Good Grooming

Good Grooming - How to Prepare Orchids for Exhibition

[1] Techniques aid presentation of flowers, including those of Epicatanthe' Don herman (Catt Gold Digger x Epi, Stamfordianum), The clone orange profusion, AM/AOS, is shown, Grower: Summerfield orchids.

WITH ANYTHING BEING SOLD, packaging and presentation can help close the deal. Orchids being exhibited also benefit from a good presentation and are more likely to catch the judges' attention when properly groomed. Some judging regions go so far as to place plants in decorative baskets or cachepots and cover the top of the pot with green or dried moss. At the least, proper staking will allow an orchid to presents its flowers to their best advantage and a bit of time spent cleaning leaves will prevent water or fungicide spots from distracting from the beauty of the flowers.

Staking an inflorescence is easy, but requires patients and sure hand. It is best accomplished while the flowers are in the bud stage (so this process can begin weeks prior to show). The bigger and the heavier the flower, the more likely it will need staking. Multifloral orchids such as phalaenopsis and oncidium intergeneric hybrids should be staked early. An experienced orchid grower can stake an orchid so that it creates a pleasing and balanced appearance. Staked orchids are much easier to transport to the exhibit hall because the flowers are secured against movement that could cause possibly damage.
Any rigid material (the stake) such as bamboo, galvanized wire or floral wire (for thin inflorescences) can be used and any flexible material (the tie) such as twist ties bell wire or solder can be used to fasten the inflorescence to the stake. Use colors that are neutral and blend with the plant. It is a good idea to have choices of each available. Be sure not to tighten the tie too tightly or else you may damage the inflorescence.
From the AOS Handbook on Judging and Exhibition:
Plants should be entered in the most presentable condition possible. Pots should be clean or covered, and dead pseudobulbs and leaves removed. Leaves should be clean and but not treated to produce an artificial shine. Inflorescences may be staked to permit them to appear to best advantage, but staking should be as unobtrusive as possible and may be removed temporarily during judging if the judging team feels this is necessary to evaluate the inflorescence. Additional staking or artificial supports may be need while a plant is being transported but should be removed before the plant is entered. Cotton, styrofoam wedges or other material may be used on a developing inflorescence to encourage the buds to develop naturally. Attempts to manipulate flower parts after the flower has opened are usually self-defeating because of damage to the flower. An inflorescence may be disqualified by the judges if it evident that an attempt has been made to force a flower mechanically to a more desirable conformation.
The demonstration of the following pages provides the basics for preparing an orchid for exhibition.

[2] Insert a stake into the pot as close as possible to the pseudobulb and inflorescence. Force it into the medium as far as it will go. Be careful not to damage the delicate flower buds.
[3] Using wire cutter or lineman's pliers, carefully cut the stake to the height of the inflorescence.
[4] We like to use light-gauge solder for all or our staking because it wrap easily, is soft and holds its shapes well. You can also use twist ties or bell wire. Start wrapping at the base of the inflorescence and work up. Wrap just tightly enough to gently hold the inflorescence.
[5] If it is a many-flowered inflorescence wrap one or two buds up.
[6] Make a finishing wrap, cut the solder or wire and you are done.
[7] Even if you are not exhibiting orchids, a properly staked orchid will present its flowers to their best advantage.

[8] Orchid leaves can be cleaned using a soft cloth dipped in milk or lemon juice diluted with water. Commercial leaf shine products produce an unnatural look and are best avoided.

[9] It is easy to create a beautifully shingled inflorescence with phalaenopsis hybrids. You should begin staking phalaenopsis spikes when they are 6-8 inches (15-20cm) tall. Be sure to use a stake that is long enough to accommodate the fully developed inflorescence. The last clip to the stake should be three to four nodes below the first flower. The first flower to open should be the highest point on the phalaenopsis inflorescence. Carefully make a new wraps of soft solder around the end of the developing inflorescence and fasten the other end to a short stake you have inserted into the pot.

[10] An example of shingled presentation: Doritaenopsis champion lightning 'Kaminali', AM/AOS (Mount lip x Phal, New Angel) Grower; R.F Orchids.

[11] Vandaceous orchids such as those in genera Rhynchostylis and Aerides sometimes produce inflorescences that are hidden in the foliage. This can be remedied by gently wedging a short piece of bamboo stake between the leaves and the inflorescence to force the flowers to present outside the foliage as shown with this specimen of Rhynchostylis gigantea.

[12] Gently wedge the bamboo stake between the leaves and inflorescence to force the flowers to present themselves outside the foliage.


[13] Vandas present better if the flowers are gently “flattered.” This is best done after the flowers have been open a day. Vandas, especially, need copious amount of water as buds are developing to plump up the flowers. Water twice a day for grexes that flower during warm months.

Greg Allikas is known the worldover for his photographs of orchids. He is awards photographer for the AOS West Palm Beach Judging Center, Florida-Caribbean Judging Center in Miami and numerous annual orchid shows in the United States and abroad. He is chair of the AOS Publications Committee and provides content for the Society's Web site. He and Kathy Figiel maintain a mixed collection of 1,000 orchids. Lake Clark Shores, Florida (e-mail
Michael Coronado is vice president at R.F. Orchids. Inc., where he is in charge of growing and hybridizing, lie has traveled extensively around the world to keep abreast of the newest trends in orchid hybridizing. Including the nursery's specialty, vandaceous orchids. In his career with R.F. Orchids, he has participated in many domestic and international orchid shows, including several World Orchid Conferences and the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. He is an AOS probationary judge in the West Palm Beach Judging Center and a life member of the American Orchid Society. . He has served on the Board of Directors of the South Florida Orchid Society. 28100 Southwest 182nd Avenue, Homestead, Florida 33030 (e-mail; Web site

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