Care and growth of orchids

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Q: I just purchased a few orchids one for myself and one for a friend. One plant has two stems of flowers which look too far apart and gives the appearance of an antenna. Can I slice the roots of the plant in half so I can move the flower stems closer together to have the appearance of one stem? Also, if I sever the rootball will it damage the plant irrevocably? Can it survive and thrive with such a drastic procedure? In addition, one of the orchids is planted in moss, while the other is in earth. Which is the better medium and if the former, and where would I buy moss?

The short answer to your question is that it’s probably not a good idea to divide your orchid right away. Here is the reason: I’m not sure which type of orchid that you purchased, but it may be a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) as they are very popular and grown in great numbers. This type of orchid has what is known as monopodial (or “one-footed”) growth. That is, the plant has one main stem that grows indefinitely from its center. New flowering shoots arise from the base of the stem, which can develop its own aerial roots near the attachment of the leaves.

It’s only safe to divide orchids if a new section of growth has its own separate set of roots, with two or three roots at least one to two inches long. Then, carefully cut the plant into sections, each with their own sets of roots. Pot it into a small pot of orchid bark. Don’t begin fertilizing it until it begins to grow a new leaf, which may take a while.

Grow your orchids in the potting medium that you got them in, at least until they outgrow their pots. At that point, you will probably want to repot them in orchid bark, which allows good drainage as well as moisture/humidity retention. Any good garden centre will sell this product. It sometimes comes in varying chip sizes, as different types of orchids prefer different sizes of chips.

Good luck!