Orchid Plant Care
Orchid Care for Beginners
Orchid plants have a reputation for being hard to properly care for, and indeed, some kinds of orchids are finicky, difficult to keep in cultivation, and best left to the experts. However, there are many kinds of orchids that are actually quite easy to maintain. If you are wondering how to grow orchids and how to care for orchids then this guide is for you!
Orchids are Epiphytes
Here we consider the popular epiphytic orchids – those that grow naturally on trees and are readily available in nurseries, supermarkets, and big box stores. Epiphytic orchids are not parasites – they produce their own energy by photosynthesis and get their water and nutrients from the air, the rain, and from the dust and organic debris that accumulates around them.
Epiphytic orchids have aerial roots that are covered with a whitish, spongy tissue that absorbs nutrients, rain, and even water vapor directly from the atmosphere. The roots also hold the orchid tight to its host. Epiphytic orchids are most prevalent in tropical rain forests where sunlight is diffuse, humidity is high, and temperatures are moderate.
The best and easiest types of orchids for the novice are Phalaenopsis orchids (the moth orchids), Cymbidium (the boat orchids), Oncidium (the dancing lady orchids), Miltonia (the pansy orchids), and species of Odontoglossum. Perhaps the easiest of all orchids to grow at home are the moth or Phalaenopsis because of their easy and low maintenance orchid care requirements.
How to Take Care of Orchids
Get started with a good looking, healthy specimen from among these orchid genera, and follow these few simple guidelines for orchid care instructions. Read more below for information on how to plant orchids.
Repotting Orchids with the Best Soil for Orchids
Orchids should be repotted when their roots begin to grow over the edge of the container, or when the potting medium deteriorates. Always use fresh orchid potting mix.
Plastic pots and ceramic containers make the best pots for epiphytic orchids. Baskets made of plastic, wire, or wooden slats are ideal, especially for hanging displays. Besides being unnecessarily heavy, unglazed clay pots are porous, allowing water to seep through them, leaving salts behind which can damage delicate orchid roots. They also take longer to dry out which can lead to root rot.
When it is an ideal time to repot and after it has finished flowering, remove the orchid from its container. Choose a pot that is a size larger so the roots have room to grow. Trim back any dead roots and remove any old potting mix from the roots. Use boiling water to sterilize the new type of potting mix if you wish to get rid of existing bacteria.
Orchids will rot and die in regular potting soil or a mix that does not dry out quickly between waterings.
Keep potted orchids outside, in the shade, during the warm months. Under a big tree is ideal. Against a north facing wall is good, too. Orchids cannot tolerate direct sun, but they like bright and indirect light. When temperatures begin to drop in the autumn, bring your orchids inside and keep them near a bright window.
Most flowering plant orchids do best with six hours of indirect sunlight per day. South facing windows and west facing windows provide too much sun, causing orchids to dry out and die. North facing windows do not provide enough sunlight for orchids. East-facing windows are just right. You can keep an orchid near a south or west facing window, just not directly in the afternoon sun’s rays. Move it further away from the window, or install a sheer curtain.
Orchids like moderate temperatures. Don’t leave them next to a cold window at night. Minimum nighttime temperatures in the winter of 50-60°F are acceptable for most orchids. Orchids need ventilation but they don’t like cold drafts. They need gentle air movement at all times. A ceiling fan is an orchid’s friend.
How to Water Orchids
The best way to water orchids is to hold the container under a running faucet until water runs out the bottom holes. Water the growing medium – not the leaves.
Water about once a week during the spring and summer growing period. If the potting medium feels at all moist, don’t water yet. Let it dry out almost completely before watering again. If in doubt, wait. If the mix is completely dry, it’s time to water. Orchids need much less water during the winter; once every 4-6 weeks should be plenty. Orchids that lose their leaves in winter should not be watered at all until new growth begins. Resume normal watering when new growth appears in spring.
Epiphytic orchids are tropical plants and come from rain forests. They like it humid. For most orchids, a relative humidity level of 65-70% is ideal. Successful orchid growers mist their plants frequently. Once or twice a day is not too much. Use a household misting bottle and spray the foliage until it drips.
Many hobbyists stand the orchid potted plant on a bed of gravel in a saucer of water to maintain high humidity around the plant without wetting the roots. Just be sure the orchid’s container is not standing in the water to prevent root rot.
How to Fertilize Orchids for Strong Beautiful Blooms
We recommend applying Perfect Plants specially formulated Orchid Fertilizer every 6 months. You also can use a standard fertilizer such as 10-10-10 that includes the necessary trace elements. We do not recommend a liquid fertilizer as there is more room for error.
Whatever fertilizer you use, just be sure it does not contain urea, since orchids cannot convert urea to usable nitrogen, and it will damage the roots. Water the plant first, thoroughly wetting the roots, then apply the fertilize, so you don’t “burn” dry roots. Some growers include orchid fertilizer at ¼ labeled strength with every watering. Withhold fertilizer during the winter.
Beautiful orchids bloom once a year and some may bloom continuously for a month or more. Some kinds bloom in winter and some in spring, but most orchids bloom in late summer and autumn. After blooming, cut off spent flower stems only as far down as the stem has withered. Sometimes you can trick an orchid into blooming longer by cutting off the flower spikes before they have completely withered. After flowering, most orchids need a rest period with less frequent watering and no fertilizer. Wait two to three weeks between waterings for three or four months after blooming.
Examine your plants regularly and adjust growing conditions (high light, water, air circulation, temperature) if necessary – before problems become severe. Each species of orchid is different so do your research before doing anything crazy. They are easy to grow if you can care for them correctly. Contact us if you have any questions about your orchid plants and orchid care.