Friday, April 8, 2016


Recently, in a prominent southern magazine, the resident gardener was very dismissive of anyone trying to keep what he called “Ice Cube Orchids” beyond their sell-by date, or in this instance, the last flower to fall off the stalk. I’d never heard of that name for these supermarket specials.
When I got my first white orchid (I really don’t like he pink ones) at Trader Joe’s three years ago, I googled the care and feeding of such plants. I was dee-lighted to come upon the ice cube watering technique. I popped the plant, plastic pot and all, into a terra cotta pot and set it on the big counter behind my kitchen sink. I put the suggested three ice cubes on top of the soil and that was that.

As I recall the plant stayed in bloom for over a month. When the last flower faded, I googled again - this time to see how to keep it alive. I found that I should just cut off the stem, keep watering it and fertilizing it, and see what happens.

Well, the watering technique was easy. Every Sunday I did the three ice cube routine. But did I fertilize it? No. I am a bit lazy that way. Anything needing special nurturing had little chance with me because I simply forget to keep with the program. Ice cubes were easy to remember because we use them here every day.

I lucked out. I must have the proper combination of minerals in my tap water, the proper amount of sunshine every day, and the proper amount of benign neglect that the orchids just love.  My first orchid has rebloomed three times. The second one, a gift, has rebloomed twice now, and the little one I bought last year has bloomed again. 

So if you have the room to keep a phalaenopsis orchid, the proper sunshine, ice cubes made in an old-fashioned ice cube tray from unfiltered tap water, and a regular hand with the cubes (three to a large plant, two to a small one each week) give them a try. By the way, I’ve never repotted any of them. I sort of like the roots coming out all over the place. I remove any dead ones so that I have a place to nestle the ice cubes by the soil. The constant drip of the melting cubes insures that the plant gradually takes up the water, and you have no wet mess anywhere. And no, it's not too cold for the plant  the water is above the freezing point.

By the way, remove any yellowed leaves – usually one each year – and when the bloom finishes cut off the stem. If there are any little nodes on the stem, as there were with my little yellow orchid last year, cut the stem just above the node. This year on that plant I got one bloom above the node, and a full set of blooms from below.

The cost for these orchids is relatively minimal. The foliage is large and it doesn’t drop all over, and the flowers last. The first bloom on my first plant came out on December 20th. It is just fading now, about three and a half months later. That’s a long time to have such lovely flowers in bloom.

The perfect spot

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