Fresh flower arrangements are arguably one of the most beautiful presents anyone would love to receive whether on special occasions or as a surprise pick me up.
However, most people think twice about getting one most of the time out of fear that their thoughtful gifts would trigger unfortunate allergic reactions, which is quite prevalent in the United States. In fact, as much as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are reportedly suffering from different types of allergies, and these numbers are continuously growing.
Thank goodness for orchids! Orchid arrangements are probably your safest bet. Here’s why.
It’s important to understand that not all flowers cause allergies and that the most common trigger of flower allergy is exposure to pollen.
Pollen allergy is also often called hay fever or spring allergy, but physicians refer to it as seasonal allergic rhinitis. In 2015, 8.2% of adults and 8.4% of children were diagnosed with this condition.[ii]
Pollen is the yellow or green substance that can be either fine, coarse, or powdery in texture found right at the center of a flower. Think sunflower.
In nature’s pollination process, pollen grains are carried out by the wind, birds, insects, and other animals to spread and fertilize plants, flowers, and trees.
When there’s a great amount of pollen floating in the air, sensitive people, suffer a misery of symptoms ranging from:
- Itchy throat and eyes
- Redness and swelling around the eyes
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
If a person has asthma, these symptoms can be worse. Local news report exhaustively and regularly on pollen count updates during spring, summer, and fall when airborne pollen grains are on the rise.
FACT: No Pollen Allergy from Orchids
Based on research, most, if not all, orchid species do not cause pollen allergy.
This is because while orchid plants do have pollen, it’s very few, sticky, and stays secured inside the flower’s pollen packet. Unlike notoriously known pollen-heavy flowers, such as sunflower, daisy, and chrysanthemum, orchids patiently wait for a pollinator and do not release their pollen in the air.
It’s almost impossible for orchids to cause a sniffle, making them an excellent choice of gift even for a flower lover with known pollen sensitivities.
Rare Orchid Allergy
While extremely rare, it’s worth mentioning that, although certainly not from pollen, there can be a few potential incidents of orchid allergy.
Skin Allergy from Orchid Sap
Some individuals may be allergic to orchid sap, also called orchid honeydew, which is secreted by healthy orchid plants around the stems of the flowers. The American Orchid Society says the sticky substance basically made of sugar and water and can lead to sooty mold, which attracts sucking bugs and insects.
If you are allergic to orchid sap, you may experience from mild to serious symptoms, which may vary depending on much allergen you were exposed to and how sensitive you are to it.
This condition is called contact dermatitis and symptoms may include:
- Minor redness or rash on the surface of the skin that has been exposed
- Dry, cracked skin
Luckily, it’s usually mild, temporary, and not infectious. It’s similar to the mild allergies you get from some soaps or jewelry.
Reports of this sensitivity are heard from among growers who handle a lot of orchid plants extensively.
If you’re growing your own orchid plants or simply plain concerned about getting exposed to orchid sap, here a few precautionary steps you can follow:
- Do not poke or touch the orchid sap with your bare hands.
- Wear gardening gloves whenever you have to mist, water, prune, or repot your orchid plants.
- If you experience allergy from orchid sap, wash the affected area immediately with mild soap and water.
- Do not scratch no matter how itchy it becomes, as it may open your skin’s pores and pave the way for more serious infections or open wounds.
- Observe the affected area for the next 24 hours. If it doesn’t improve and becomes worse, see a doctor right away. He can prescribe you a topical treatment or an allergy medication to help make you feel better.
On the other hand, if you’re just getting orchid arrangements and plants from your florist, there’s little to no risk of this type of orchid allergy. These flowers have been carefully prepared and arranged by the time they get to your front door.
Plus chances are, these orchid plants require minimal care and maintenance from you. There’s no need to touch them until a year or two when you see the roots poking out, which will tell you it’s time to repot and transfer them to a much bigger pot already.
Fragrance Sensitivity from Orchids
This may possibly be a preference issue, but there are some people who are particular when it comes to strong scents and fragrances. More than an allergy, it’s a sensitivity issue.
"Sensitivity is a general term under which you can have a true allergic reaction, but you can also have irritant reactions, meaning the problem with fragrance could be that it's an irritant. With others, it could be an allergic reaction. It's just not well known what actually is occurring when these reactions develop," explains Marjorie Slankard, MD, a dermatologist and a clinical professor of medicine at Columbia Eastside, a division of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.
Fragrance sensitivity is more commonly reported when people are exposed to scented products, such as lotions, skincare and makeup products, laundry detergents, fabric softener, perfumes, room deodorizer.
When they get exposed to something that doesn’t sit well with their noses, they can get:
- Feel nauseated
- Breathing difficulties
- Skin rashes
- Runny and stuffy nose
If you or a friend you want to give flowers to suffers from fragrance sensitivity (or perhaps you’re not sure if he or she does), the good news is that there are a lot of scent-free orchids, including countless varieties of Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, and Dendrobium.
Now, we’ve established that orchids are, in fact, allergen-free and sensitivity safe. Let us help you pick out the best types of orchids to give away as gifts.
Phalaenopsis Orchids – Also known as moth orchids, phalaenopsis orchids are the epitome of elegance with their long, sturdy stems and large blooms. These orchids give the bang for your buck. They bloom once or twice a year and their flowers can last as long as two to three months.
- Dendrobium Orchids – Your busy bee of a friend, who’s always out and too busy saving the world, and the dendrobium orchids are a match made in heaven. One of the toughest of its kind, the dendrobium orchid requires little care and attention as they can tolerate low moisture and grow at different temperatures as well.
- Cymbidium Orchids – An excellent indoor plant, Cymbidium orchids, or boat orchids, can produce up to 30 flowers in a single spike, which can last even in winter until early springtime. According to the American Orchid Society, the World Monocot Checklist currently recognizes 64 species of cymbidium orchid.
- Miltonia Orchids – Miltonia orchids are native to the forests of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. They make instant air fresheners because of their pleasantly warm and refreshing scent. Although it smells lovely, miltonia orchids are probably not a good choice for someone who has confessed with fragrance sensitivity.
- Cattleya Orchids – Dubbed as the queen orchid, Cattleyas are also fondly called as “corsage orchids,” because of the fact that women used to wear them as a floral accessory for special events in previous times. Today these fancy, fuss-free, and sometimes fragrant blooms are one of our top-selling orchid plants that most clients love to have at home.
- Lady’s Slipper Orchids – An absolute treat to the eyes and a fine piece for any orchid aficionado to possess, Lady’s Slipper Orchids are exquisite. A long-lasting gift, these orchids can live up to 50 years and can grow up to four feet tall.
Orchid Shopping Tips
Take note of these simple but sensible tips that will help you spot the fairest orchids of them all at all times.
- Always go for orchid plants that have the most orchid buds in the stem, because this means you get to enjoy its flowering phase for a longer amount of time.
- The flowers of the orchid plant should be vibrant in color, free of blemishes or any tell-tale sign of a fungal infection, and are firmly attached to a sturdy spike.
- Orchid leaves should be green, without any hint of yellow or brown discoloration or blotches
- The stems or spike of your orchid plant should be erect. If you’re buying your orchids online or at a local store, the plant will most likely be presented to you braced with a midollino stick or wire to prevent them from any damage during transportation.
- Stick with orchid sellers that can guarantee the quality of their orchid plants or orchid arrangement. It’s such a relief to shop for orchid plants knowing that all you have to think about is whether you’re getting a dendrobium or a vanda, a pink one or a white one, in a vase or in a pot, because everything they have is healthy and of excellent quality.
- Pick an orchid shop that’s an expert of the subject matter, too – orchids. Can they answer your basic questions about orchids? Do they give honest opinions and help you make good decisions when shopping for orchids?
- Choose orchid shops near you or that offer delivery. This will ensure you get your orchid plants safely at your front door minus the hassle on your end.
Orchid Republic is conveniently located at the heart of Studio City and offers orchids and fresh flower delivery anywhere in Los Angeles or Orange County.
Don’t let allergies make you give up your love for flowers. Like we’ve said, not all flowers can trigger them. Aside from orchids, you can also enjoy a whole array of allergy-friendly blooms that won’t make your eyes water and your nose runny.
Check out this list:
- Hydrangea – Hydrangeas are heavenly. Charming, colorful florets clustered together. It’s hard to imagine someone who wouldn't be captivated by this classic. A flower genus with over 100 various species, hydrangeas are naturally found in Japan, China, the Himalayas, and other parts of North and South America.
- Tulips – From a hundred or so wild tulip varieties, there are now 3,000 registered varieties of cultivated tulips and counting. They can go from single flowers to double flowers, to ruffled petals, fringed petals, lily-shaped, cup-shaped, and the list goes on. Tulips also come in a wide array of gorgeous and distinct colors, ranging from deep pinks, pinkish purples, and purplish blacks.
- Roses – Roses are one of, if not the, most popular and beloved flowers around the world. There are roughly 100 different species of roses in the Rosa genus and Rosacea family. These woody perennial shrubs come in various parts of the globe, from Asia all the way to Europe, North America, and Africa. Roses come in almost all colors, except for blue and black.
Hosta, begonia, magnolia, clematis, protea, snapdragons, iris, petunia, lisianthus, daffodils are also considered low in pollen and look totally gorgeous in flower arrangements.
Tips to Avoid Flower Allergy
Nothing is more dreadful than sending a thoughtful flower arrangement and then knowing the next day it had the recipient – a friend, a family member, your significant other, or worse your boss, a big-shot client, or your mother-in-law – up all night wheezing, sneezing, and nursing a bad allergy attack.
Here are a handful of tips to avoid this awful scenario:
- Steer clear of flowers with high pollen count, including asters, sunflower, dahlia, daisies.
- Specify allergy concerns when ordering flowers from a florist.
- Stick with hypoallergenic flowers mentioned above.
- Note that flowers with stronger scent could have higher pollen count.
- Go for scent-free orchids varieties of Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, and Dendrobium for people with fragrance sensitivity.
- Succulent arrangements featuring rosette-forming succulents, such as Echeveria and hens and chicks, make wonderful alternatives to flower arrangements.