5 Easy Orchids

Branch out and test your orchid-tending skills with these beauties.
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Miniature Phalaenopsis

Miniature Phalaenopsis

Miniature Phalaenopsis have the same growing requirements as larger moth orchids. They are just far more petite.

Photo by: Photo by D. Flanders

Photo by D. Flanders

Miniature Phalaenopsis have the same growing requirements as larger moth orchids. They are just far more petite.

Orchids are one of the most misunderstood plants around. Like roses, they intimidate the heck out of folks. Yet, despite their finicky reputations, orchids are pretty tough plants. So tough, I once had an orchid expert tell me that you should be able to yank an orchid out of its pot, grab it by its stem, lasso it around your head, and after plopping it back in its pot, it should go on thriving.

I’ve never quite mustered the chutzpah to try that. But I do know that consumers are getting more confident with orchids—thanks in large part to their widespread availability by mainstream retailers like grocery chains and big-box stores – not just florists and garden centers. Granted, most sold are hybrids of the ever-popular moth orchids, Phalaenopsis, with their big showy blooms in white, purple, pink and combinations. But retailers are also beginning to branch out—apparently noticing a little “consumer confidence”—and offering other alternatives as well.

Feeling a little good about your orchid-growing skills? If so, it may be time to experiment a little. Here are five orchids you might want to try:

1. Miniature Phalaenopsis

So, you already know how to grow the big guys; why not try their little cousins, the mini moth orchids? Just don’t be fooled by their delicate appearance. These are pretty tough cookies. One good thing about the minis is that because of their short stems you don’t have to stake them like the lanky big phals. They have the same growing requirements—warm, humid conditions and semi-dry roots. But because they are so small they’re sold in tiny pots that require less growing medium, water and fertilizer.

2. Miniature Cattleyas

As with Phalaenopsis, if you like Cattleyas  you’ll love the mini versions. Often growing less than eight inches tall, they offer multiple blooms in a wide range of colors – orange, red, pink, lilac – and flower several times a year. They respond well to artificial light. Don’t worry about fancy grow lights. These little guys are just fine with cool, white florescent lights.

3. Oncidium ‘Twinkle’

These miniature orchids can produce dozens of dime-size pink, red, yellow or white blooms on a single stem. Best known for their sweet vanilla fragrance, Oncidiums require moderate light—preferably morning sun from an east-facing window—moist conditions and a special orchid mix that contains fir bark and peat moss.


These orchids grow large, up to 3 feet, and bloom in warm hues of red, orange and yellow. The cultivar ‘Bobcat’ is a deep burgundy edged with gold. There’s also the classic ‘Dancing Lady’ with bright yellow blooms. These hybrids flourish in light from both west and east windows so can tolerate warmer temperatures than most.

5. Phaius 

Commonly known as Nun’s Orchid, these hybrids, with their tall thin stalks and hooded blossoms, can reach 4 feet in height so make sure you have plenty of room for them. The blooms are purplish-red with white, while others are more jewel toned. Nun’s Orchids like a combination of soil and peat or decomposed pine bark—40 percent soil/60 percent peat/bark. They also are heavy feeders so give them a slow-release fertilizer in summer.

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