How To Buy Healthy Orchids: Our Complete Guide

TABLE OF CONTENTS

If you need a comprehensive yet easy-to-read guide on how to buy orchids, you've come to the right place.

 

Where to Buy Orchids
How to Pick Healthy Orchids
Caring for Orchids Post-purchase
Orchid Recommendations

 

For plant-lovers with little gardening experience, a common experience is to fall in love with blooms or plants in random stores, purchase them, and happily bring them home only to have them invariably die after a few days.

Been there, done that. We blame our lack of a "green thumb" when really, we just need to make the necessary preparations before diving in for a purchase.  What preparations, you say? A healthy dose of know-how and some practical experience gained over time. 

Let's get started.

WHERE TO BUY YOUR ORCHIDS 

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Orchids are some of the more expensive types of ornamental plants. And because you don't want to throw away your hard-earned cash AND kill off a beauty of a plant, it's important to make good choices when shopping for orchids. 

Buy your orchids from a nursery

I'm very lucky to live relatively near to numerous orchid nurseries in our city. Imagine a huge sprawl of land hosting different plant sellers and one huge section dedicated to rows and rows of orchid sellers who've been in the business since Noah's Ark. 

If you are buying an orchid for the first time and need expert and reliable advice, go to an established nursery. Not only will they know their plants very well, they also offer a big selection of exotic and unusual varieties. (Not for you, but great for window shopping and planning for future purchases.)

Big box stores, groceries, and other random plant stalls are also options. In fact, they can make their wares highly tempting by displaying huge blooms. However, you have to be more on the alert when buying from these sources as they are less conscientious in taking care of their plants and sometimes don't have the expertise in orchid care. 

One big red flag is orchids labeled as “orchids”, rather than by their common names or botanical names.

If you are seeing a fresh shipment, then you can expect the plants to be relatively healthy. However, if you are looking at leftovers from sales at huge discounted prices, chances are, you're taking a gamble. 

Buy your orchids from an expert

As a general rule, you can find orchid enthusiasts in nurseries or high-end florists. They know the value of their stock and can talk at length about each orchid. Hopefully, you can find this type of person when you make your foray. (And we hope it will be an honest seller and not somebody who will use high-pressure sales tactics on you.)

Not only can you get proper guidance and instruction in orchid care, going back to the same store for repeat purchases becomes a no-brainer.

HOW TO PICK OUT HEALTHY ORCHIDS

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Whether you buy from a high-end store or from a grocery, the important thing is to choose a healthy plant. Here's how:

Buy a mature plant

Younger plants are fussier so buy a mature orchid. In the case of orchids, young plants or seedlings take years of expert care before they can get to the blooming stage. This can be frustrating and disappointing for beginners. So instead, buy a mature plant with at least one flower bloom and some buds. 

Check for disease and other signs of plant distress

Examine orchids by checking them from head to toe. Leaves should be vibrant and succulent. Watch out for insects, disease, and the following red flags:

  • discoloration (yellowing or browning)
  • yellow, brown, or yellow spots
  • wet spots or areas
  • limp, soft, or floppy leaves
  • leaves with holes or torn leaves
  • white webbing indicative of spider mites
  • rotting roots

Watch out for dark green leaves

While dark leaves are often a good sign in other plants, for orchids, it is actually not that great. If an orchid that has naturally light apple green leaves presents itself with dark green leaves instead, this usually means an orchid is overfed and thus will not bloom well. 

See the shiny green tip of the roots.

See the shiny green tip of the roots.

Look at the roots

When dry, a healthy orchid wiill have roots that are colored light green. When wet, they'll be a dark green. They should also have a shiny green tip. The longer it is for each root, the healthier a plant is. 

Pass up on orchids that have brown, white, or shriveled roots. These are not healthy plants. 

Check the bulbs

Sympodial orchids are orchids with a creeping rhizome. This type of orchid has pseudobulbs that store water. If you are purchasing a sympodial orchid, make sure that the bulbs are fat and plump.

Inspect the potting

Look at how the orchid is potted. It should have good airflow and be properly aerated. Unlike regular plants, most orchids are epiphytes and get their nutrition from the air. 

If it is potted in material that is too soggy or too dry, you can expect a decline in the health of this plant. 

Avoid orchids with old blooms

This tip doesn't necessarily equate with good health. Rather, this is for buyers who want to enjoy their blooms longer. Pass up plants with shriveled or yellowing blooms are these will be falling off soon. If you buy a plant with some unopened buds, you will have around a month or longer to enjoy (and show off) your orchids.

CARING FOR YOUR ORCHID POST-PURCHASE

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After making a good purchase, the next step is to ensure your orchid survives.

Transport carefully

If the weather is cold or drafty, ask your seller to wrap your plant for you to avoid frostbite or damage, like precious blooms falling off.  The same thing applies if you are transporting your plant via public transport. This little precaution will keep any damage to a minimum.

Now, if the weather is too hot or too warm, do not leave your plant in your car or expose it to too much light. Orchids cannot take extreme temperatures. 

Be gentle 

In the first few days in its new home, be gentle with your orchid. It's a temptation to show it off to visitors or family, but it is likely to be manhandled this way.

I tend to think of orchids as snotty princesses. They hate being moved or prodded unnecessarily. Also, keep in mind that your orchid probably traveled from far away, dispatched to the grocery or store where you purchased it, and then hustled off to another new environment — your home. So, be gentle in the first few days to help your orchid acclimitize itself to its new surroundings.

Some pro tips:

  • Do not expose to direct sunlight or a heat source
  • Place in a cool location under 75F
  • Keep away from drafts or vents
  • Do not overwater
  • Do not place near a fruit bowl as this emits ethylene gas that accelerates aging in flowers and plants
  • Do not mist flowers; this causes fungal disease or water damage

Learn specific plant care

Knowing your orchid's exact botanical name will help you when you research proper care for it. Different types are cared for differently in terms of lighting, moisture, or fertilizer. Check out our basic guide HERE and then read up on individual plant care. 

OUR ORCHID RECOMMENDATIONS

Sharry Baby smells like chocolate.

Sharry Baby smells like chocolate.

New to orchid care? Consider a moth orchid or Phalaenopsis.

Partial to colorful blooms? Check out Miltonias or Cattleyas.

Do you want fragrant flowers in long branching sprays? Look up Oncidium orchids. Sharry Baby smells like chocolate!

Does your house have low light? A slipper orchid or Paphiopedilum should be perfect.

Do you want long lasting flowers that are edible too? That's the Dendrobium.


More Orchids