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Gardening

High maintenance? No — orchids can be easy and fabulous Alaska houseplants.

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: January 16
  • Published January 16

With modern, inexpensive lights and ways to control temperatures at night as well as during the day, it really can be easy to grow orchids. (Getty Images)

Remember when seeing an orchid meant you were at a prom, visiting the tropics, in the greenhouse of a collector or frequenting a very fancy restaurant? Today, blooming orchids are found almost everywhere.

Modern orchids are so much easier to grow, as their mysteries have been revealed. They are also easier to find and buy. Still, while they are universally admired and desired, most gardeners don’t know the slightest things about orchids.

So, for this week, a few orchid sites. Get out the computer or tablet and use these to learn something about these wonderful bloomers. Then start looking for them locally, as many kinds are for sale at our favorite nurseries, Lowe’s and Home Depot and even the supermarket.

Start with OrchidWeb.com, because it has extensive coverage of the various kinds of orchids out there, and there are many. Click and learn as much about the varieties of orchids as you might want or need.

Oh, oh — Look at how many kinds of orchids there are! From Angraecoids, Bulbophyllums/Cirrhopetalums, Cattleya alliance, Pleurothallidinae, Stanhopeinae to Vandaceous orchids, with many more! No wonder these plants remain mysterious. These are tough names to pronounce, never mind remember, and there are all sorts of plant parts you may never have encountered. If you are a bit confused about what makes an orchid and the parts of these plants, check the American Orchid Society’s glossary.

Next, note which orchids are considered the easy ones to grow, because you have to start somewhere. Cater and Holmes is a venerable orchid house, selling these plants for decades. They have some suggestions to look at and study. Since these are the easy ones, they should be readily available locally. They are all beautiful as well as easy.

Easy? Why do people keep saying that orchids are difficult to grow? Most of the ones you get from the supermarkets will bloom and rebloom with no care. Growing any plant should be easy! With modern, inexpensive lights and ways to control temperatures at night as well as during the day, it really can be easy to grow orchids. A good place to see this is under the orchid care section of J&L Orchids. Click on an orchid you like, read and follow the instructions, and you should be set to go.

No space to grow orchids? There are lots and lots of miniature and micro-miniature orchids. These small and really small plants usually produce equally small, but nonetheless astonishing flowers, and make for great collections.

J&L Orchids has great collections of really diminutive plants worth a look or two. Orchids by Hauserman has lots and lots of miniature orchids. And, check out the extensive collection at Seattle Orchids.

Finally, do spend a bit of time with American Orchid Society, which has suggestions for the best orchids to grow at home. This site has a great question-answered section on orchids, as well as all manner of useful information on all aspect of orchids, which for space reasons I could not even begin to cover here.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Join and take advantage of all the great benefits this year. Mark down Feb. 22 for the annual, all-day conference. alaskabg.org.

Cool space check: If you are overwintering tubers, better check them to make sure they are in a spot which can handle this cold snap.

Tracks: When it is so cold, humans stay indoors and animals run around outdoors. Go check the animal tracks on your property: rabbits, voles, the neighbor’s cat or lynx. It’s always useful to know what is out there in case vegetables start to go missing next summer. Plus, it is fun.

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