Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Orchids: To Stake or Not?

Traditionally, orchids in bloom are staked. This keeps the flowers more or less upright, and the plant from lurching out of its pot. But more and more often, I am seeing orchids bloom in a more natural manner, without their stakes. Which do you prefer? Staked:
Staked, tall, and straight.
Or no stake?
Unstaked, snakey, and sideways.
This unstaked phal is taking advantage of its relative freedom by visiting its neighbor. So far it has not fallen out of its pot. I have found that using clay orchid pebbles in the orchid mix makes the pot heavy enough so that the plant does not fall. Most of my orchids bloom without stakes now, but I confess that's because I'm kinda lazy.

I also like the snaky inflorescence of an unstaked orchid, and how they can create some weird curves, or drape themselves downwards or around other things. At our recent orchid show, about a quarter of the orchids on display were unstaked, and several of the top winners were  "au natural". Definitely a trend....


  1. Orchid spikes are staked for convenience, not so much for aesthetics, although upright spikes are what people have come to expect. It's hard to transport orchids with unstaked spikes, whether it's to a show or in a commercial shipment. The most natural presentation would be to have the orchids all mounted so that their spikes can hang down as they would in nature, but these are also hard to transport without damaging the flowers. When I transport blooming mounted orchids to shows, I hang the mounts from the sides of a deep box, with the plants and flowers all facing inward. This works pretty well.

    To me, the more natural the presentation, the better it looks. It's nice to know that some people seem to be coming around to the idea of letting flowers develop naturally.

    By the way, the other day in the supermarket I saw some more of those ugly blue phals. Every one of them had a green "band-aid" on the flower stalk where they had been injected. Needless to say, they were staked. Disgusting.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Ellen! It does make sense that the stakes would make travel much safer and easier for orchids. But I'm glad that tastes in orchid display are changing to the natural. I saw the AOS orchids at Fairchild Gardens recently and the really look beautiful in a natural setting, on trees!

  2. Hi Marla,

    I don't stake. Since my rescue phals and others never travel I perch them on small tables and shelves where the flower spikes can arch naturally. I really like that look much better than straight up and the plants seem comfortable.

    I too see those pathetic dyed phals all over the place these days. It almost makes me cry. So ugly and so unnecessary. There are also the cacti with the dyed straw flowers glued to the tops and the painted aloes and succulents. I imagine the phals and cacti will survive but the painted aloe plants don't really have much of a chance.


    1. Plant torture is becoming ubiquitous, isn't it, Gail? And the results are so darn ugly, it's just gruesome. On the other hand, genuine cultivators who care about the plants are going more towards the natural, in the totally opposite direction from the big nurseries. Interesting.

    2. Painted aloes? I haven't seen those, although I have seen the straw flowers glued to cacti. Horrible.

    3. Ellen, they are spray-painting cacti and aloes in hideous colors, even fluorescents! Makes me ill just to see it, and I've complained. But the big box stores think people want to buy these poor creatures, and maybe they sell. Gross.