Sept. 2021: What’s Blooming in the Office?

The tiny flowers on this month’s bloomers pack a big, colorful punch – and for both, it’s their last blast of energy before going dormant for the winter.

The plant with the orange flower is a Habenaria rhodocheila, a native of Asia. This is my first attempt with the species, and I’m a bit nervous about it because this orchid has distinct seasons that require different types of care.

According to the American Orchid Society, the ideal conditions mirror its life cycle in the wild.

This means keeping the plant moist, to mimic monsoon season, when it’s got buds or blooms, then letting it dry out between waterings until all the blooms fall off.

Here’s the big challenge: I’ll have to let it hibernate for winter, with no water at all. To me, that seems downright cruel, but I’ll give it a try.

The purple flower, commonly known as a butterwort, is a Mexican Pinguicula. It isn’t an orchid, but orchid growers like butterworts because they’re carnivorous – a natural way to keep gnats and fruit flies at bay.

The plant’s plump, light green leaves look like they’re wet, which might be what attracts insects – and they’re sticky, which traps them. (When the gnats aren't around, I feed my butterwort fish food flakes.) 

Soon, the leaves will start looking different – “tighter and more succulent,” according to California Carnivores. That’ll be my signal to stop watering until the plant starts growing new carnivorous leaves again in the spring.

If there’s one thing a plant-lover hates to do, it’s leave 'em alone, without food or water. But I’ll have to think of it as “tough love” if I want them to bloom again next fall.