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How to Style an Orchid Plant

phalaenopsis Orchid PlantThere is nothing better than the company of an old friend, and this week I am blessed. My dear friend Dasha and her beau are visiting from San Francisco so I am delighted that I get the opportunity to share the quirky and culinary delights of Portland. I met Dasha many years ago when she was a part-time floral designer in my little shop while working towards her graphic design degree. Having this flower connection, Dasha jumped right in when I suggested the topic of today’s tutorial.

Orchid Plant StylingOrchids are one of my favorite flowers, so easy and elegant. . . and I always have at least one plant in my home. For those of you who have a Trader Joe’s, you know how abundant and affordable they can be. Well, I would like to demystify them even further and show you my go-to version of how to take a grocery store purchase and make it look like a flower shop design.

Orchid Home DecorationAfter selecting your orchid you will need to find the right container. In this tutorial I used an old vase that I found at a rummage sale and a black bowl I purchased at World Market. With orchids you can use any kind of container since it does not need to hold water. My only rule of thumb is that the container be taller than the plastic pot that holds the orchid roots. Once you have your container, you will need some twigs, blooming branches or curly willow and something to tie them with. I like to use a green raffia, but twine, ribbon or string can look great too. This will replace the less than lovely stakes and plastic clips that come with the orchid plant. You will need a material to fill the space inside the decorative container and the plastic orchid pot. I often recycle the plastic sleeve that surrounds the orchid then top it with a crumpled baking paper to form a solid base around the plant. If the orchid comes in a terracotta pot, I have often crushed the pot inside a paper bag then used the clay chunks to help fill the space. The last component is a cover for the base of the orchid. I keep a variety of moss and stones to choose from. There are many varieties of moss and most are reusable. You can find great moss at garden stores or a flower shop may sell you some pieces. You can also find some varieties of moss at craft stores. I prefer the moist green moss, and will revive it in between orchids by placing it in a pan of water for 15 minutes. I purchased my stones at the dollar store and they are available in many varieties at any craft store. All you need is a pair of floral clippers or branch cutters and you are ready to design and style your orchid.

Orchid Plant Tutorial

When I had my flower shop I heard rumbles that orchids are too delicate and tricky to keep alive. Honestly, the biggest mistake people make with orchids is over watering them. . . or simply not watering them, but usually over watering. All an orchid will need is a splash of water once a week. A great trick (and you can read this on most orchid care labels) is to place 1-2 ice cubes onto the leaves once a week, letting the melted ice drain into the roots. This trick will give the plant just enough moisture and keep your blooms fresh for weeks or even months. So. . . celebrate spring by treating yourself to an orchid plant! ~ Lia

  1. The ice cube method was developed in response to problems with the original grower’s use of packed NZ Sphagnum when purchased and watered as for any other plant. This material has incredible water holding capacity which helps get water to the roots. In a commercial greenhouse with proper air movement, it dries out at an appropriate rate to keep the roots from drowning and allow for rapid growth. In a home, however, similar water regimes would lead to a soggy mess that quickly results in loss of roots or crown rot. An ice cube is a defined amount of water that is less likely to saturate this material. But, the cold melting water could cause cell damage over time as these are tropical plants. I’ve recently noticed plants being sold with the equivalent of shot glasses to help growers provide an equivalent amount of warmer water. I grow very few orchids in moss, even in the greenhouse. And, when I make arrangements, I find plants in moss stay wet too long and often suffer. I recommend to everyone that they avoid plants in this material for growing in their homes. It is a part of the reason that so many amateur growers think orchids are challenging. Look for orchids in bark mixes. Even bark with some chopped NZ sphagnum is ok. The roots have access to moisture AND the air, which is really important for continued healthy growth.

  2. You are so wrong about using ice and on the leaves? The water will lead to crown root! I have been told not to use ice on orchids. I agree, unless it came as an Ice Orchid. That doesn’t work on all orchids. I don’t like the idea of putting it on the leaves as I have seen the results.

  3. We have orchids growing on some driftwood on our fence under a tree that are beginning to bloom, my question is do they have to be staked up or not? If not Im guessing they may just sag some, or do they try to grow upright and then snap and break?

    Thank you, JB

    • Wow! That must be gorgeous. If they are looking like they might like a support I would definitely add one. You can make it pretty with an interesting twig too.

  4. I remembered this post from a while ago and recently used your tutorial to jazz up an orchid gift for a friend, and wow did it look good! Thanks for the great idea and instructions Lia! I’ll definitely be doing this again!
    ~ Melissa

  5. Your orchids are beautiful! I’m looking for good ideas to make my orchids look nice while I am waiting for them to bloom again. I have tons of orchid plants on my windowsill but they are pretty unsightly until they bloom and I feel good about bringing them to the middle of the room for display again. Any ideas?

  6. Hi Lia – how do you clean the orchid leaves to remove the water stain?

    • If they do not wipe of with a clean damp cloth try cleaning them with a little bit of lemon juice. That will usually do the trick for me.

  7. Thanks for the tip about watering them with 1-2 ice cubes. Sounds like even I might be able to keep them alive, and they’re so elegant!

  8. Just stumbled across your blog on Craft Gawker, and I LOVE it! Will be following :) These looks great. I love having orchids around the house but never thought to do anything more with them than keeping them in a pot. Will definitely follow your tips next time!

  9. So happy to have found your blog via Pinterest. Repotting my orchids is on my to-do list for spring. I’ve been keeping several plants for years and find them very easy and rewarding! Thank you for the detailed tutorial. Wonderful to “meet” you too.


  10. I love this tutorial! Orchids are so beautiful but they do seem fussy to maintain. This tutorial makes it seem so easy to display these elegant, classy plants. I can’t wait to get started!

  11. Orchids are among the heartiest plants I’ve ever had. You can ignore them for a few weeks and they’re fine. You don’t even really need to fertilize them. I’ve gone a month without watering mine and it actually bloomed only two months after the last bloom dropped. I honestly don’t get why people think they’re fussy.

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