Unique orchid farm blooms in Central Virginia

Chadwick and Son OrchidsA unique greenhouse on 18 acres in Powhatan County houses more than 13,000 orchids; 8,000 of which are in “orchid daycare.”

“It all started when we first sold an orchid and someone said ‘Thank you, this is lovely, now what do I do with it?’,” explained Arthur Chadwick, owner of Chadwick and Son Orchids. Customers asked if he could care for the plant when it stops blooming, and he decided he could. “Thirteen thousand plants later, that’s what we do.”

Orchid owners pay $2 per plant for the business to care for the orchids until they bloom again.

Chadwick and Son Orchids has the largest selection of blooming orchid plants in Central Virginia. Chadwick’s father has been raising orchids since 1943, and it has been a family agricultural business since 1989.

In addition to breeding new orchid varieties and boarding plants, the company operates a retail store in Richmond’s Fan District. Chadwick said consumers love the tradition and longevity of orchids.

“For starters, they live forever,” Chadwick noted on Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s weekly television program, Real Virginia. “We have many of those original plants from the ‘40s. Orchids will live forever if taken care of.”

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants, with more than 25,000 documented species. An orchid plant will not flower for five to seven years after germination, so owners have to be patient.

They also are popular. Orchids have surpassed poinsettias, chrysanthemums and African violets as a favorite flowering plant, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Orchid Society.

Chadwick said the secret to raising a beautiful orchid is pampering.

“Good orchid care is keeping your plant damp all the time. You don’t want it to get dry; that causes the leaves to fall off,” Chadwick explained. “And we want nice warm temperatures, 60 to 90 degrees year-round. If it gets cooler than that, it is too much for the plant; they get stressed out.

“And yet one of the secrets to growing orchids is to put them outside in the summer, because there you’re getting rainforest-type conditions, sticky, with good air circulation. That makes them think they are living in the rainforest.”