M Y A D V I C E
If you’re asking for help online, or if you’re searching Google/YouTube for orchid-related help,
DON’T TAKE ORCHID-GROWING ADVICE FROM EVERYONE WHO OFFERS THEIR OPINION!
Be skeptical (but not disrespectful) about what information you take from others. A lot of people lack intuition and the ability to look beneath the obvious in order to understand why their plants are (or aren’t) growing well. And if you’re a new grower…it’s a skill that takes many years to hone. Experience is also relevant to a person’s climate, the specific genus or species they grow, and where the plants came from (close to the equator vs not; close to sea level vs not).
In life there are perspectives, opinions, and facts…sometimes we tend to forget that horticulture is a skill which is largely perspective & opinions peppered with facts. Your climate “zone” that’s part of your perspective. Your seasonal changes…another variable. Your indoor humidity, your lighting, your tap water quality…are all variables that affect your unique perspectives of orchid care. The advice (perspectives) which allow Jill to grow Vandas very well in Florida, will likely not be totally relevant to you if you live in Montana.
So, be critical about the information you take from others and consider the lens in which the view plant care.
When Taking Orchid-Growing Advice From Someone…
- Ask yourself, “Are they even good at growing orchids?”
Aspire to be like good growers, not like “average growers.” I see LOTS of people wheeling and dealing their “expert advice” on forums, on Facebook groups and on YouTube—so many of them have average or bad-looking orchids. For example, their plants are dehydrated, stunted, dropping leaves, etc. Your goal should be to take advice from people who know what they’re doing, which leads to my next point;
- Request to see a couple photos of their orchids and/or their growing area
“Photos as proof.” If they can’t back up what they’re saying…don’t pay attention to their advice. If they do show you their plants, look for signs of health and vigor, good leaves, hydrated roots, a HEALTHY plant…a mature plant (not a young, newly purchased one); don’t just look at the flowers. Did you know: if an orchid is in spike, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s thriving? Orchids will flower to ensure the genetic lineage is preserved and even the most beat up, crappy looking plant will try to flower in an effort to reproduce.
- Ask how long they’ve had their plant(s) for
It always makes me laugh when people dispense info about their experience with such-and-such orchid, and when I ask for a photo, it’s a flawless version of a recent store-bought orchid (still not repotted and in it’s original container). Then when I ask how long they’ve had it for, they say, “1 month.” *Awkwardly backs out of conversation* Their advice on the topic of care for that orchid (unless they have others of the same species/hybrid) is irreverent because they don’t ACTUALLY know if their care is going to work well. I suggest you ONLY take advice from people who have had a plant for at least a year. Orchids grow slowly and giving advice after having an orchid for one month is kind of like driving a motor bike once, and then giving motor bike lessons. The point…it’s not enough experience to be advising others, so be critical about the advice you take.
- Make sure their climate and conditions are similar to yours
I have had so many people tell me, “I’m doing it wrong.” It happens so often, it makes me want to claw my eyes out when I read it. I’ll tell you this…despite what others say about how I grow my orchids, if you put my plants up next to theirs—9 times out of 10, mine either look comparable or better. Further, if you live in a tropical place like say Mexico, your experience and advice on growing orchids is NOT applicable to someone growing in a condo or home where the humidity is 30%. Sure, it’s good to share experience but it’s more valuable to make sure your contribution is helpful to the person you’re talking to.
- Figure out if they have experience with the situation you’re dealing with, or if they are just chiming in to be heard
Everyone wants to feel smart, and be helpful—it feeds the ego, right? But not everyone has the insight and understanding into YOUR orchid, your climate and your growing conditions. It’s comical how often I hear three different people give three opposite bits of advice all at the same time and they can’t all be correct, can they? You’ve got to be a sleuth and get to the bottom of your orchid issues, and you only want to absorb information that’s relative to your situation and that will solve your challenges not make them worse.
- Beware of the “Fact Junky”
This is the person who reads a lot about theoretical orchid care but has little experience successfully keeping them alive. These people will often comment with “fact bombs” to inform you, that you are wrong. These people will also often have rough-looking orchids but will post photos of newly-purchased orchids in an attempt to garner “experiential points.” Rarely do they offer any real experience on orchid culture and you can tell because their understanding of orchid culture is just theoretical…and you know what they say about that right? “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” So if someone is fact-bombing you about some species that comes from whatever place and needs X, Y and Z…the first thing you should ask, “Do you grow this species yourself?” followed by, “I’d love to see your plant—can you show me yours?”
- Last but not least, be appreciative (even if you don’t use their info)
If someone has taken time out of their day to give you insight, then be thankful. I know this post might sound a little harsh, but all I’m suggesting is that you be selective about the advice you decide to follow. Following the best advice will help you become a better grower and it will make your orchid (and plant) hobby more rewarding…anything less is just a distraction.
For those sharing orchid care tips…
Just keep in mind that you’re potentially the middle person that enables or prevents the person you’re talking to from succeeding. You don’t want to mislead them, so ask a few questions and get a full picture before you start dispelling advice. Not every leaf spot is a virus. Not every yellow leaf is from overwatering. Not every orchid needs “low light.” Make sure the recipient of your advice has similar conditions to yourself and is actually going to get some value from what you’re offering. If they grow in conditions different from yours, be transparent about that. You know better than they do and your miss-directed advice is potentially more harmful and counter productive, so just be considerate and thoughtful.
Looking for more quick tips on orchid care?
Read the 10 things I’ve learned in 10 years of growing orchids
BUT WAIT!!!! If you’re like…
“But guy, you just gave me advice, what about your orchids?!”
I’m so glad you asked…
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