By Anne Baley
What is poor man’s orchid? Otherwise known as Schizanthus pinnatus, this colorful cool-weather flower grows blooms that look amazingly like that of the orchid plant. Orchids have gotten a reputation for being picky flowers to grow successfully. Deserved or not, this reputation scares off a lot of novice gardeners. If you love the look of orchids but don’t want to worry about fussy plants, poor man’s orchid plants may be the ideal solution to your gardening dilemma. Learn how to grow poor man’s orchids outdoors as well as inside as a potted plant.
When growing Schizanthus, the biggest condition you need to provide is an early start and mostly cool weather. This plant will stop producing once the heat of summer arrives, so begin it indoors about three months before your last frost date in the spring.
Sprinkle the seeds on top of a pot of finely sifted compost, then cover them with a sprinkling of the same compost. Mist the soil with a fine spray, then cover the pot with a piece of plexiglass, glass or plastic. Place the pot in a completely dark place until the seeds sprout.
Caring for Poor Man’s Orchid Plants
Schizanthus care mostly consists of keeping away unpleasant environmental factors and letting the plants grow. Once the seedlings reach 3 inches tall, pinch the ends of the stems to encourage them to branch out and grow bushy.
Plant the seedlings in rich, well-drained soil where they will get morning sun and afternoon shade. Poor man’s orchid is a relatively rapid grower, and will soon reach its full height of 18 inches, branching out into a fluffy bush.
While poor man’s orchids do well in shaded beds, they thrive in planters, hanging pots and indoor windows. Place them where they will receive cool breezes and morning sun, then move the pots to a shaded spot in the afternoon.
Wait until the soil is almost dry before watering each time, as the roots are subject to rot if they stay too moist.