I bought an orchid at a big box store and it’s not doing well. What do I do?
Remember that the big box stores are not growers. They are merely middlemen offering you a selection of plants that they have purchased wholesale, usually from a grower in Florida or California. By the time you purchase your orchid from these stores, they have often experienced more than their fair share of stress. If they were in a packing box too long, or the temperature fluctuated outside of their comfort range during the trip, they will be stressed. If they were shipped in proximity to plants or fruits that cause them bud damage; such as hyacinths or apples, then they will lose blossoms. If a gas-powered floor buffer or forklift was operated in their area for any length of time, then they can lose their blossoms. Once they arrived at the store, if they were allowed to get too dry or kept too wet they will show signs of stress. If they become infested with pests and not treated for this problem, they will show signs of stress.
Examine your plant thoroughly. Make sure that it is not infested with bugs. Look at the root system. The roots must look firm and happy, not collapsed. Make certain that the plant is allowed to dry down a bit between waterings. Fertilize your plant at least once a month. You can use any general purpose plant food (20-20-20) mixed at half the normal strength or you can buy special orchid food. Give your orchid the right amount of light. The general rule is that it will appreciate any bright, indirect light but will sunburn during the harsh “skin cancer” hours of sunlight.
Your orchid should bloom once a year. If it is not reblooming for you and it seems healthy enough, then one of two things is in play. Either your plant is not getting enough light or it is staying too warm and doesn’t know that it’s time to rebloom. Adjust whichever of these conditions you think it may be.
And if it doesn’t seem possible for you to make your orchid plant happy, take it back. The big box stores often offer a full money-back guarantee on their plants. You should make use of this offer.
Don’t be discouraged about growing orchids. Orchids are gorgeous, easy-to-grow plants when they are healthy. When you’re ready, try an orchid again. Buy one that is robust and happy from the start and enjoy a successful and rewarding relationship with your plant.