Fighting Phase 1 Orchid Addiction

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum
I speak from experience about orchid addiction, and I admit my addiction freely. I have been smitten by orchid growing for years, decades, actually. I started growing orchids when I was 14, long before I could drive. I had amassed  almost 100 orchids and tropical plants by the time I could drive to nurseries to buy more plants. The addiction led to greater and greater collections of anything I could get my hands on, leading to converting the front porch of my parent's house into a greenhouse. By age 24, I had collected almost 1000 plants, which I moved to Gainesville to pursue a degree in, (you guessed it), horticulture.

Orchids, as well as other plant groups, have a magic about them that is hard to quantify. Their unusual growth habits, exquisitely complicated flowers, and heavenly fragrances can lead to a true addiction, in every sense of the word. I do not purport to be Dr. Phil, but I often counsel people on how to manage their plant addictions. One of the biggest challenges to overcome is "the fever" that arises at plant shows. It is easy to have buying fever when surrounded by thousands of plants from far off countries, seeing people walk out with armloads of plants you always wanted, and hear vendors say "you'd better buy now, supply is limited". I can help with a few tactics that may ease the addiction. This early stage is Phase 1 additicion, where Phase 2 addicition starts with building greenhouses and traveling to exotic countries to collect plants. Then there is Phase 3 addiction, which is worse......

Dendrobium superbum
First, let me mention that VERY rarely do plants come up for sale at plant shows only once in history. I have plant want lists that date back 15 or 20 years, only to find that most of those plants are fairly commonplace now, often showing up for sale at Home Depot or in local nurseries. If you simply have to be the first person to buy a plant the very first day it is released from a nursery or tissue culture lab, go ahead and spend your money. Usually, though, nurseries propagate a large number of a plant in order to keep sales and interest moving after the plant's first release. A good case in point is Nepenthes Pitcher Plants, a weird and beautiful plant that was always expensive and hard to get. Several tissue culture companies grew many thousands of them, and they can be commonly seen at green markets or at full service retail nurseries. You can now buy a high-quality Nepenthes Pitcher Vine for under $ 20, whereas 10 years ago it may have cost $ 50 or more for a far smaller plant.

A good orchid example is the King of all lady-slipper orchids, Paphiopedilum rothschildianum. I remember reading catalogs 15 years ago offering this magnificent orchid at well over $ 1000 per growth. I found out that even then, nurseries had quietly squirreled away seedlings of this plant at under
$ 100 per plant, but kept the "mystique" about this plant going to keep the price as high as possible. You can now buy some respectable plants of this species for about $ 75 at some plant sales.

Nepenthes Pitcher Vine
One of the best ways to combat orchid addiction is to join an orchid society, or even 2 or 3. The society members have helped me combat addiction in many ways, most prominently by saying "oh, don't spend your money on that one, I'll give you a piece of the plant". A good example of this is Dendrobium superbum, a plant that propagates easily by offshoots. You can also trade plants back and forth with members. Members can also steer you clear of some plants you desire, with good-sense experience i.e. "don't bother with that one, it doesn't grow well here." These are bits of advice you can use !

If you can steer clear of buying fever, join a few societies to gain real-world advice, and manage your addictions for a few years while you get started, then you will certainly have a better long term experience in gardening. My greatest wish is to increase every gardener's skills to a point where they research plants before they buy, purchase or acquire plants at reasonable costs, and grow plants to their maximum potential with minimum fuss.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens         


  1. I understand you completely. I am a fellow orchid lover, putting it lightly. Orchids are a huge part of my life. And who can blame me? Or you? These plants are really magical. I've bookmarked your post. I hope everyone discovers the beauty of these plants. Please check out my blog: Orchid Care Zone I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  2. Hi Mary Ann- I sometimes joke that I should start a local chapter of OrchidHolics Anonymous, but nobody would show up; they're home tending to their plants ! There are so many wonderful orchids, combined with our great climate here and the abundance of orchid sales throughout the winter and summer, that I really have to restrain myself from my addiction. I'll see you on your blog...and thanks for visiting the Plant Guy....

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens