There should be a long, pointed, shiny, green growth tip. The longer the growth tip, the healthier the plant will be. Dead orchid roots wrinkle and tan when moist and white when dry. A plant with dead roots will not survive.
Finally, when choosing an orchid, take another look at the flowers. Choose a plant with as many flower spikes as you can. For optimal flowering time, find an orchid with many healthy, unopened buds. Inspect the buds at the end of the spike.
If they look wilted, they are likely to wither and fall off without ever blooming. You want the leaves to be pleasant and firm to the touch, as well as a solid green color with no unusual signs. When buying a new orchid, thoroughly inspect the leaves, roots, and flower stems. Check the potting medium and its condition.
Look for signs of pests or diseases. Doing a full inspection before leaving the store will increase your chances of taking home a healthy, quality orchid. Is the general aspect one of cleanliness and order? Do production plants look good? Is the staff attentive and interested in your well-being? Can they answer the most basic questions? Selecting an orchid plant isn't really that different from any other flowering plant purchase, including the satisfaction that comes with the right decision.