‘Year of the Orchid’ is a shameless PR campaign, but grow them anyway

I get email from lots of horticultural organizations, one of which is called “The National Garden Bureau.” This industry group annually anoints a few plants to become “plants of the year.” This year, the group has dubbed 2023 “The Year of the Orchid.”

Now I normally don’t hop on these PR bandwagons, first because many of the plants they choose are not suitable for the Alaska yard for one reason or another. I also don’t like the idea of industry telling me what to write about, especially when because it is PR, I know you will be exposed to the information elsewhere.

This is an exception. We have nine months of indoor growing and with a set of lights, this is a perfect time to grow orchids. Maybe we should co-opt the campaign as “The Winter of The Orchid.” Nah, these plants actually perform well during any season. They have always been part of my plant collection.

Here is a set of plants with a bad reputation as being difficult. Orchids really are easy to grow despite their exotic looks and their reputation. Frankly, once you realize they only need water once a week and thrive when temperatures drop 10 degrees or so at night, there isn’t much more you need to know. They usually have air roots, which need to be exposed to moisture for a few minutes so they can absorb it.

Not only are orchids now really easy to grow, they are now very easy to find. Since they compose about 10% of all species of plants, there are plenty from which to choose. I’ve noted this in past columns, along with the fact that orchids are no longer expensive exotics. And, long gone are the days when you had to drive to faraway greenhouses and pay exorbitant fees for specimens. You can, and most definitely should, buy them from your supermarket and favorite box stores.

Even orchid supplies are easy to find right there in your local box store’s nursery. You can easily find orchid bark and even special hangers to attach your pots to. And don’t get me going as to the multitude of orchid books! You can’t go wrong with “Orchids for Dummies.”

Which orchids to start with? There is only one choice: Phalaenopsis or moth orchids. These are the easiest to find for sale and extremely easy to grow. Their flowers last for weeks and if you let them fall off, but leave the stem, a new bud for another stem of flowers will form about seven or eight nodes down from the old stem’s tip.


Dendrobium, oncidium, cymbidium and lady’s slipper orchids are pretty easy to find and grow as well. What used to be the exclusive domain of the wealthy is now easily within all of our reaches. Once you try the easy ones, there are lots more difficult, but not impossibly so, ones to collect.

Once you convince yourself that they are easy plants to grow, you can peruse the internet and dive as deep into collecting them as your heart desires. It can be quite a hobby with beautiful benefits. I don’t know if it needs a “year,” but the idea of growing orchids is a good one and you should consider it. Given the reach of there National Garden Bureau, you will no doubt see lots of articles about these wonderful plants, all year long.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Spring Garden Conference, March 8-10. Attention interested vendors, potential speakers, workshop leaders. This is a big event for Alaska’s gardeners. Don’t miss out. Contact The Garden:

Seeds: A bit early to start most things. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Celery is up in a few weeks.

The sun turns: The daylight is coming back. Make sure to turn your plants grown by windows.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at