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Did the Orchid

Long story short: I’ve never had an orchid before. I got this phaelonopsis at a big box store (Home Depot – i think that counts) without much hope for its survival but was impressed by how well it did. Once it was done blooming, I knew from research that I would need to replant it, and I became ridiculously intimidated by the process. Now I’m frankly embarrassed at how easy it ended up being. This is my story, and how my orchid found a new home within a home …

Sometimes projects take on greater than life size proportions. And in my world, all their components and prerequisites accumulate until preparing for the task becomes much more time, space, and energy consuming than the task itself. I secretly (or not so secretly, now) believe that all this hullabaloo is truly merely a diversion from getting accomplished the task at hand. I don’t know what it is in us, subconsciously or otherwise that wants to avoid the task but there it remains, undone.

Such was the case with my orchid, which for an embarrassingly long time needed repotting and which now finally is reported. Mission accomplished, several months late but hopefully not too late.

Here is the potting mix I bought that lived on the back porch, then in the foyer, then in an effort to remind myself into action, on the bathroom counter then on the stairs and finally on the kitchen counter till I and my partner could stand it no longer…

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After investigating various pots, and having considered and rejecting using a regular Chinese soup container (although many say this would work fine), I selected this clay pot on the advice of a woman at Shannon’s florist who said she’s been using these for her own orchids at home. I tried to get my offspring to paint it something cheerier than the plain clay but discovered this was another distraction that cost a couple weeks since her interest in the pot diminished in direct proportion to my intensifying advocacy of the project. I finally gave up and, yes, this is the finished product (with a couple flourished of my own).

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Next I put some plain biodegradable packing peanuts in the bottom. Some people recommend small stones or pebbles for the bottom of the planter, which also should work fine.

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I loosened the plant from the container it came in. It came out easily but others have reported some difficulty on loosing orchids from their planters. I squeezed the sides of the container, then turned it upside down and gently separated the existing materials from the roots.

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The next step was to identify the healthy and unhealthy roots. I found lots of descriptions on how to do this on various sites online, but I found it to be pretty easy to tell the difference, and soon started to find all the instructions a little confusing and more overwhelming than anything so I stopped reading. The healthy roots are white-greenish and thick. The others seemed hollow, some flat and brittle. I cut off all the dead stems, which accounted for probably about a fourth of all the stems.

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Next I put a layer of the potting mix in over the packing peanuts…

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And gently set the plant in, with the base about 1-1 1/2 in. below the rim of the planter.

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This is how much old plant debris I had when all was done…

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I saved the clips for attaching stems to support posts for when the plant is in bloom. A picture says a thousand words but sometimes it’s really just only a few, as is the case here.

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I also had the remains of the stems after the plant was done blooming. My understanding is that on average this type of orchid blooms continuously for 1-3 months out of the year, and that you must wait till the bloom is gone before replanting (makes sense). Surprisingly, the one piece of advice I couldn’t find online was whether and how to cut the stems post- bloom. I took this upon myself and it seems to have been the right thing to do to cut them down.

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And these are the support posts that hopefully I will use again.

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And finally, as now, at long long looooong last, I was done.

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Epilogue: the plant is happy and so am I (no feeding – that’s on my somewhere in the not too distant future to do list).

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