About a year and a half ago I found an orchid at our local free-swap shelf. It’s the common kind, Phalaenopsis, and shockingly one of the plants bloomed last year! The flowers last a LONG time — several months — so it’s very rewarding.

Last year’s flowers!

With more buds open.

It seems that the secret to getting Phalaenopsis orchids to bloom is that they have to be somewhat cold for a few weeks, especially at night. “Phalaenopsis are induced to flower when exposed to temperatures lower than 79 F (26 C), particularly during the day. Traditionally, growers use a 77 F/68 F day/night (25 C/20 C) temperature regimen for spike initiation” (Orchid Society document).

I did this accidentally (and well below 68°), because our 1900 apartment doesn’t have great insulation and my orchid is right by the window. But if you live in a well-insulated or very temperature-controlled place, you might have to go to some effort to get cold enough temperatures.

If you want to avoid the winter chill requirement, you can get Polychilos subgenus Phalaenopsis orchids. I’ve been reading a lot about orchids. The success with this one has been motivating.

In fact, both plants are gearing up to bloom this year. One has a head start of a month or so, so we should have flowers for a fair bit of the spring and summer.

This is the same one that bloomed last year. It seems happy!

This one is blooming for the first time. See the new spike coming in right below the crown? It’s shaped like a backwards C and purplish in color.

I coaxed this orchid to have 4 leaves. Both plants have been aborting the oldest leaf when they grow a new one. I thought maybe they were too dry, so I misted them just about every day. I guess it worked?

Looking forward to more orchids in my future!

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