Happiness for $8.99

Anyone who thinks you can’t buy happiness hasn’t seen the flowers, offered for a pittance, at Trader Joe’s. Since this neighborhood-style grocery is a fair distance from my part of town, I don’t visit often, but I almost always bring home a potted plant or sleeve of cut flowers when I do.

Eye-catching mini Phalaenopsis

Eye-catching mini Phalaenopsis

A couple of weeks ago, I snagged this mini Phalaenopsis orchid for less than the cost of lunch. Its unusual coloring, aubergine petals with white tips, caught my eye; plus, I knew its small size was a good fit for my north-facing kitchen window, which offers bright, indirect light. A precise duplicate of its full-size cousins, this small plant stands just 18-inches high in its upright, 4-inch tall terracotta pot.

Since moving to my current home (built in the 1950s) with its towering hardwood trees on a sloping lot above the Reedy River, I’ve found that I rely more and more on houseplants to satisfy my lust for flowers. The garden outdoors is an oasis of green in summer and a fireball of brilliant foliage in fall, but beyond late winter and early spring there are few blooms.

Phalaenopsis in general, and minis in particular, are easy to care for. The watering recommendation calls for just a single ice cube each week. Now that the house is being heated, however, I give it a quick dip under the faucet and then allow the growing media (sphagnum moss; pine bark is too bulky for the smaller plants) to dry almost completely before watering again.

The orchid’s placement near the window provides the slightly cooler nighttime temperature the plant prefers, along with the ideal light. Activity at the sink, as well as an occasional mist, improves humidity.

Bright, indirect light and cooler night temperatures make this window a perfect spot for the mini orchid.

Bright, indirect light and cooler night temperatures make this window a perfect spot for the mini orchid.

16 thoughts on “Happiness for $8.99

  1. Pauline

    That is a perfect little plant, it looks really good on your window sill. The flowers are such a beautiful colour, they are perfectly set off by your trees outside.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Pauline–the purple is a perfect fit for the season. I usually select white flowers for the house because they bring a freshness, but I fell in love with this orchid the instant I saw it!

  2. Laurie OKelly

    Hope this means you are home from VA. How’s your mom and what time to you get to Biloxi?

    Tammy and I are driving and will be there late afternoon Thursday.


  3. ginnytalbert

    Such a sweet little orchid! That color IS delish. Purchases such as yours I can relate to fully. This is how I came to have a dozen orchids on a pebble tray in the kitchen. What I love about the phals is how long the blooms last.

  4. Julia

    What a beautiful orchid! I just picked up a little mini Phalaenopsis at Ikea, and started to look up info on these plants, thus finding this post. Thank you for the tips. 🙂

  5. Pam

    Beautiful bloom! Have you discovered the name. You can find out who the grower was from Trader Joe ( if they will give source) – send a pic and ask them the name if you don’t already have it. For your readers who don’t know about orchids: Also they will live for decades and can bloom up to 2 yrs if well grown and the genetics are there. Many phals will throw bloom spikes off the original spike and just keep going. Sometimes they will throw a keiki (baby plant) off the bloom spike. So don’t cut the bloom spike off nor throw the plant away until the spike is dead. And never throw a good plant away – it will come back in bloom. I have one I just bought that was in bloom, the plant was in bad shape, repotted and 2 weeks later, it threw another spike – will have more blooms in a few months. Look after it though …it is looking sad in terms of the leaves. If it stays like that, it will die a short death. They shouldn’t be floppy nor have ridges in the leaves. Healthy ones are firm, shiny green, very smooth. It is either been under or over watered – so typical of grocery store or add ice orchids. Also house temps in winter are okay but the humidity is way under the 50-60%. And then too, the grocery stores just water with tap water or ice – chlorine and too high a ph. Many times when we unpot right after they finish blooming you will find the roots have either rotted or dried up and the media has broken down. There should be lots of roots nice and white, firm, and when misted they will turn green and become turgid. If you aren’t seeing this, cut the bloom and put in water – they will last in a vase for month or more if not too hot. Then buy some good phalaenopsis orchid mix (repotme.com) – the stuff in the big box stores isn’t all that good. If you have lots of time and are heavy handed waters – use their imperial dark mix or straight orchiata bark.. If you are busy and can’t thoroughly water through 1-2x a week – AAA spagnum moss is good just don’t pack. I have to repot most grocery store or big boxes right away if I want to save the plant which is always the case.


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