rent per square foot, with a 10-square-foot minimum, and are alerted by email or phone when their plants begin to bloom. “From what I’ve discovered, people like to own pretty things, but many don’t have the acumen, time or conditions to grow them at home,” says Brookside manager Mark Pendleton. He helps care for thousands of boarded plants in packed greenhouses, filling the gap for the nursery’s customers. People don’t need deep pockets to grow orchids, however, according to local hobbyists. Barry Zimmerman, a retired engineer and member of several societies has been propagating orchids in his Milpitas home since the 1980s. The seasoned bloom caretaker insists that aspiring cultivators can start inexpensively and develop confidence to care for them over time. “Orchids are not all that difficult to grow. My advice to new people is to buy cheap orchids that you think you’re going to like and try to grow them,” he says. “If you kill them it’s not a big deal. You’re not investing a lot of money and you’re learning.” That echoes a familiar axiom in the orchid community: “An expert is someone who has killed a thousand plants.” February/March 2017 73 overwatering leads to root rot. Not enough water also kills, so don’t let them get bone dry. The best way to check when it’s time to water a phal is to pick it up. If it feels heavy, wait. If it’s lighter, run the pot and leaves under running water; keep the flowers dry, however. Some orchids benefit from more water; cymbidiums, for example need to be thoroughly watered once a week. Using ice cubes as a watering method is a myth. Not only is ice too cold for any exposed roots, it’s just not enough water, and it can lead to the plant getting sick or attracting bugs and pests. ANGELIC NGUYEN (2) 5 Feed, Baby, Feed San Jose expert Angelic Nguyen goes by old adage of “weakly weekly.” In other words, use a diluted fertilizer once a week to keep orchid plants healthy. For phals, Rogers recommends diluting a 20-10-10 fertilizer by half of what it says on the package. You can change to a 0-10-10 blooming fertilizer when the first spike appears for larger and showier blooms, but only for a couple of months. In the case of cymbidiums, Rogers says use a 20-20-20 fertilizer while the plants are growing leaves and creating bulbs. Switch to a 0-10-10 blooming fertilizer when the bulbs are mature. Indoor cymbidiums use full-strength fertilizers, but outdoor plants need a dilution of two-thirds. 6 Room to Grow Another orchid myth is the plants like their roots to be crowded. According to Brookside Orchids manager Mark Pendleton, if you see new green growth at the tips of the roots, good news: You’re doing something right and now it’s time to repot. Use a plastic or clay pot that is at least 2 inches larger, and an orchid-growing medium, like orchid bark, available at any nursery or home improvement store. For more information on dealing with pests, disease, or vacation care, see Rogers’ book, “The Orchid Whisperer,” or visit a local orchid society website (see resources). Cymbidium Vidar ‘Harlequin’ Paphiopedilum lowii ‘Magic Princess’ AM/AOS TO ROGERS, THE PHEROMONES COMBINE WITH THE FLOWERS’ BEAUTY AND MYSTERY TO CREATE ORCHID LOVE, AND IN TURN, ORCHID PRESERVATION.
South Bay Accent - Feb/Mar 2017
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