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.
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.