How to Arrange Orchids Like a Pro
May 26, 2009 - Linda Grasso
So you’ve seen them at five-star resorts and parties and thought, “Could I do that?” Or, maybe you think it takes a professional florist to arrange orchids. Well, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t. It’s simply a matter of getting your hands on the right items and then following a few simple steps. You’ll be shocked, in fact, at how easy orchid arranging is.
First, get a container – preferably with lower sides (not higher than say 7 inches) and not too wide (not wider than 14 or 15 inches). You basically want to make sure three orchids can fit, with not too much excess.
I’ve found great containers at my local orchid shop, Orchids Anonymous, as well as at discount stores like Marshall’s and Tuesday Morning (that's where I got the one in the photo). If you have a local Asian food market (here in LA, for example, we have Farm Boy), sometimes they sell great containers. You don’t have to spend a lot and they can be made of anything – straw, bamboo, ceramic, wood etc.
Next, you need orchids. I suggest heading to your local Trader Joe’s or Costco (it’s hit or miss here, but worth a try). Go early in the day for the best selection and plan on spending $14 to $16 per plant. If neither store is closeby, try your local Japanese-owned nursery. The Japanese have a true appreciation for orchids and I’ve seen the most beautiful ones at their outlets. Avoid nursery chains. As a last resort, hit a nursery that is individually owned.
Try and get orchids with two flowering stems – it looks like single stem that splits into two. Sometimes they’re more expensive, but it’s worth it as they pack twice the punch. Also, try and get flowers that are in the same stage of bloom. You don’t want, for example, one orchid plant to have buds and the other to be in full bloom with all open flowers. It’s okay to have some flowers and some blooms on a stem – but again – coordinate all three plants so they’re about equal in terms of blooming stage. Also, make sure all three are approximately the same height. I often do a little mini arrange right there in the store – putting the plants together and seeing the shape they will form. One last thing: make sure leaves are green and healthy. Nix any plant with brown or yellow spots on the leaves.
You’re going to need two other things for your arrangement: leaf shine and green moss. You can get leaf shine and green moss (the live kind as opposed to the artificial kind) at any nursery or orchid store. I like Pokon Leafshine. It’s about five bucks and it really will give the arrangement that professional, finished look. Make sure the moss looks fresh and bright – more green than brown.
When you get your orchids home, put all three in the sink and water them until it leaks out the bottom. Shake all the excess out as orchid roots hate to sit in water.
Put the orchids in your container and have a good look. Do you need to make the orchids higher? If so, grab some newspaper and ball it up in the bottom of the container and put the orchids on top. You can also use packing peanuts. I also wrap newspaper around each individual pot to secure it in the position where it looks best.
There’s no right or wrong way to arrange orchids. I prefer to have the three stems go in different directions – the one in the middle goes straight up, the one on the right to the right a bit and the one on the left tends to bend left. It makes the arrangement look grander. However, I was at a dinner party in last weekend and saw an arrangement with all the flowers, tightly together, bending forward and curling down towards the ground. It was stunning! Just eyeball it and see what you like and what works given the dimensions of your container.
Once the orchids are arranged and secured, bunch up some more newspaper and tuck it in the top to make a flat surface for laying the moss. I grab a handful of moss and soak it in water. Then I squeeze out the water (as you would a sponge) and place it on top of the newspaper – covering it and creating a lawn basically for the arrangement. The water gives the moss a freshened look and keeps it greener longer. Go all the way around the base of the arrangement with the moss making sure all the newspaper is hidden.
Finally, the finishing touch – spray the leaves with leaf shine and place your arrangement in indirect sunlight – nothing too harsh like direct, southern California afternoon sunlight – but direct morning sunlight is fine. Keep in mind, a dark spot on your living room table is okay, but your orchids won’t last half as long. They need light!
As for caring for the plants, I prefer to take the arrangement completely apart once a week. I put the plants in the sink, and water them with the faucet, making sure all the excess is out of the plant before placing them back in the container. Sometimes, when I’m feeling lazy, I’ll use a water squirt bottle and squirt around the base of each orchid 20 times – making sure to hit all the exposed roots. You just don’t want to overwater – or let moisture collect at the roots. This will kill the orchid.
The thing I love most about orchid arrangements is that they last. The white orchids and the hot pink ones, for example, can last up to four months. Your hard work pays off. Oh, and you’ll also get compliments. These days, I take ‘em where I can get ‘em!
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