Part of a Series: #Marketing with Plants

Blue Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) caused something of a consumer controversy when people did not realise they were purchasing an artificially-dyed plant. The the credit of most retailers, these orchids are now mostly sold with a label indicating that they are not naturally so electrically-hued.

During the growth process, the stalk of a white phalaenopsis orchid is injected with a blue dye solution. The intervention is performed in an environment that keeps the infection risk for the plant at a minimum. The blue color is absorbed by the orchid and creates a blue flower.

Subsequent flowerings will result in white blooms. The dye is not available to the public, nor are the exact steps of the procedure. Do-it-yourself dyeing is not encouraged, and at every home gardener’s own risk.

-The Mystique of the Blue Phal

Blue flowers have been prized for centuries: whether for use as pigment (like the blue cornflower), or because of their association with the virgin Mary. It took thirteen years of genetic engineering to create a "blue" rose (and it turned out to be more purple than anything). Cut flowers of the Dendrobium and Cymbidium genera are also often dyed blue to accent floral arrangements.

Electric blue Phals are the latest in ongoing attempts to produce an authentically azure blossom.

There are, however, a few naturally-occurring blue or blue-ish orchids, such as Aganisia cyanea, some Cattleya species (kitchengardener has a picture of one), Thelymitra pauciflora, and Vanda coerulea. [x] Thanks to breeding and hybridisation, there are also more and more convincingly blue hybrids being produced, like the Vanda Pachara Delight.

In any case, a true-blue Phalaenopsis orchid isn’t in the cards just yet, so don’t be fooled by the showy blossoms in the nursery (or the White Stripes). The price markup for a blue Phal is for the sheer novelty, and also the labour of having a horticultural worker carefully inject them with dye.

Making a wound in the plant comes with all the risks of bacterial and fungal infection, so for an orchid that lasts and blooms with the same colour every time, pick a naturally-hued hybrid.

More: My Problem with ‘Blue’ Orchids,” by @thelittleorchidgarden, via kihaku-gato

#orchids #flowers #plant breeding