Overcome the fear factor, and enjoy this gorgeous flower throughout the holidays.

Christmas abounds with blooms--poinsettias, paperwhites, and amaryllis are all traditional staples. However, another flower waiting in the wings to become a holiday favorite may come as a surprise. Orchids are the new seasonal darling. Affordable, easy to care for, and long-lasting, these plants adapt to a number of styles. You can dress one up in supreme elegance or take it in a more casual direction.

What was once an exclusive, exotic, hard-to-find plant now has a new image. Notice these changes, and before you know it, you'll be hooked.

Orchids are abundant. Look for them at mass-market retailers, garden shops, florists, and grocery stores. Choose from many selections with myriad flower shapes, sizes, and colors.

Orchids are inexpensive. You can find small 4-inch pots for as little as $12, and 6-inch containers begin at around $18. While this may seem like more than pocket change, remember that they will bloom for at least two months. Few other flowers perform so beautifully for so long.

Easy Care
Orchids are some of the best blooming houseplants a novice can try--delicate, dainty flowers belie this plant's tough-as-nails nature. Follow these steps, and discover how simple they are.

  • Place orchids in bright light--not direct sun, but somewhere you can comfortably read during the day without extra illumination.
  • Avoid cold drafts. A brisk breeze doesn't readily damage open flowers but does cause unopened buds to drop.
  • Give the plants a thorough drink once a week with room-temperature water. Place the pots in the sink, and drench the soil. Mist the leaves, and shake the plants to shed excess moisture. When the orchids have completely drained, put them back in their decorative containers.

Holiday Decor
Personal Christmas styles tap into family traditions, memories, regional attitudes, and budgets. Orchids adapt to a wide range of fashions, depending on the preferred look.

They make wonderful companions to silver. Line your bowl or compote with plastic for moisture protection, put the orchid's pot in place, and fill in around the top with Spanish moss. Wind sparkling glass-bead garland around the top for another decorative layer, draping it over the edge.

For a different approach, group an orchid assortment on your mantel. When a casual look is appropriate, cover the potting medium with lush green moss. Attach some around the pot's rim with a glue gun, and add a few glass ornaments around the leaves. Remove the plant stake supporting the bloom, and introduce a pine or fir branch in its place. Additional cut greenery, potted ferns such as maidenhair, and ornaments on the mantel pull this easygoing yet lush look together.

Guilt-Free Goodbye
After the holidays, we're accustomed to disposing of poinsettias and some forced bulbs when they've given their all. The only difference with orchids is that the flowers last well into January and February. But once they're through, if you cannot imagine hanging on to your plants until next year, pass them along to a friend who might enjoy making them rebloom.

Give yourself a treat, and try this genial, glorious plant. It offers a great holiday look with no fuss and blooms right into the New Year.

"Simply Stunning Orchids" is from the December 2003 issue of Southern Living.