While “selection” sounds obvious, it isn’t. Here’s the complicating factor about plant selection. You can’t just go by what the plant looks like, or by what you think it’s care and needs will be. Orchids can vary tremendously in terms of their care. Most, fortunately for us, are easy to care for. And there can be a lot of similarities. For example, over 90% of my orchids get the same care with some slight variation in terms of light level, handled simply by selecting where I will place them after their periodic watering. But they are all exposed to the same temperatures, most use the same bark, almost all are on the same watering schedule and consume the same fertilizer.
But some have proven very difficult to care for, to even keep alive in certain cases. I have had some spectacular successes rescuing plants and getting them to bloom, and I have had a few failures, where no matter WHAT I did the plant did not respond. Some orchids simply failed to thrive so miserably that if they didn’t die on their own, I simply threw them away. Sad, but true. But certainly not frequently. I have been known to nurse a given specimen along for literally years, experimenting with the various variables trying to find what would make that plant “happy.” Throwing a plant away has always been a last resort.
And even if the care is as easy as can be, if it is very different from what you anticipated, your results can still be disastrous. You simply don’t keep most orchids the way you would keep the typical house plant. So… how is a body to know?
Look at the classes of orchids on this site. Trust me – if it’s here, and if you can follow directions – and if you can keep other plants alive – you can probably keep these orchids successfully and enjoy their blooms for many years to come.
How do I know this? Simple. Trial and error. I’ve purchased lots of orchids with a tremendous variety of sizes and prices. Some exotic, expensive orchids that I purchased have died. I have also purchased some exotic, expensive orchids that were near death (which, fortunately, meant I didn’t pay that expensive price tag) and… like all my orchid purchases, they either lived or they died! I either figured out (through trial and error and/or research) how they were cared for or I didn’t. So if a specific orchid – or genus – is listed on this site, that means I have figured out how to care for it at best or at worst, at least managed to keep it alive. Cheap plants are obviously less risk to purchase and potentially lose than expensive ones. So start with cheap orchids. See if they are something you really care enough about to learn how to care for them. And most importantly, see if you enjoy keeping them! If you lose interest, better to have a little invested than a lot.
How do you know the difference between the ones that are likely to struggle and the ones that are likely to thrive – in other words, the ones you could probably keep successfully as opposed to the ones you probably can’t – read what I write about them and look at the pictures. I’m incredibly, reliably, incorrigibly honest. At least, that is, where it comes to orchids. I’ve learned a LOT of lessons. Some the easy way, some the hard way. I have no problem passing them all along. So if you see it here on this site, and it is robust and beautiful and healthy looking, if you have a reasonably “normal” household (i.e. not above 85 degrees Fahrenheit inside temperature in the summer and not below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and you have sufficient choices in terms of positioning – exposure to light) you should be able to learn enough from this site that you can keep at least some species of orchids successfully.