What should I look for when I buy an orchid?

Healthy orchids should have turgid, pest and blemish-free leaves.

Many consumers, both retail and retailer, find themselves in a position today of having to make purchase- oriented decisions about an entirely new -- to them, at least -- class of plants: orchids. What should they be looking for? How can the purchase dollar be maximized? How can the best shelflife -- of vital importance for both the retail and retailing consumer -- be obtained?

Here are three helpful hints:

The Plant

Should be in proportion to the container, have roots in the media, be clean and unblemished, turgid and medium green, free of visible pests.

The Flowers

Should be lustrous and held well above the foliage on a strong, well-supported spike, be unblemished and free of fungal spotting, have some buds yet to open (never, ever accept a plant with flowers open to the tip of the spike, as it is impossible to judge flower life after all flowers have opened), and have a generally appealing aspect that fits with your decor.

The Vendor

Is the overall aspect one of cleanliness and order? Do the production plants look good? Is the staff attentive and interested in your welfare? Can they answer the most elementary of your questions? Selecting an orchid plant isn't really that different from any other flowering plant purchase, including the satisfaction that comes with the proper decision.

The AOS thanks Ned Nash for this essay.