Preparing Your Orchids for a Show

When you want to put your orchids in an exhibit (our show is March 4–5), you must prepare ahead of time so that your plants will be in top shape by show time. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your orchids to be shown at their best.

About two weeks before the show, I look at all my orchids to determine which ones might look great by show time. Depending on the genus, some will open right before the show and will be perfect to enter—some Cattleyas, Bulbophyllums, and Angraecums. Other longer-lasting orchids will have been open for a week or longer and will be fine to enter—Dendrobiums, Phalaenopsis, and some Cattleyas.

Anything in bud should be staked early so the flowers will open facing the right direction and will not be nodding downward. Sometimes you have to stake another pseudobulb out of the way of the one that’s budding so it doesn’t interfere with the opening flowers. The stakes should be unobtrusive. Try to hide them from the frontal view and don’t use butterfly clips.

All dead and yellow leaves and pseudobulbs should be removed. Remove all old flower stalks and sheaths. Remove any extra greenery like oxalis and other weeds. Clean the leaves. You’ll be surprised how much better the plant looks! People use milk, orange juice, or vinegar and a rag. I like to use milk and an old sock that I wear on my cleaning hand. It is best to clean the leaves before the flowers open so they don’t get damaged while you’re working. Take your time or you might break an inflorescence or bud like I have done numerous times. Don’t damage the leaves by rubbing too hard. Also, check for scale and other pests. If pests are seen on a plant in a show, the plant will be placed under the table until the owner can remove it from the area.

Remove wire pot hangers unless you think the plant will be hanging in the exhibit. Plant labels can be distracting, so push them deep into the pot.

Set the plant on a surface to determine if it is top heavy or not sturdy. If it is, you can set it in another pot, preferably clay, to give it stability. You can stuff paper between the pots so it doesn’t rattle around in the new pot. Unstable plants are difficult to place in an exhibit.

Put your name on your pots even if you are picking them up yourself at the end of the show. We always end up with a few plants that aren’t picked up and have no names.

If your plants are to be used in the HOS exhibit or a group, make a list of the names and give a copy to the person in charge. Keep a copy of your list for picking them up on Sunday. If you can look up the parents and awards for each plant, this is the most helpful thing you can do for those in charge! If you have no way to look up the parents or you don’t know how, you could ask me or other judges for help. It’s best to ask for help well before the show, so send an email with the names of your plants.

If you want to be even more helpful, look at the Show Schedule and figure out the entry class for each plant and add that to your list. You can ask me or other judges for help with this also, preferably before the show.

Enjoy getting your plants ready to be shown. Hopefully you’ll win ribbons and trophies! Most of all, it helps people like Rick Hepler and Brad Miller put the HOS exhibit together without having to do extra work. It’s a huge undertaking, and we all should do what we can to make it easier.

—Holly Miller