News | December 23, 2015


Staffer shares orchid wisdom: Less is more

2 - minute read

She couldn’t foresee that a simple request to care for a seasonal resident’s orchid during an extended absence would bloom into a 15-year passion. Yet that’s what happened to FGCU e-commerce coordinator Denise VanderLinde.

“I was petrified,” she recalls. “I told her I couldn’t make any promises. And she said, ‘No worries. Here’s fertilizer and a care sheet.’ She was gone six or eight months. It stayed alive and I fell in love with it.”

Denise VanderLinde has been collecting orchids for more than 15 years.
Denise VanderLinde has been collecting orchids for more than 15 years.

Love grew into an obsession. A sprawling greenhouse was built for a collection that grew into the thousands and earned prestigious American Orchid Society awards. What’s the most valuable lesson VanderLinde learned?

“Really, orchids do better with less care than more care,” she says.

Since moving to a new home in North Naples, VanderLinde has been re-establishing her collection. “Now, it’s just a hobby,” she says. “I probably only have 50 now.”

Here are VanderLinde’s top tips on raising orchids at home:

  • Research the type of orchid you purchase or are considering purchasing at the American Orchid Society website for care instructions (culture sheets) on that type of orchid (Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, Cattleya, Vanda, etc.) Each species or genera has slightly different needs.
  • Orchids thrive on air flow, so it’s best to grow them outdoors hanging under a tree canopy or in a screen cage. You can bring them inside when they are in bloom.
  • Orchids in pots should be repotted once a year or when their roots are starting to outgrow the pot.
  • Fertilize your orchids regularly so they bloom. (Follow the AOS care sheet guidelines.)
  • Don’t buy plants from other states if you plan to grow them in Southwest Florida. Cymbidiums, for example, are showy and have many flowers, but they will not adjust to our climate, re-bloom or live long. Find varieties from areas with a similar tropical/subtropical climate.
  • Tie an orchid to a rough-bark tree using a soft, coated wire, twine or panty hose, and it will attach itself to the bark. For best success, put a wad of moss between it and the tree to hold moisture so it doesn’t dry out too fast.
  • An orchid likes to get completely soaked and then completely dry out. Overwatering causes the plant to rot.
Subscribe to 360
Stay in the Loop
The FGCU360 email newsletter delivers the latest scoop twice a month.