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Blue Orchids: Real and Fake – All Your Questions Answered

Dyed Blue Orchids

Blue orchid flowers have become popular because they are striking. They are available in many places, including some grocery stores, but before you buy one, there are some things you need to know about them.

Are Blue Orchids Real?

Most true blue dendrobium orchids or blue Phalaenopsis orchids are fake. They are generally Phalaenopsis orchids that have a vibrant blue dye injected into the base of the flower to make their flower petals a vibrant blue.

You can often find green orchids or purple orchids that have been dyed at the same places that sell the blue orchid. The unique color dye is permanent for that flower stem.

After the dyed flower drops off, you have a white orchid, the original color of the plant. Blue Phalaenopsis orchids are sold for about twice the price of white Phalaenopsis orchids, so most people are very upset to find that they actually have an orchid with white flowers.

The blue dye can shorten the life of not only the bloom that is dyed, but the whole plant. It is best not to buy these plants unless you only want to keep them for a few months.

Are There Real Blue Orchids?

True blue flowers are a hard to find in the nature. According to David Lee, author of Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color, only ten percent of natural flowers are blue. Most of these plants tend to be light blue or closer to purple than really blue.

There are, however, rare true blue orchids in nature. This is in contrast to orchids that have been bred to be blue or turned blue from food coloring. While all their blossoms are blue, they are the product of human intervention and other different methods.

While others exist, here are the best known true blue orchid species:

“Blue Lady (Thelymitra crinite)” also known as “Queen Orchid” or “Lily Orchid”

Blue lady orchids are sun orchids native to a small area of Western Australia. The blue lady orchid grows in coastal areas, the edges of forests, and sometimes in swamps. Blue lady orchids are not rare in the part of Western Australia they grow in but are at risk because that area is so small.

Blue lady orchids have a single lance-shaped leaf that is about two to six inches long. The flower stem is eight to thirty inches long and holds two to fifteen flowers. These flowers are usually bright blue but may range from light blue to dark blue. The center is blue and has a yellow crest.

This plant takes experience to grow. It is hard to care for, and it is rare to find them outside of a specialty dealer.

Blue Vanda (Vanda coerulea)  or Lord Rothschild’s Variety

Blue vanda orchid (Lord Rothschild’s Variety) is found in Eastern Himalayas, northeast India, and in Asia in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and southern China. They are very popular and very expensive. The blue vanda orchid was discovered in 1837 by botanist Dr. William Griffith in India, but his specimens died on the way back to England. Joseph Dalton Hooker independently discovered them a few years later and brought back some live specimens.

Blue vanda orchids like to live high up in small-leaved trees, so they get lots of sunshine. The flower is dark blueish-purple with white variegation. They have numerous evergreen leaves that are three to ten inches long. Blue vanda plants grow to be thirty to sixty inches long and twenty inches wide.

These flowers are considered hard to grow. They are also highly sought after, so can be expensive.

Blue Vanda Orchid - Vanda Coerulea

Blue Vanda Orchid – Vanda Coerulea

Sun Orchid (Thelymitra cyanea)

This is another sun orchid and is found in southeastern Australia and New Zealand. Also known as the Veined Sun Orchid, Swamp Sun Orchid, or Striped Sun Orchid, these plants like swampy, sunny areas. They are often found in colonies of four to twenty plants in peat bogs. They are adapted to live in areas that burn regularly.

Veined sun orchids have single long narrow green leaves. The flowers are usually blue, with the dorsal sepal, petals, and lateral sepals striped with a darker blue. They have four to six flowers.

The swamp sun orchid is easier to grow than the preceding blue orchids.

Sun Orchid - Thelymitra cyanea

Sun Orchid – Thelymitra cyanea

Slender Lady Orchid (Thelymitra pauciflora)

Another sun orchid, this is also called the slender lady orchid. It is the most common orchid in Australia and also grows in New Zealand. They are not hard to grow.

Slender lady orchids have one long leaf 11 3/16 inches long. The base of the leaf has a purple tint and the leaves are often spotted with rust. The flowers are around 1/16 inch across and are clustered twelve to a stem.

These blooms look a little different depending on where they are from. In New Zealand, the flowers are dark blue or mauve. In Australia, the flowers are light blue.

Slender Sun Orchid - Thelymitra pauciflora

Slender Lady Orchid – Thelymitra Pauciflora

 

Where Can I Find Blue Orchids?

Orchid lovers can find dyed blue phalaenopsis orchids online at big box stores and florists. Some florists and grocery stores sell them, as well. Be aware that these dyed orchids will produce white blooms after the blue ones fall off. The dye does not make new blooms blue.

True blue orchids are harder to come by. They are sometimes sold in nurseries or from orchid growers. Since they are hard to grow and hard to reproduce, many of these orchids are very expensive.

The American Orchid Society has curated a list of reputable orchid sellers that can help you find the orchid you want without being cheated. Remember that most blue orchids are hard to raise. It is better to learn how to take care of common white phalaenopsis orchids before attempting to grow blue ones.

What Do Blue Orchids Mean?

There are many different meanings given to blue orchids, depending on who you ask. Here are some common meanings for both orchids and specifically blue orchids.

Orchids, in general, mean charm, refinement, beauty, love, thoughtfulness, perfection, virility, and fertility in the language of flowers. In Victorian times, orchids were seen as a symbol of wealth and luxury.

Blue flowers, on the other hand, mean rarity, beauty, spirituality, power, peace, and uniqueness. Blue orchids combine the meanings of orchids and blue flowers. They illustrate spirituality, fertility, peace, and uniqueness.

Are Blue Orchids Poisonous?

According to ATTRA, orchid blooms, are considered safe for consumption. Some may irritate the stomach of some people. The vanilla bean is an orchid and is considered the only fully edible flower in the world.

The ASPCA has a toxic plant list for dogs, cats, and horses. Orchids do not appear on it. However, they do not appear on the non-toxic plants’ list either, so it is best not to give orchids to your pets.

In contrast to naturally blue orchids, the dyed blue orchid may be poisonous. The dye that goes through the orchid stem making Phalaenopsis orchids blue is usually proprietary, meaning secret, so there is no way to know if it is toxic.

The dye may or may not be edible. Because the flowers are not sold for consumption, it is safest not to eat them or allow your pets to eat them.

Caring For Blue Orchids

Most blue orchids are white orchids that have had dye injected in them. These Phalaenopsis species are also called moth orchids, and there are thousands of hybrids to choose from.

Natives of Asian tropical forests, do not grow in soil. They grow attached to trees. The roots grip the trees. However, these flowers are not parasites. They are epiphytes or air plants.

The water they need comes from rain, humidity, and dew. They get their nutrients from leaves and other vegetative matter that falls into the crevices of their roots. Phalaenopsis orchids are the easiest orchids to grow in your home.

Potting Soil

Your orchid probably came in a pot. These plants need special potting soil formulated just for them. That potting soil doesn’t actually contain any soil. It is usually shredded fir bark, charcoal, and perlite.

Orchids need repotting every two or three years. Use fresh potting soil to help your plant thrive. Always use a pot with drainage holes as orchids will rot in potting soil that is too wet.

Water And Fertilizer

Moth orchids do best when the potting soil dries out some between waterings. It is best to water once a week with a weak solution of orchid fertilizer. Most growers suggest watering with the lukewarm fertilizer water in a sink.

Water for about fifteen seconds, then let the orchid drain in the sink for fifteen minutes. The potting soil may appear dry, but this gives the moth orchid adequate moisture. Do not let water sit in the saucer, but empty any out before removing the pot from the sink.

Light

Orchids like the sun but can’t tolerate direct sunlight without the leaves getting burned. Place the flowers where they are in bright light. East or west-facing windows usually have bright light without direct sunlight.

If you do not have a good place to put the orchid in natural light, you can use a full spectrum grow light instead. Be aware that you will need a timer to turn the light on and off, so the plant doesn’t get light all night.

Temperature

Moth orchids prefer a daytime temperature of 65-75 degrees F and a nighttime temperature of 55-65 degrees F.

Humidity

Moth orchids like a humidity of 40-85 percent. Most homes do not have that humidity. You will have to create a place where the humidity is higher.

To compensate for dry air, especially in winter, fill a large saucer with pebbles. Put water in the saucer but do not let it cover the pebbles. Place your moth orchid pot and saucer on the pebbles.

As the water evaporates, it creates a microclimate that is humid enough to keep the orchid happy. Make sure that the water never covers the pebbles in the bottom saucer and fill it regularly.

Preventing Problems

Orchids are vulnerable to pests and diseases. The best way to keep your orchid healthy is to take care of it. Every week when you water, look at the plant, especially the underside of the leaves.

If you see insects or eggs, or the symptoms of insects, immediately isolate the plant. If your orchid looks sick, isolate it or throw it out. It is easier to treat one orchid in isolation than to treat all of your plants at once.

Here are some other tips to keep your plants healthy.

  • To maintain pest and disease free orchids, especially if you have a lot of them in a room or greenhouse, quarantine all new arrivals for 10-14 days and make sure they do not have any pests or diseases before introducing them into your collection.
  • Keep your growing area clean and free of plant debris so pests can’t hide there.
  • Do not reuse potting soil.
  • Sterilizing your tools in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach for thirty minutes between quarantined or sick plants can help keep viruses or other diseases from infecting your plants.
  • Only buy from reputable plant breeders or nurseries.

Orchid Pests

Orchids are vulnerable to some pests. The best way to prevent pests is to quarantine new plants away from your other pots for 10-14 days. Here are some of the most common pests.

Mealybugs are a major problem. If you find an infestation, immediately isolate the orchid from your other plants. The first step to treating your orchid for mealybugs is to remove it from the pot.

Next, spray the entire plant, from roots to flowers, with neem oil. Discard the old potting soil and start with a sterilized pot and new potting soil.

You will need to spray your plant again in 10-14 days to get the crawlers that hatched from eggs since the first treatment. Repeat as necessary until the infestation is gone.

Scale insects are another serious pest in orchids. Neem oil will control them, but may require multiple applications to control the insects. The way neem oil works is by smothering the scale insect, so all parts of the orchid must be treated.

Aphids are a triple threat. They suck the juices out of the plant and leave ugly scars. Flowers may be motled and misshappen, if they open at all.

In addition, they produce an excretion called honeydew. This attracts ants to the orchid. Ants can be a real problem in a greenhouse or home.

Finally, the honeydew also feeds sotty mold, which can cover the plant and block photosynthesis. Organic control is achieved with products containing pyrethrum as the active ingredient.

Fungus gnats do not damage orchids, but they are an indicator that the plant is over watered and over fertilized. The larva feed on fungus that grows in wet, fertile potting soil or soil. The adults swarm around orchids in that condition. If you see fungus gnats, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer you give that plant. As the potting soil dries out, the gnats will leave.

Thrips commonly suck the sap from new orchid blooms and new leaves. They are small and hard to see but the damage to your plant will give them away. These pests have to be eradicated with weekly applications of pesticides so that the larva are killed as they hatch from the egg.

Whiteflies are a pest that can kill an orchid. They are hard to see but reproduce rapidly. The most obvious sign of whiteflies are clouds of the insects flying from disturbed plants. The whitefly adult and larva suck the sap from tender shoots and flowers. Badly affected leaves may yellow and drop. Sprays containing a common fungus named Beauvaria bassiania can be used to kill whiteflies.

Orchid Diseases

Orchids are vulnerable to viruses and rot. Viruses enter the plant through injuries. The injection of blue dye can provide that injury. The small hole can let in a virus that was on the surface of the plant.

Some pests infect the orchid with viruses when they bite into the plant to feed. There are no cures for viruses. While not all viruses are deadly, they will debilitate the orchid.

Rot in orchids is usually caused by overwatering. Watering from the bottom and making sure the leaves and flowers stay dry will help prevent it.

In conclusion, the answer to the question, “Are blue orchids real?” is probably not. While there are some orchids that have blue flowers, they are rare and hard to find. They are also hard to keep alive.

The orchids that are available in grocery stores, florists, and big box stores are dyed blue. The blue bloom will stay blue while it is on the plant. When it falls off, any new blooms will be white.

Frequently Asked Questions

We receive these questions about the blue orchid you can find in many places over and over again. Here are the things readers most want to know.

Does a blue orchid rebloom?

Yes, your blue orchid will rebloom, but it will bloom white. A plant may fail to rebloom because it is not getting enough light.

If your orchid leaves are a grassy green with yellowish tones, your orchid is getting enough light to flower again. The leaves should not be dark green like evergreens.

Do blue orchids stay blue?

The current flower on a dyed blue orchid will stay blue. When that flower falls off, any new flowers will be white.

The flowers of species whose natural color is blue will rebloom with blue flowers.

Why is my blue orchid turning white?

Most blue orchid plants sold in the United States contain white Phalaenopsis orchids that have blue dye injected. When the blue flowers fall off, any new flowers will be white.

How do you keep blue orchids blue?

True blue orchids will stay blue. Keeping blue Phalaenopsis orchids blue can be accomplished in two ways.

The first method is to inject the blue dye into the base of the flower before it opens. This reduces the lifespan of the orchid. It can also introduce viruses into the orchid which can kill it.

The other way is to put the dye in water. The dyed water is put in a deep container and the orchid pot is put in the water for fifteen minutes.

This does not risk infecting a virus into the flower. However, it decreases the orchid’s lifespan and it dyes all of the orchid blue, including the roots and leaves.

The dye can mix with elements in the orchid and cause brown spots. The orchid will not rebloom as often, either. The lifespan of the orchid is decreased.

What are blue orchids called?

The blue orchids you find in grocery stores, big-box stores, and at many florists are really white Phalaenopsis orchids. The orchids with true blue color are called blue lady, blue vanda, swamp sun orchid, and slender lady orchid.

Why are blue flowers so rare?

According to the University of Adelaide, there is no true blue pigment in animals and plants. Living things that appear blue have to use tricks of light and the available pigments they do have.

Plants usually use red pigments called anthocyanins that look different depending on how acid the soil is. For example, hydrangeas are colored this way.

Most blue flowers edge toward purple, not true blue. Since most animals get their color from the pigment in the plant matter they eat, the animals cannot be blue either.

Where are blue orchids found?

Most true blue orchids are found in Australia and New Zealand. Some are found in India, Myanmar, Thailand, and China. Any true blue orchids sold in the United States are grown from plant lines that have been cultivated for many years. It is illegal to own a wild collected blue orchid.

When are blue orchids in season?

The wild blue orchid blooms in November. Phalaenopsis white orchids bloom at different times of the year depending on the species.

How long do blue orchids last?

Flowers can last two to three months. The blooms last so long some people think they are not real flowers. Dyed orchids do not last as long as undyed blooms because the dye is toxic to the flower.

What kind of orchids are the blue ones in the grocery store?

The ones in the grocery store are usually Phalaenopsis orchids. They are naturally white but have been injected with a dye to turn them blue.

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