In the Spotlight

tolly-beckWritten by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is the horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.

In the Spotlight
Orchids for the Home

   There is no better way to bring beauty into a home than to add flowering orchids. Orchids used to have a reputation of being difficult to grow in a home environment. That perception has certainly changed and now it is easy to find orchids even in a grocery store garden area.
   The most commonly sold orchids are Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) and Dendrobiums (cane orchids). Moth orchids in particular have become very popular as they bloom for several months and the flowers are fragrant. They are called moth orchids because the opened flowers resemble a moth with opened wings. The flowers bloom at the end of a long spike held high above the low, fleshy, oval leaves.  Often you will see these orchids with their beautifully opened flowers as well as a few fat buds filled with promised beauty to come. Flower colors include shades of blue, green, orange, pink, purple, red, yellow and white with many interesting color patterns.
   Orchids are epiphytes and in their native tropical environments they grow by attaching themselves to trees and tree branches. The way they grow separates them from our usual houseplants that grow in soil. Orchids absorb water and nutrients from the air and will often hold water in their thick leaves, stems and roots. The orchid you buy will usually be grown in a pot filled with bark chips or  bark nuggets. This allows the orchid roots to be well aerated and allows water to drain quickly.  Orchids need only to be watered about once a week and then allowed some time to dry out.
   Moth orchids accommodate nicely to most home environments. They should not be placed in an area where they will get direct sun but they do well in bright light. Temperatures above 60 degrees are best, just avoid areas where moth orchids may be exposed to cold drafts or heating vents. Moth orchids make undemanding houseplants and the beauty of their exceptional flowers is such a joy in winter.

For more information on orchids please visit the American Orchid Society at