Sometimes the local nursery doesn’t have the options or availability of the orchids that are on our wish list. The next step is to search online for that special orchid.
Buying orchids online can be a risky business. It’s hard to know what to look for, what to overlook, and when to forcefully say, “No!” and demand your money back.
In this article, you’ll learn the guidelines to good orchid buying online.
Orchids aren’t like electronics, where you can measure down to the last 1/16 of an inch in preciseness.
Each plant is different.
Species will differ form one another, even though they came form the same mother plant.
You’ll have to be lenient, and know that the picture online isn’t what you will get, but your plant will eventually become that in time. You can ask for a picture of the plant in its current state, and some venders will be happy to send you a picture of the exact plant you’ll receive. Not all stores can do this though.
Start with the Correct Online Seller
Not all orchid nurseries are the same. Some have an awesome reputation, and others are strictly in for the profit. I’ve added a list of some online stores at the end of this article, if you are wondering where to go.
But before you read the suggestions, take a few things into consideration:
1) not all people are the same.
2) Not all orchid growers are the same.
You can have a nasty experience with a big-brand name store, just the same as you can have with a small vendor. What really matters is how will they treat you when a problem arrives and if they are ready to listen.
Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and Facebook: What’s Best?
A common place to buy (and sell) orchids is through big commercial websites with established greenhouses. As for smaller businesses, you don’t know who’s on the other side.
The positive side of buying at well-known places and large stores with commercial greenhouses is that they are harder to disappear overnight. Both E-bay and Amazon sellers can delete their entire account in literally 30 seconds, and you can’t even write a comment or even ask where your package is.
(Yes. Tracking is important!)
Smaller stores have an advantage in one-on-one detail. When looking at small Etsy owners, take into consideration that it is a bit riskier, but the price and communication might be well worth it if and only if you find a reputable vendor.
Trust me. There are several reputable vendors on Ebay and Amazon, and I’ve included some in the recommendations below. Yet… Not everyone is. Don’t go on a shopping spree and buy a whole bunch of orchids from a place you’ve never bought from before, especially if they are small.
If you’re going to do that, go to a bigger store, where delivery is guaranteed.
Some of the home-based vendors (some, not all) will be growing their orchids without proper fertilization, pesticides, and regular amenities that are more common in larger stores.
If at all possible, go with a big-name store, and not a person you’ve never met.
How Do You Decide Who’s Reputable?
Communication is the best way to start.
Do they answer your questions?
Are they friendly?
Ask. Ask. Ask.
Imagine if something went wrong. By the way they treated you online before you purchased the orchid is a good indication of how they’ll treat you when dealing with a problem.
Read the comments. Always read the comments.
Even though the store is online, make sure it is close to you. The closer, the better. The further away the store is, the longer the transport will take…meaning the more time your orchid will stay in a suffocating, dark, tight package.
I say this but can’t help but chuckle a bit… Yes, there are quite a few dirt roads in Kansas and occasionally a delivery truck might get stuck in mud. But, in general, the closer the better. You can pay more for express delivery, and in my experience, it’s worth it.
Last tip, before you hit that buy button: don’t buy orchids in winter or during an extreme heat wave. The plant will take a few months to bloom anyway, so why expose it to that risk? It’s hard enough to keep a good plant alive during transport, but below freezing or roasting in a plastic bag is pushing the limits.
Bud blast can occur even for a few hours in lower temperatures, so imagine a few hours on your front porch waiting until you get home from work to pick it up.
Avoid winter purchases—period.
If you have to, ask the vendor to put a heat pad in the package. This always helps.
Once You’ve Hit the BUY button
Always ask about tracking numbers. As buyers online, we are always impatient to find out where our package is. I’ve had packages take a wrong turn and visit more countries than I have. Every reputable company that ships items will have a tracking number. Cancel the order if you see it will take longer than two weeks. One week is pushing it, but still doable. Just add extra tender, loving care when it arrives.
Before you know it, your package has arrived. Don’t rush into opening it.
Always take pictures. Before you touch the package sitting on your front porch, take a picture of it. This is important for two reasons. The box could arrive damaged, yet you’ve no idea how the orchid is inside.
1) If the orchid is damaged too, then you have proof it wasn’t your fault.
2) If the orchid isn’t damaged, you can request the seller (by leaving a constructive comment) to better prepare the packages the next time. Extensively photograph your package, because it’s harder to claim it was damaged in the mail after you opened it.
What NOT to Expect When Ordering Orchids Online
If you’ve never ordered an orchid online, then you need to be prepared for a few things. Let’s look first at what not to expect, since it’s easier to adjust our dreams (before it’s a reality), than it is to fix a broken expectation.
1) Shipped orchids in bloom will NOT arrive in superb conditions.
The most vulnerable time in the orchid’s life is when it’s in bloom. It’s hard enough for the plant to move to the living room table from where it was all year long. So, imagine wrapped up in plastic, shoved into a suffocating box, without light or water for nearly a week.
If it was in bloom, chances are it won’t be after you unpack it.
To ship an orchid, it preferably needs to be during the dormant cycle, or shortly after bloom. This doesn’t say that some nurseries won’t ship out orchids with buds on them. They might. It’s not as uncommon as you’d think, but there is no guarantee that the buds will blossom.
Have you ever seen those videos of your international luggage being slung onto the conveyor belt, almost ripping open the seams? Not to blame transportation, but handling can be quite harsh. You won’t be buying overseas, since that can get you into trouble with bringing plants across borders, but you get the idea. 😊
If you can choose between an orchid that has a bud and one that has just flowered, chose the second. You’ll have to repot anyway, so this is the best to introduce change.
2) Don’t Expect a Quick Bloom, Unless Stated By the Seller
It might take one or two more years for the orchid to bloom. Don’t except an adult plant, unless the word “ADULT” is clearly specified in the label. Most plants that are ready to be mailed out are not seedlings, (yet you can order those too) but will not be older, mature plants, either.
Even if you see the words, “Ready to Bloom,” or “Near Blooming”, this could very easily imply another year and a half. Always ask the seller when the orchid will bloom, and don’t take “soon” for an answer.
We’ve become accustomed to snap-of-the-finger immediateness, and what can be quick to others, isn’t our definition of quick. Talk to the vendor and verify the necessary time before these specific orchids bloom.
One year? Two? Honestly ask yourself if you’re willing to wait that long. It’s definitely worth it financially to wait, since orchids in bloom can double the price. But if you’re not willing to wait, it might be better to check with your local nursery for something in bloom.
3) Beware of the words: rare and limited edition.
Rare has become so widely used, and so many orchids have been sold under the name “rare” that they aren’t rare anymore. Sometimes it’s just a way to jack up the price.If you do see an orchid you like, shop around at different places to find the exact same species and the full ID. You can check how to understand orchid ID in this article, so you’ll know what you’re looking for.
What To Do As Soon As You Open Your Package
1) Examine the Roots.
Once your orchid is out of the box, you’ll want to examine the flowers and leaves, but the most important part of the plant is the roots. Start with them.
This does mean you’ll need to repot, but it’s best to see what you are dealing with from the very start.
Are they rotted?
How healthy are they?
Are they mushy and limp?
When you squeeze them, how do they feel?
2) Examine the Leaves and Stem
Even though you’ll want to be looking for flowers, that isn’t the best indicator of a healthy plant. The leaves and stem are next on the list of things to examine. You’ll need to be aware of any discolored areas, either yellow, brown, or black. How strong and plump are the leaves?
They’ll be in a bad shape from being inside the wrapping material for a week, so don’t be too harsh here. What you’re looking for are things that could indicate problemsother than material damage.
Black spots, brown tips, discolored rings, and other indications that the leaves have bacteria, fungus, or viruses. If you want a longer list of specific items to look for, you can go to the problems part of the LEARN page, and scroll through a few pictures there.
3) Look for Bugs
Look for bugs, insects, pests, and any type of creepy crawler on the stem and roots. Bacteria and viruses are microscopic, so even though you don’t visually see any harmful pests right away, keep your orchid away from the rest of your collection for about two weeks.
This guarantees that enough time has gone by for any eggs to hatch, larvae to appear, and pupae to develop.
If there’s anything wrong with your orchid, then two weeks is plenty of time for the problems to appear.
Some orchid growers say to leave them up to a month or more, but I’ve personally never had a problem after two weeks.
Time To Repot Your Online Purchase
Now that you’ve inspected your orchid and it looks well, you need to decide what you are going to repot the orchid with. What was used as potting medium when it was shipped? This will give you an idea of how the nursery grows their orchids, but sometimes, it’s not the best medium to be using.
Not to downplay nurseries or orchid growers, but not all nurseries are the same. Some can be pretty harmful to the orchid, just to save a few dollars.
The examples of this are more than I’d like to mention, but… Nurseries can use the wrong potting medium for a number of reasons. They’re after a profit, so they need to use the cheapest medium that is available.
Business is business.
Sometimes they specialize in other flowers, and orchids just happen to be included in the “others” department. They do what they can, with the man-power they have. Not all their employees might know the right potting medium when asked to package and ship.
So, don’t let what the orchid came potted in influence your decision on what potting medium to use. Just use that information as knowledge of how well the orchid will adapt to what you’re going to put it in now.
Each orchid has a potting medium that it adapts well too, and you might have your own, too. Go with what works for you.
Extra Care For Your New Arrival
While you’re thinking about the potting media, it might be good to do the following things to ensure a better plant life. These are not required, but are extra protection and prevention.
1. Rinse your orchid in lukewarm or room-temperature water. This will give it a taste of water after being a week held up inside a plastic package.
2. Soak the roots in a solution with anti-fungal treatment. You can use hydrogen peroxide for a substitute for this step, too. What you don’t want to do is wipe a cloth on the top and bottom of the leaf. This will damage the pores that are open and the orchid could react badly. Especially the bottom side of the leaves—they’re extremely sensitive.
3. After the soaking, spray or mist for orchid with a light fertilizer. Some orchid growers deem this step too much, since the orchid has already been through the worst week of its life.
As I see it, a little extra “nutrition” couldn’t hurt, as long as it is the most diluted possible. You don’t want to over react and spray the roots heavily. This will (for sure) give your orchid root burn. Dilute the fertilizer twice as much as you usually do.
A tad bit is helpful; too much, and you do more harm than good.
When To Ask For A Refund For A Damaged Orchid
After verifying the roots, you can and should demand a refund if ALL the roots are all damaged beyond repair. One week in a closed package shouldn’t damage the roots to the point of loosing every single one of them. A root here and there that has been damaged or died is normal and to be expected. Cut those off and keep the healthy roots.
If the leaves are all bent, broken, and damaged, there is little you can do in terms of refunds. This damage is more likely to have occurred during transport and not the nurseries fault.
Since the package changes hands so many times, it’s hard to pin-point a culprit.
Take pictures and talk to the vender—conversation is a true miracle. See what can be done in terms of future deliveries, but a full refund is going to be hard.
Recommended Places To Buy Orchids Online
Now that you know what to expect from an online orchid nursery, the only decent way to end this article was with a list of some of the places that have a good name. Note: these are not paid recommendations, and I didn’t get one dime to add their names here.
On a personal note, I haven’t personally bought at all these places. These are names that appeared in a questionnaire done with orchid enthusiasts, asking what their preferred places to buy orchids were. I buy all my orchids in one place (creature of habit, I guess) and didn’t want to be biased in my recommendations.
I asked for places that others have personally bought from and had a positive experience.
To my surprise, some of the small venders with only Facebook or Ebay stores, ranked quite well next to top name nurseries.
These were the favorite top answers of online orchid shops (in no special order):
Diamond Orchids This store is also managed by an AOS judge, Peter T Lin. Besides being passionate about orchids, Mr. Lin is known as “Mr Sophronitis”, since he loves growing them. He also travels and delivers speaking engagements, teaching others about orchids. Diamond Orchids, situated in Southern California, specializes in mini-catts, sophronitis, mini species, angraecoids, and neofinetia. You can find awesome pictures of their orchids on Facebook and also buy them on Ebay.
Sunset Valley Orchids This online store is situated in Vista, CA. They hybridize their orchids, specializing in the Cattleya Alliance, Catasetinae, Australian Native Dendrobiums, and Paphiopedilums. In addition to those, they also work with Sarcochilus, Zygopetalum Alliance, and Stanhopea and related orchids. The owner, Fred Clarke, states that their nursery aims for three things: 1) easy to bloom, vigorous, and compact growing plants, 2) the development of new flower colors and shapes, and 3) award quality flowers.
Orchids Limited has their own website called Orchid Web. What started out as a small greenhouse in Plymouth, MN, expanded into 5 greenhouses, each with a special climate. They have a special page on their blog with pictures illustrating how they ship plants, which is well worth checking out.
Orchids By Hausermann Situated in Villa Park, IL, this online store has a vast history in orchid cultivation. The company started in 1920 as a broad horticultural store, selling roses, sweet peas, and gardenias. In 1935, the company changed names, narrowing their expertise. They now specialize in orchids, and cultivate over 400,000 Cattleyas a year.
Andy’s Orchids is situated in Encinitas, CA, and also has a great history behind it. Being founded in 1990, it is a family-owned business. They have over 3,000 species, and 180,000 plants. When you purchase an orchid online from this store, you’ll also get a brief guide of how to grow it properly.
R & R Orchids, situated in Loxahatchee Groves, FL, has been in business for over 17 years. He is also known as the Vanda man. Go to Facebook if you want amazing pictures of Vandas. This site is absolutely breath-taking.
Carter & Holmes Orchids have been around since World War II, when they sold cut flowers. Opening in 1947, their flowers were mainly used as corsages and in floral arrangements, but later moved into orchids for home owners. In 1970 they specialized in hybridizing orchids, especially Cattleyas. Situated in Newberry, SC, this store is also a family owned business.
The Orchid Whisperer Situated in Haiku, Hawaii, The Maui Orchid Whisperer is a small family-owned (Ted and his daughter Alexis), certified nursery mentioned in several travel guides as exotic places to visit when on vacation in Hawaii.
They have a Facebook sale live at 12pm Hawaii time hosted by Ted, where you can see the plants that are for sale. The concept behind this creative method of buying is that you can see on video the plant that you are getting. There are no surprises. They come highly recommended. I talked to Alexis and she was very personable—exactly what you want when buying orchids.
Orchid Inn, Ltd is a store that specializes in Paphiopedilum species, Brachypetalum, Parvisepalum and Multifloral hybrids. If you want to grow your orchid from a very tender young age, this is the place to shop. Each year, Orchid Inn produces 300 crosses, 4,000 to 5,000 flasks or approximately 100.000 seedlings. If you buy at Orchid Inn, look for Sam Tsuai. Sam and his wife Jeanie have been in the orchid business since 1980, and send out their seedlings in flasks.
New World Orchids If you want miniature orchids, then I highly suggest this store. What started out as a Japanese Orchid store, branched out to growing miniature orchids found all over the world. Situated in Manchester, MI, New World Orchids is owned and run by Dr. Kristen Uthus with help from her husband, Dr. Kevin Wehrly, and her two sons, Henry and Gus.
CK Orchids Situated in Saint Petersburg, Florida, is a business run by Chris Kruse that specializes in three orchids: Wilsonaria, Dendrobium, and Liparis Viridiflora. There are a lot more orchids for sale through his Facebook page.
The Tiny Jungle This orchid store, situated in Daly City, California, specialize in interesting hybrid Orchids, Gesneriads, and Begonias. They are sponsoring a huge sale on their orchids.
Akatsuka Orchid Gardens This orchid store amazed me. I have NEVER in my orchid shopping received such beautiful, good-priced orchids. They arrived in only 3 days even though they were shipped from Hawaii and I live in Kansas. With no extra cost to me, they upgraded their shipping to express, and all the 5 orchids I ordered came in spike. One was in bud, which was amazing, because for the price they charged me, I thought I was getting tiny orchids. So my shout-out to them. The unboxing video I made (along with my cat, Midnight) is from this company.
Now that you have a variety of suggestions and know what to look for, it’s time to start ordering your first orchid online.