True blue orchids are rare in nature and are generally Dendrobiums that have been died for cut flower arrangements, corsages and boutonnieres. There are few things more striking than orchids in such a brilliant color, and they are favorites for weddings. Orchids symbolize ecstasy, and the name comes from the Greek word for "testicle." Orchids are in the family Orchidaceae of which there are 35,000 species, and more are being discovered. One of the first blooming species, the plants have been around for 120 million years. Orchids live in every climate imaginable and in most environments.
Orchid seed requires a symbiotic relationship with a fungus to germinate. Plants that are sold are hand pollinated and often hybridized to create specific colors, and a special enzyme is used in greenhouses to mimic the symbiotic relationship. In nature, the pollination is done by insects, although a few species can self-pollinate. Flowers can take two to three years to appear.
A blue orchid is often the result of a careful dying process in a florist shop. True blues are so rare and sought after that this method is a generally approved way of achieving a blue. In nature, a blue is formed just as any orchid reproduces. Due to hybridization, more "natural" blues are being produced. These are the offspring of two or three orchids that are crossed to produce the desired color. Few of these are a deep blue, but instead reflect more lavender or purple tones. To make certain of the result, professionals use stem propagation to ensure true results from the parent plant.
Dendrobiums are available in a true blue but are usually dyed. Natural occurrences of blue orchids are unusual, but the Blue Vanda (vandaceous) orchid is a wild blue. It could more accurately be described as a light periwinkle but qualifies as a blue since it is in the cool color spectrum. The Indian Blue Purple Dendrobium is a deep purple with a blackish hue on the edges of the petals. There is also a Blue Cattleya and a Blue Cymbidium. These two result from a hybrid cross to achieve the blue color.
Caring for Blue Orchids
Acquiring a blue orchid can be expensive, so it is best to use a very reputable orchid supplier or organization. Orchids do not do well in regular potting soil but need a special mix. Lots of veiled light, a night temperature of 60-65 degrees F and at least 50 percent humidity are crucial elements to their growth. The daytime temperatures should fluctuate 10 to 15 degrees F from the nighttime temperatures to stimulate blooming. Humidity can be added by misting the plants.
Many orchids can be stimulated to bloom multiple times in a year. Blue orchids are no exception and simply require a rest time and then cooler night temperatures to signal that it is time to form flowers. Often the successive blooms are smaller but still well worth the effort.