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UF/IFAS Experts: Skip the Roses and Go Straight for the Orchids on Mother’s Day

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What’s better than roses on Mother’s day? Orchids, which are easier to take care of and can last for years, according to University of Florida experts.

Wagner Vendrame, a professor of environmental horticulture at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, specializes in growing and preserving orchids and says orchids make a great Mother’s Day gift.

“Between a bouquet that lasts one or two weeks at most and an orchid that can stay in bloom for three months and live up for 15 years or longer, orchids are definitely a winner for any mom’s heart,” Vendrame said.

Orchids are big business in Florida. According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture-Floriculture Crops report, the value of potted orchids sold in 2015 was $78 million in Florida, and $288 million in the U.S. These sales in Florida had an estimated economic impact of 2,208 jobs, UF/IFAS economists say.

Vendrame recently heard a woman call an NPR talk show to tell about the orchid her son gave her 15 years ago for Mother’s Day. All these years later, the plant is alive and well. He was amazed the mother kept the orchid alive for 15 years, but that showed him that she learned about the plant and took good care of it. Orchids are much easier to care for than people might think, Vendrame said.

“That call was a good example why an orchid can be more valuable than a rose bouquet, it can become a long-lasting memory,” said Vendrame, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

Vendrame and his wife were given an orchid when their son was born and that’s alive and well nearly 15 years later.

“I placed that orchid in an oak tree in front of my house and it blooms every year,” he said.

Orchids offer a variety of colors, patterns and large flowers that make a statement and a focal point in any home, Vendrame said. Some orchids also offer interesting aromas and perfumes, with some having scents resembling lemon or even chocolate.

The market for orchids has expanded significantly during the past 15 years, Vendrame said. That’s partially because of higher demand, lower production costs and affordable prices for customers, he said. Science also has played a role by advanced propagation and production techniques, breeding and genetic improvement for new plants and improved hybrids, Vendrame said.

An orchid tends to flower at the same time every year, so the gift can last for years to come, said Liz Felter, a regional specialized horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Extension Orange County.

Orchids are very showy and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and color, Felter said.

They hardly need to be watered because the roots will absorb moisture from the environment if they are outside in a shaded area, she said. Otherwise, they may need to be watered every two weeks. On the down side, most orchid owners tend to “love their orchids to death” by overwatering or over-fertilizing them, Felter said.

“Orchids are beautiful and come in many varieties that plant lovers at all levels of plant care experience will love and enjoy,” she said.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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