On Saturday, February 20, The Naples Botanical Garden’s LaGrippe Orchid Garden was a stunning display of orchid blooms of all colors and sizes. It is also home to over 1,000 different orchid species. On the same weekend, local Florida vendors brought in their rare and unique orchid species for sale to the public. Orchid enthusiasts, hobbyists, newbies, and browsers enjoyed gazing through the vendors’ collection. 

Members of the Calusa Garden Club (CGC) Sara Wolf, Marianne Foley, and Cristina Leske took this time to visit and admire the gathering of one of the largest flowering plant families. They came to browse with hopes of adding to their collection, but had a hard time picking one to take home. There were lots of oohs and aahs over the scented and showy cattleya orchids. 

Like most newbies, author is still learning about terms such as epiphytic (plants that don’t grow in soil but on other plants or objects) and that they get their nutrients from the air and rain. 

Mary Aronin of Marco bought a small orange flowering cattleya because of the orange color and because it was NOT a Phalaenopsis. Marianne Foley bought a Phalaenopsis because she likes the color of the bloom. Sara Wolf was looking for additional stalks of orange Epidendrum radicans (fire star orchid) but the growers only had purple.

For most people, the exotic names such as Brassavola, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Grammatophyllum or Epidendrum don’t do justice to the beauty of their blooms. 

No matter the size, the orchid flower is elegant and somehow looking so perfect and unreal. 

The ever-popular Phalaenopsis orchids, with its long-lasting stunning blooms in all colors and easy-care tag, can be found at your local supermarket. The orchid is planted not in dirt, but in a special orchid mix that is supposed to mimic the soft tree bark it adheres to in the wild.



At the orchid sale, you are not going to find the popular supermarket “blue Phalaenopsis Orchid.” According to orchid experts, no such plant exists in the natural orchid world. 

Some growers have come up with a technique to inject blue dye to make the plant look different and sell better. The blue color will not reappear in future blooms and the orchid will revert back to their original white color eventually. Some buyers like the fantasy of “a blue orchid.” 

Linda Schwoeppe, a member of CGC, had been growing orchids for 30 years in North Carolina. She had a 1,500 square foot greenhouse which had a controlled temperature perfect for the orchids. She moved to Marco two and half years ago and had to part with more than half of her orchids. On Marco, the summers are hot and moist, but the winters are very dry. Most of her orchids were not well suited to the Marco temperature and she also did not have enough room. 

Linda has some advice for beginners: get a basic orchid growing book. According to Linda, once you understand that orchids grow differently from dirt plants, they are easy to grow. Orchids like to be wet and they like to be dry. They don’t like to stay wet or they will rot, and it is better to underwater than to overwater orchids.

On the use of fertilizer, Linda advocates fertilizing the orchids “weak weekly”. You can also use Miracle-Gro® but cut the recommended dose in half. 

In Southwest Florida, you will find orchids hanging in baskets under mango or avocado trees with enough shade or filtered sunlight. According to Linda, if you want to attach your dendrobium to a palm tree, select the morning facing side of the tree, as afternoon sun is too intense and will burn the orchid. 

With over 25,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids – some fussy, rugged, popular, and easy to grow – the average hobbyist has many options to explore and enjoy the world of orchid growing.



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