QUESTION: Hi. I was given an orchid, and I'd like to know if it ever flowers. The leaves are about 6" long, firm and tough, and are the classic leaf shape, a little elongated. They come from the base of the plant, in a clump. The old stalks sit up about 5" in the pot, and go yellow and brown. The stalks have ridges along them. It's quite a common orchid in Australia. I've had it for about 18 months, outside. If it does flower, can you please suggest how I can encourage this.
ANSWER: Melissa, thank you for your inquiry. A picture would have been helpful so I'll have to take a shot at answering without having seen the plant. The most common household orchid is the phalaenopsis orchid. The leaaves are quite broad but slightly longer than broad. The old flower spikes on phalaenopsis (phal for short) usually turn yellow or brown following flowering aand do not floweer again and can be removed. As for the vegetative growth (ie new leaves), a small plant is likely to produce no more than three leaves until those grow to at least 15 cm in length. Phals are not considered high light plants and usually do well at windowsills. They do like bright indirect light and often require it for good flowering. Like many orchids, phals appreciate a drop in night temperatures for flowering (down to 35-45 degrees C) and daytime temperatures of no more than 90 degrees.
Your description of the plant, however, doesn't quite square with that of the phalaenopsis ( eg leaves in a clump at the base of the plant and ridged flower stalks.) If this plant is common in your area but not as common elsewhere, it is likely not a phalaenopsis which is why a picture may be helpful.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
Thanks for you comprehensive answer. It seems most likely to bea phalaenopsis orchid. However, You didn't address the main reason I wrote - namely, does it ever flower, and how can I encourage this?
It should bloom so don't despair. If you have not repotted the plant since last blooming, you should do that now. This will stimulate new root growth and promote flowering. The pot should be well drained so water will flow readily through the potting mix. These plants, unlike most other house plants, require air movement at the roots in the potting mix. In a year or two, the potting mix breaks down and needs to be replaced. Use a standard orchid potting mix if possible and screen out the finer particles before use. Orchid plants usually bloom only once per year You can get the best blooms by building strong roots and leaves between blooming periods. The presence of old stalks demonsstrate that this plant is capable of blooming. It is not unusual for a plant to skip a blooming cycle if conditions are not right. Patience is the rule here and the plant will reward you with its flowers. You could also try to use a bloom booster fertilizer to help the process along.