Advice for buying orchids



Finding an orchid before 1989, even if jut to see it, was an almost impossible task to carry out for most Romanians. Even in the botanical gardens, of which there are sadly only a few in our country, the orchid collection is, even nowadays locked down, inaccessible for anyone. Of course, the precious plants must be protected.


After 1990, the interest for ornamental plants and in general for flowers fell to almost zero. As a result, the florists could barely sell a couple of roses and carnation. The florists got the courage to sell pot orchids only in the last couple of years, and that only in the big cities. Slowly, the consumers started to get used to finding here and there a couple of plants nicely labeled: ORCHIDS, claiming a price that made you think a couple of times before buying such a beauty. Usually the starting price for an orchid is about 40 RON, and depending on the aspect of the plant and the size, it can go up to a couple of hundred RON.


I have talked to many possible buyers, who, to be a little poetic, are struggling in a Hamlet-like conflict: to buy an expensive plant, which they dont know how to care for, or to move on to the primule shelves, a much cheaper plant.

Beautiful and expensive, if they die, orchids represent a great loss Should we buy or not Should we risk it or not


I gave a Phaleanopsis as a gift to a young family. It was the beginning of the month October. It had a couple of flowers on the stem. They were happy and unsettled at the same time, just like the mother of a newborn child. What shall we do with it? Where shall we put it? What if it dies?

Six months later, towards the beginning of March, the next year, they let me know, that the last flower had fallen.


So: buy it, because its worth the trouble!


But dont buy any plant! If you have a choice, then be very careful and pay attention to its quality.

Most of the orchids that can be found at the florists are Phaleanopsis hybrids, which are the most sold in the whole world. The production takes place in specialized farms in China, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. The production is about ca couple of hundred million plants a year. The plants are distributed mostly through the flower market in Aalsmeer in Holland, close to the international Airport Schipol. From here they get to the European countries through specialized transporters. The plants travel mostly in trucks with other exotic plants from all over the world. Like that, a Chinese Phaleanopsis can be a traveling partner to some other exotic plant from South America.


In spite of the rigorous controls made by special biologists, parasites of all kinds can enter this secluded environment. Contaminations may occur. Beside this danger, common all over the world, I should also warn you about a danger specific to Romania: often, what cannot be sold in other countries is brought to Romania to be sold.


Before taking the buying decision, you have to examine the future family member very well:


General Appearance of the plant:

A first class plant with 4-6 open flowers and a couple of buds (international standard) should be about 50 cm high without the pot. The producers deliver plants to the market in that specific size because of the standard packaging method for further transport. If a plant does not fulfill the standards, meaning it is too short or too long,  then it is either destroyed or sold at a much lower price to some other customer. A standard plant is sold at a price of about 14-16 Euro in Europe. That price is the same for Romania too.


The Roots:

If the pot is translucent, then we can also examine the quality of the roots in the pot. The free roots should be whole, covered in a fine whitish-ivory-like tissue. The growing tips should be of a healthy light-green. The roots in the pot can be green due to the algae. However they should not be yellowish or brown, because that is a sign of them being rotten.


The potting mix:

Orchids do not grow in normal potting-earth, but in a special mixture of pine-crust and moos (sphagnum, peatmoss). There should also be elements for the affinage (perlite, artificial snow).

I have seen orchids which were transplanted into normal potting-earth by unknowing gardeners in Romania.


The Leaves:

The leaves should be an intense green, a sign that they got enough light.

If they are yellowish, then the plant has begun to rot at the leaf-base. If the leaves are stained with oval stains with dried out tissue, of a light-brown color, then it means they have been watered and then exposed to direct, strong sunlight. Due to that they were burned because of the magnifying glass effect. These stains are not a sign of illness and harmless.

If however the stains have a dark-brown nucleus and get yellowish towards the edge, then the plant has been infected by a virus and should not be bought. Stains with an irregular shape, like a mosaic, are signs of another infection witch might affect the plant later and even transmit onto other plants.



The leaves ought to have a horizontal-ascending position, from the base towards the tip. If the leaves hang downwards, much like the ears of a cocker-spaniel, then it means that the roots are not strong enough due to a lack of space in the pot. Such plants have to be repotted to a bigger pot immediately. If you do not have this possibility, then problems might arise with the growing of the plant.


Sometimes at the base of the leaves as well as on their back side some white, fluffy formations may be observed, much like small cotton balls. These appear as a result of contamination with the mealy bugs. This spider is very destructive. Contaminated plants should not be bought under any circumstances. If you want to help the florist you should alarm him of the contamination right away.



Another parasite is the tortoise louse which hides on the back of the leaves. It has an oval shape, is flat and about 3-5 mm in diameter, brownish with slightly yellow-transparent edges. It builds colonies.


The inflorescence (flowering-stem):

This is the element capturing all the attention of a customer entering the florists store: the beauty, the color, the exotic appearance. After the first surprise however we should pay some closer attention to it. If we notice dried out stumps, then it means they have been flowering stems and have dried out and cut off. In that case we have a so called late stem which will not live very long.


If below the first flower one can notice empty alveoli, each of them is the place of a former flower. Three alveoli mean it has been about 3-4 weeks since the plant was flowering, so we will have about a month less to enjoy it flowering. The buds ought to be of a slightly lighter color than the actual flower and be covered in a strong life-tissue. They should under no account be a little bit dried out or hanging weakly, of a yellowish color. If they present the mentioned symptoms, then it means they wont survive as they have been weakened during transport or depositing (cold, drafts of air).


Sometimes the black spots appear from the magnifying glass effect appear. They might not look very pretty but they are no cause for real concern as they do not affect the further development of the plant. The Downs-Spider may also be encountered on the flowering stem or on the back side of the flower itself.


Of course, there remarks are necessary, especially in Romania, where an ORCHID means and INVESTMENT. However, this must not scare you. It is an investment in the beautiful, in a living being which is answering back to you, wordless, with love.


Thats why you should not hesitate, adopt it!


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