Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Orchid That Lives In My Bathroom

Some of you may have heard about The Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom. Here he is:

He is not much to look at. His two leaves are a breathe away from a dead wilt. Most of his roots are so crisp and dessicated they collapse with the slightest touch. He definitely isn't going to bloom any time soon.

Now you may think that none of the above is very surprising, since Phalaenopsis (aka Moth) orchids are so difficult to care for, right? Wrong! Orchids are easy to care for! They have this mystique about them because they are expensive and beautiful, but they aren't nearly as hard to care for as most people think. The Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom is concrete evidence of this. You see, I haven't watered him for over 14 months.

In addition to no water for over a year, The Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom has had barely any light. My bathroom has no windows. And since I tore out the shower several months ago, I barely go in there any more and turn on the lights.

Yup. He lived right up there on that cabinet for 14 months. I put him up there one day and then forgot about him.
So the Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom has lived for over a year with next to no light, no water, and Alaska-in-the-winter humidity, which, judging by the rate I go through lotion and chapstick, is pretty stinkin' dry. And the thing is still alive.

I've almost watered and/or moved him several times, since the poor guy was living in an orchid's version of Hell. And yet I had this perverse need to see how far he could go. He'd already made it three months, how about six? Nine? A year?

Well, after a year and two months I'm getting ready to paint the bathroom, and so need to take down the medicine cabinet. I brought the Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom into a room with better light so I could assess the damage. I didn't have much hope for the thing, even if it had somehow clung to life far longer than it should have.

You see that there, amongst the cobwebs? It's a new leaf!!

And those are new air roots!! So not only is the Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom still alive, it is actively growing!!

I sort of wanted the pot for another plant, but I just couldn't send this plucky guy to the Compost Heap in the Sky like I planned. Anything that endures those conditions for that long deserves to live!! The Orchid that Lives in My Bathroom is now The Orchid that Lives by the Best Window in the House (after a decent acclimation period, that is. You don't give a starving man a cheeseburger.) Since he is now surrounded by other plants he will have a decent level of humidity, and I will probably water him at least once a month out of horticultural guilt.

Moral of the story: if you are ever locked in a bathroom without food, water, or sunlight for a long period of time, hang in there! Be like the little orchid that could! You'll be rewarded in the end. Another moral is that phalaenopsis orchids are absurdly easy to take care of (although getting them to rebloom can be another story.) And finally, don't take a long time to remodel your bathroom. Lives could be at stake.


  1. Wow. 14 months sans water! A true survivor, that one. And thank you for dispelling the myth that I just continued on Facebook--that's exactly what I thought, that orchids were hard to care for, delicate, etc. Bless its little heart! I am impressed. And my moral of the story: Even master gardeners forget their plants sometimes. I have been despairing about not having started seeds yet, but I feel better already!

  2. Unfortunately, this master gardener tends to forget her plants quite often! Things have to be pretty tough to live at my house!

    If you're starting seeds soon, my next post may be of some interest to you. :-)

  3. Yay! I will read it. I ordered some of the same seeds you did--'Cherry Brandy' rudbeckia, for instance, and 'PowWow Wild Berry' echinachea (I think you said you got that one). I was going to order dianthus, but my Minnesota perennials book says not to try growing them from seed. Do you agree? They seem like a great one in many ways, especially for the sandy, poor soil in my yard.

  4. I've grown three types of dianthus from seed with no problems. I started all three inside and had no problems other than they were a little slow growing to start with. One of the varieties (Dianthus deltodies 'Arctic Fire') even bloomed first year from seed for me, which you don't always get with perennials.

    So far I have found dianthus extremely easy to take care of. The only maintenance I ever had to do is a little dead heading. So I say go for it! What do perennial books know anyways?

  5. Oh, excellent! I think I will be picking up a few more seed packets...although I still cannot eat spinach fast enough to keep up with the containers I want! Thanks, my source of gardening wisdom!

  6. What a sweet story! Made me laugh and brightened my day. Thanks.