Demise of an Orchid – a horticultural tragedy in three acts

cymbidium and how to repot

Not my cymbidium. This is what I wish my cymbidium had looked like.

Now posting firmly to the list of Plants I Won’t Try to Grow Again: Cymbidium. Bleh. A whole three months into this gardening venture and already I’m developing firm (and probably misinformed) opinions about what I don’t like to take care of.

Act One, Scene One

This was a gorgeous stem of flowers hovering above graceful arched leaves, growing slowly and with stately resolve toward the side of its original too-small pot. It would faintly sigh, a most ladylike lament, as if it would not dream of complaining, but “this pot does cramp my toes, and I’d be ever so grateful…”

Act One, Scene Two

So I did my best. I watched the videos about how to repot a cymbidium, such as this one:

If I could have brought my repotting station anywhere near the computer, I would have watched while I was working. Instead I’d get as far as I could then rest the poor thing gently on its side while I ran to consult the video gurus once again.

Act One, Scene Three

Slice – separate – sort out roots, hack off roots, reposition in moist extremely well cultivated stuff – wait a week for it to settle down, then resume normal care.  Yep, did that.

Someone forgot to tell MY cymbidium that it is supposed to enjoy this transplanting, hacking, resting, separating, potting stuff. It acted miserable for the first two days of being told no food, no water – you’re supposed to be resting!

“Like hell,” it muttered, turned toes-up and fainted. Thus begins Act Two of the Shakespearean tragedy, “Demise of an Orchid.”

(INTERMISSION – Champagne & Tea in the Lobby)

Act Two, Scene One

So I played along. I coddled and begged, pleaded and fed, adjusted ambient light, location, background music, scents and sounds — to no avail. Maybe it didn’t like the color of the new terra cotta pot.

Act Two, Scene Two

We played out this lament, Cymbidium and I, for the better part of two months. It’d get better. I’d ask how it felt. Swan song, limp leaf, blackened stem, gentle on-deathbed-feebly-reaching-for-ceiling sigh. “Leave me to my agony,” soft cough. “I see a light… so bright, so warm, so welcoming…”

Act Three, Scene One

So about an hour ago I dumped it and its histrionics out into Bunny Buffet Land. No more drama queen plants. From here on out, the only drama queens allowed in this household are our cats, Chatterbox and Growler – and they wouldn’t dream of being potted.

 <-> The End <->

How to sterilize potting soil for indoor use [video]

Marci Degman explains soil sterilizationSterilize potting soil for indoor use. I had no idea this was even a thing until I was hunting around for transplant guidance about my struggling cauliflower.

Suddenly I was concerned that the 15 bags of potting soil I’ve brought in over the past few months – had I brought trouble under our roof? No, as it turns out, another video explains that, by law, bagged potting soils have to be sterilized before they’re allowed to be sold.

I should probably be worried about post-prep contamination, and I should probably start baking my soil before even using it the first time. But watch the video; learn along with me.

How to Sterilize a House Plant’s Potting Soil —powered by

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Marci Degman, the aspiring gardener, and today we’re going to talk about how to sterilize your potting soil. The reason you would want to do that is because seedlings tend to be very, very sensitive to pathogens, insects, or anything that would get into your potting soil. Most of the time your everyday potting soil is OK for house plants and other plants, but seedlings need every bit of help that they can get. So, even though you buy this and it says that it’s sterile, sometimes while it’s sitting stored at the store, garden center, maybe in your potting shed, pathogens and things can get in the tiniest little holes. So, it might look good, you want to inspect it of course for insects or anything, but even if you don’t see anything, there can be pathogens. So what you want to do, the first method that I’m going to talk about is baking. And what you want to do is get a good baking dish. I like to use a shallow one because that way I can stir it and I can keep an eye on it. You don’t want to leave it in too long or have hot areas that are burning that you don’t notice. You don’t want to change the soil, you just want to heat it up. The best temperature is 180 to 200. Most of our ovens don’t want to go to 180, so if you have 200, set your oven there. And you want to bake your potting soil for 30 minutes. But don’t walk away and ignore it. Fill in maybe just a little bit more. Put it in and about every five to ten minutes check it and take a spatula and move it around so it doesn’t get too hot. If you start to notice any changes in the potting soil, you don’t want it to burn or turn black. Take it out. It’s done. The other way that you can heat it up is in the microwave. Th bad part is you can’t put a very big pan in there. But the good part is you only have to put in the microwave at high for two and a half minutes and if you’re doing just seedlings, all you need is a little bit at a time. So those are the two main ways that you can sterilize potting soil. If you have a really big amount, say for outdoor projects, things that you really need sterile soil for, you can pile up a mound of soil, cover it in black plastic and let it sit in the sun. That’s called solar sterilization, and today we’ve learned how to sterilize our potting soil.

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