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orchid you not easy growing tips for orchid newbies
by Yee-Fan Sun
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what to buy
Orchids are unbelievably diverse, coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes and colors. The orchid-obsessed will go to all sorts of lengths and plunk down crazy amounts of cash for the rarest and more exotic varieties. But as an orchid newbie, you’ll probably want to focus your potentials on the two least-fussy varieties: Phalenopsis and Dendrobiums. Fortunately for your wallets, these are also the most affordable, generally running between $14 and $25 a pot.

Phalenopsis, otherwise known as moth orchids, are not only hard to kill, but even neophyte orchid gardeners should find it relatively easy to get them to bloom again and again. They’re a great choice if your pad doesn’t get a whole lot of light too, as they actually tend to do better in spots that don’t get huge amounts of sunshine. In my old pad in Tucson, my north-facing kitchen windowsill proved perfect; in less blazingly sunny climes, a partly shaded east- or west-facing window, or a spot further back from a south-facing window might all do the trick.

Common Dendrobium varieties, on the other hand, require more sunlight, but if you have a bright east or west-facing window or a filtered south-facing window, they’ll do dandy if you pop them in the sill (in south or west-facing windows, make sure the light isn’t so intense as to scorch the leaves; either move the plant further back from the window, or add a sheer curtain). Like Phalenopsis, they don’t require a whole lot of tending to keep the foliage healthy; coaxing them into blooming, however, may be slightly trickier.

If you’ve had good luck with the Phalenopsis and Dendrobium orchids and want to tackle something just a lil’ more unusual, here are a few more varieties that you should be able to find at a decent nursery, or occasionally even retail stores.

Paphiopedilum | Also known as slipper orchids -- as with Phalenopsis, they grow best in indirect light; in fact you can get away with popping them in even dimmer spots
Cymbidium | These are the big dramatic orchids you often see as cut blooms in flower shops -- they like similar lighting conditions as Dendrobiums
Miltonia | Sometimes referred to as pansy orchids for their pansy-like blooms -- give these indirect light, but a decent amount of it.

My mom has also had good luck with the pretty Jewel Orchid Ludisia discolor, which is common enough that it sometimes turns up at Home Depot type places. Just give it a window that gets good morning sun, or a filtered south or west-facing spot. Many gardening magazines also recommend Oncidiums, though my mom says that personally, she’s found them a little finicky. Still, they’re very pretty -- sending up sprays of lovely little blossoms -- and very easy to find. If you do want to give them a go, make sure to give them a spot that gets plenty of light.

Whatever sort of orchid you end up choosing, make sure that the leaves look firm and the color good. Limp, yellowing or splotchy leaves may mean that the plant hasn’t been well-nurtured. Roots, meanwhile, should be fleshy and healthy, not shriveled.

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