Step 1: Things to look out for when buying grocery & home renovation store Orchids
Story time! Once upon a time there was a girl who had a small orchid collection. One day she was at a home improvement store buying reno stuff and spotted a lovely Phalaenopsis. She brought it home stuck it next to her other orchids and continued on with her life.
A few months later, all of her orchids looked terrible. What was going on? There was a weird sticky residue and when she looked closely, there were these weird white things on the backs of the flowers and under the leaves and in the spike joints.
Of course it turned out to be a mealy bug infestation (see my post on mealy bugs!) brought home by one sick orchid which spread to all the orchids. It took months of battle to overcome them and I lost two orchids along the way (something I would know how to avoid now.)
The point of the story is that though grocery and hardware store orchids are convenient and often lovely, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for, so that you can avoid months of headache.
Watch out for:
- Sticky looking spots, especially look underneath the leaves.
- Whiteness: powdery whiteness or other weird whiteness. Note: A certain amount of white spots can be normal from residue from water.
- Bugs! For example, mealy bugs are white and fuzzy when mature, but not as white when younger. Some orchids can have other kinds of bugs or even tiny snails.
- Dark green or black spots
- Mangled looking blooms. Not a good sign as to how this orchid has been treated.
- Water standing on the leaves. Also not a good sign as to how this orchid has been treated.
- A bud on the flower that is drying / is red or black. This orchid has seen some trauma.
Once you’ve dealt with a long infestation, you get to know mealy bugs really intimately and you become quite paranoid about looking for signs with your new potential purchases.
I’ve once been shopping at certain home improvement store here on Vancouver Island and found up to 80% of their Phalaenopsis to have either visible mealy bug infestations or signs of infestations. We’re talking several dozen Phalaenopsis at least. I went out of my way to find the garden attendant, who didn’t seem to know what a mealy bug was. I did my best to tell him to tell his manager, whether he did, who knows? Likely they continued to sell them to unsuspecting buyers.
My hardware store wraps their orchids in plastic sleeves, wont that stop infestations?
Not very well. They sometimes have their orchids wrapped in plastic sleeves, though this doesn’t seem to stop infestations. I would guess that it’s more likely effective at helping the plant to dry out less quickly.
Ofcourse every store is different and you might have more success at one than another. In my town, we have two grocery stores across the street from one another and in one store their orchids always look quite great, and in the other (ironically, the more expensive and “healthier” one) the orchids tend to look less than stellar, consistently. And then at the tiny hardware store nearby, I will sometimes be surprised to see non Phalaenopsis kinds, such as Cymbidium and Oncidium Twinkle.
I don’t have much experience buying orchids from ikea but I would keep in mind all of the suggestions above. Orchids at ikea sometimes look quite happy, sometimes look a little miserable, it really depends on the store. I have purchased one orchid from the ikea in Toronto (as a gift for my sister – I’m not a pusher! Lol.) with some success. It’s currently still blooming 3 months later with no apparent problems.
Garden Store Orchids
It’s usually a better idea to purchase your orchids from a garden store than from a grocery or renovation store, as they are more likely to know to properly care for orchids and may be more vigilant about problems. Even though sometimes the orchids are a little smaller than the hardware store types and a bit more expensive, they often have pristine blooms and healthy leaves.
I ‘ve had a good luck in the past track record with GardenWorks, here on Vancouver Island. I once bought a Phalaenopsis from here which bloomed for an ENTIRE YEAR, from October 2014 to October 2015. In fact, my two favourite Phalaenopsis were purchased from here included the one I have that is at least 6 years old. However, as always use your best judgement.
Eventually, after having your more common orchids for a while, you may want to venture a little outside the box, and that’s when orchid shows and online dealers come into play. (Coming soon.)