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The root(s) of the matter? Good health

Healthy roots are absolutely essential to orchids, according to the American Orchid Society. Without a substrate conducive to root establishment, growth and function, an orchid cannot absorb the nutrients and water it requires.

What are the properties of a suitable growing medium? It should be firm and yet well aerated. Having these two characteristics, such a medium can offer a foundation to which the roots can attach themselves, while at the same time allowing the aeration necessary for their proper function.

Toine Overgaag, president and co-owner of Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria, CA, said that the company grows more than one million orchid plants annually in specially formulated orchid bark and a couple hundred thousand in sphagnum moss.

“Great plants have vigor and remain vibrant in customers’ homes. We believe the key to this performance is active roots. We find that our larger Phalaenopsis (five-inch) grow better in our greenhouse and perform better in the home when they are in bark because they grow more and better roots. For our smaller plants (three-inch), moss works well and the plants also develop active, strong roots.”

Another thing to consider when choosing an orchid plant medium is how its care will affect the customer at home.

“We like bark because it simplifies home care,” Overgaag commented. “Maintaining the orchid is easiest if there is a regular schedule and bark only requires weekly watering. A good five-minute soak works well. This is very easy to remember and is unlikely to lead to dried-out or drowned plants.”   

To ensure healthy orchid plants in your floral department, you must understand the needs of the plants themselves. An informed floral buyer will know the right questions to ask the grower in order to purchase the best product. Orchid plant medium is one such area of which to be knowledgable.

So the next time you’re buying orchid plants for your floral department, remember to get to the root of the matter.