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With more than 35,000 species of orchids now available, there’s little wonder they are such a popular flower. These delicate flowers easily brighten up your day, and they come in a variety of colors to enjoy. If you receive some as a gift and you’re wondering how to care for them after you put them in a vase, not to worry because they are easier than you think to care for this way.
What Are Orchids?
Orchids are from the family Orchidaceae and are all perennial herbs. They have no woody structure and grow in one of two forms. These include monopodial and sympodial.
In addition to 35,000 species, orchids also have more than 800 genera. They are also found in almost every habitat except for glaciers. This means they are found in places such as North America, Europe, temperate Asia, and the tropical areas of Asia, Africa, and America.
Orchids are so popular that there are even orchid clubs that get together regularly and share information about these beautiful flowers. Although they have a reputation of being hard to grow, they are a lot easier than you think once you learn a few important tips. Overwatering orchids seems to be the most common mistake, but it’s easy to learn how to water them properly so this doesn’t happen.
When you grow them in your garden, they need regular attention, but this doesn’t mean they are difficult to grow. Of course, once you cut them and bring them inside, the care they require will be a little different.
When you receive a gift of orchids, you’ll naturally want to keep them around for as long as possible. Although on their own, orchids can last for several weeks, if you give them some special care, it’s possible to keep them for more than that. One of the main ways to do this is to add something extra in the water, something that acts as a preservative.
Oddly enough, there are several DIY “recipes” for these preservatives. Many of them can even be made with items you have around the house, so they are both inexpensive and easy. If you’re curious about these “preservatives” for your orchids, keep reading.
The Lemon Lime Method
You start by washing the vase with warm water and soap. You do this not just to get the vase clean, but also to remove all of the bacteria that could harm the flowers. Make sure you rinse the vase thoroughly and dry it before you go any further.
Take a two-quart pitcher and empty an entire can of lemon-lime soda into it. To this you’ll add seven or eight drops of hydrogen peroxide, one teaspoon of sugar, and one liter of lukewarm water. Stir the mixture gently to mix everything together well.
Take your orchids and cut the stems diagonally with either a sharp knife or some pruning shears. Don’t use scissors because they might crush the stems and prevent the flowers from taking in water the way they’re supposed to afterward. When you’re done, put the orchids into your vase.
Pour the water-soda mixture into the vase until half of the stems are covered with it. Check the vase every couple of days and replenish the mixture whenever you need to do so. Cover the container with the mixture in it until you need it next time.
The Bleach Method
With this method, the first thing you’ll want to do is wash the vase with warm, soapy water to make sure it’s super clean. This is also a great way to get the bacteria out so the flowers can stay healthy once you put them back in there. Make sure the vase is as clean as possible.
Next, you’ll want to cut the stems at an angle diagonally, and you should never use scissors to do this. Scissors can crush the stems and can affect the flower’s intake of water. Instead, use pruning shears or a sharp knife because they work much better.
Mix together one quart of lukewarm water, one teaspoon of sugar, and one teaspoon of chlorine bleach. Place the mixture in a two-quart pitcher next. Afterward, add two teaspoons of fresh lemon or lime juice to the water mixture.
Finally, fill up the vase with the mixture. As you pour, you’ll want to make sure you put enough water in there so that half the stem lengths are covered. Keep an eye on the water level and refill it each time the level goes down.
The good thing about this solution is that it won’t go bad. This means you can replenish the supply for a very long time. If you need to, you can make another batch of it so that you don’t run out while the flowers are still looking good.
What Else Can You Do for Cut Orchids?
In addition to making a preservative for your cut orchids, there are other things that will work. If you don’t remember anything else about taking care of orchids, remember this tip: never, ever overwater them! Even once they get to your vase, it’s crucial that they not get too much water or it can kill them.
If you remember that earlier, it was mentioned to cover the stems only half-way with water or a water mixture, and this applies to all cut orchids as well. In fact, if you aren’t sure how much water to put in with your cut orchids, start with just 1/4 cup. It may seem like it’s not enough, but considering that orchids aren’t huge fans of H2O, this should be just enough to keep them healthy.
Of course, too little water can also be a problem. If the leaves, stems, or petals of your orchids start looking a little dull or they turn colors such as yellow or gray, it’s time to add more water to the vase. But again, don’t add too much or you’ll have even bigger problems with your orchids.
Orchids also love a little humidity, so it’s best to keep them away from low-humidity areas. Remember, these are flowers that originated in tropical areas, so they can handle high humidity levels. This means they should never be placed in a room with a dehumidifier in it, but they’ll absolutely love being put in a bathroom or kitchen!
Some Practical Tips
One of the things that directly affect the longevity of your cut orchids is the growing zone where you live. If the orchid you received as a gift is one that does best in zones 10 or 11, and you’re in zone 8, the flower may not last as long as you want it to. However, if you live in the “right” zone and treat the orchids right, they could last for up to one month sitting in a vase.
Some orchids are also sensitive to ethylene, which is a plant hormone that regulates fruiting and death in plants. You might have ethylene in your home if you have ripening fruit somewhere. If this is the case, just keep the cut orchid vase away from the bowl of fruit so you can keep them much longer.
Yet another tip to keeping cut orchids looking good for longer periods of time is to cut the flowers as they’re starting to open, not when they’ve already opened. Of course, if the buds are completely closed, this is not the time to cut orchids either. In other words, cut the orchids when there are a few open buds (two is a good number to look for) on the stems and when the petals are just starting to open, but haven’t completely done so yet.
In case you haven’t figured this out yet, keep in mind that cut orchids really do like cooler temperatures. Considering they are a flower that got their start in tropical temperatures, this may seem a little odd. Although cut orchids do fine in room temperature, they usually last even longer when the indoor temperature is 59° to 86° Fahrenheit.
You can also empty the water out of the vase every two to three days and replace it with fresh water. Make sure the water you put back in the vase is tepid, and if you’ve added plant food or a preservative before, do the same thing this time as well. Also, remember that each time you refill the vase with water, you should also cut off a little bit of the stem beforehand.
Make it Easy on Yourself
All of these things may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you can, find out exactly which type of orchid you’re receiving before you start to care for it. This gives you the opportunity to get specific information on the type of orchid you have so that you can give it the care it needs to last a while.
Thanks to technology, we can find out just about anything nowadays, and that includes how to care for a flower or plant. The little bit of extra work that it takes to care for orchids is always worth it in the end, especially when you see how beautiful your cut orchids are. It also helps in keeping them around longer, so it is a win-win situation.
Other Things to Remember
One of the first things you need to realize is that not all orchids do well as cut flowers. Thick and heavy orchids that are almost waxy in texture will last a lot longer than other more delicate orchids. Other factors affecting how long your orchids last include the variety and the care the flowers receive both before and after they are cut and placed in a vase.
If your orchids start to look a little wilted, you can always submerge them in some warm water for several minutes. Cut off roughly 1/2 inch from the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife or pruning shears before placing the flowers back in the vase. Remember also to keep fresh blooms away from direct sunlight and other heat sources.
Then again, there is another DIY method that doesn’t come from the experts, but which seems to work for a lot of people. When you get your orchids, put cold water in the vase up to the right level, then drop an aspirin or two in the water! You can use the aspirin along with any preservative or plant food you’ve decided to add if you like, because using more than one method usually works just fine.
In fact, all orchids survive much longer when the indoor temperature is a little on the cool side. This does not include cool drafts, however. In fact, cool air from an open window when the temperature outside is cool will make the flowers suffer.
Orchids can be a little more challenging to grow than the average flower, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible to grow right. Cut flowers can be a little more complicated because some of the things that affect their longevity are out of your control. This includes how the orchids were grown and how well they were treated before they got to you.
Fortunately, there are tips and suggestions that can increase the likelihood that your cut orchids will be sticking around for much longer, and they are really easy tips once you get used to them. The temperature, humidity level, and even the way they are cut all affect how good they look and how long they’ll last. Fortunately, these are things you can control and can make keeping your cut orchids around longer a whole lot easier.
Orchids are beautiful flowers and although they may look delicate, they are really fairly tough. They do, however, like to be treated a certain way, which is why it is so important to learn what they do and do not like. Further online research can help you learn even more about these amazing flowers, making it easy for you to enjoy your cut orchids even longer the next time you get some.