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Picking a Healthy Orchid Plant

Orchid by author Meghan Carter

  • How to spot a healthy orchid plant.
  • What healthy leaves, roots and flowers look like.
  • Whether to pick a bud-filled or flower-filled orchid.
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    Buying an orchid is like buying a piece of fruit. If you don't know what to look for, you'll end up getting a dud. But if you're equipped with the right information, finding that perfect orchid takes little effort.   
    Unfortunately, I, like many others, didn't know the tricks of the orchid trade, and was bound to a lifetime of orchid duds. In my naïveté, I mistook a dieing orchid bloom for one that was about to open. It was time for help. So I visited award winning orchid breeder and owner of Hilltop Orchids, Dick Wells, to learn the secrets of picking a healthy orchid.
    During my conversation with Wells, I discovered that my method of picking a healthy orchid was all-wrong. Naturally, I gravitate toward the most eye-catching part of the orchid: the flowers. But according to Wells, it's the plant you should look at.
    Here are the parts of the orchid you should evaluate before buying.

Orchid Leaves

    The orchid leaves are the best barometer of the plant's health. With one look and touch you can easily tell whether or not the orchid is healthy. A healthy orchid plant has sturdy, stiff leaves, according to Wells. So reach out and touch those orchid leaves. You'll be surprised at how rigid the healthy orchid leaves can be.
    While you're touching the orchid leaves, check to make sure they are smooth. If the leaves feel like they have ridges or bumps - also called roadmaps, it's a bad purchase. Set that orchid down, no matter how pretty the flowers are, and move on to the next pot.

Orchid Roots

   Healthy orchid roots should be stiff and have a whitish appearance. I know they look scary to touch. But once you acknowledge that they don't bite or move, it's not too bad. I only jump a little now when I touch orchid roots.

Orchid Buds

    Take a good look at the orchid's blooms. Check to see how many buds are on the plant. Purchasing an orchid with buds can be both a blessing and a curse. The flowers on orchids without buds generally won't last as long as those on orchids with buds, because the flowers have been on the orchid for a longer period of time. So naturally, you'd want to choose an orchid with numerous buds. But Wells warns that there is no guarantee that the orchid buds will bloom when you get home.
    "More times than not the buds go ahead and flower," Wells said. "But there is no guarantee."

Orchid Flowers

    This should go without saying, but I'm going to add it just in case. Don't purchase an orchid plant with wilted flowers. The flowers won't last much longer, and they aren't very pretty when they are dieing. Instead, look for orchid plants that have just started blooming. The flowers should look crisp and vibrant.

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