Are you interested in growing orchids but feel a bit intimidated? Don’t worry! Orchids are beautiful, exotic flowers that can add a touch of luxury to any home. Although they have a reputation for being difficult to care for, many varieties of orchids are easy to grow with just a little knowledge.
Orchids are not like traditional potted plants; they have different requirements for care, but if you learn what they need, they can bloom for months each year and live for years and even decades.
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How to take care of orchids
Here are the main requirements for how to take care for orchids indoor:
- Most orchids need to be watered once a week; overwatering can lead to root rot.
- Place your orchid on an east or west-facing windowsill. Keep away from direct sunlight, as this may scorch the leaves.
- Orchid fertilizer should be applied weekly.
- Orchid plants thrive in humid environments, with around fifty to seventy per cent humidity. In most homes, the air is dry due to central heating. To keep your orchids healthy, mist the foliage every two to three days with tepid water. Another option is to stand the pot on a tray of damp gravel.
- Avoid spraying the flowers directly.
- When your orchid stops blooming, repot it in a fresh orchid mix. Traditional houseplant compost is insufficient for growing many orchids. Instead, they require bark-based orchid compost.
- If blooming takes too much time, the most common reason is not enough light. This problem is most common when the plant is grown indoors. Simply move the plant to a place with brighter natural light. Remember that the growth of orchid plants is naturally slow, so you should be patient while checking its growth.
- Keeping the plant label after purchase is helpful since different orchids require slightly different care.
Choose the right spot
Orchids come in all shapes and sizes, each with different light requirements. Some orchids, like Vanda orchids, require full sun, while others, like moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), need bright but indirect light.
East- or west-facing windowsills are perfect for moth orchids and other varieties that need bright but indirect light. However, too much light can scorch the leaves of any orchid.
Light and temperature requirements
Knowing the plant’s preferences to give optimum care to your orchid is good. Some orchids use environmental cues, such as temperature changes, to know when to prepare for blooming. Some orchids prefer warmer temperatures, while others are intermediate or cool growing.
Most species will do OK in intermediate conditions where it isn’t blazing hot or cold air.
- Phalaenopsis orchids prefer a daytime temperature between 19-23°C and 16–19°C at night.
- Other orchids, like Dendrobium, Cymbidium and Oncidium orchids, need a minimum evening temperature of 10°C and can be moved outside in summer to a bright spot out of direct sunlight.
Also, it is essential to understand the appropriate amount of light for the type of orchid you have, as they have very different light needs.
For example, even a ‘high light’ orchid may suffer if you place it on a full-sun window. A ‘low light’ orchid will not be happy indefinitely in the middle of a room far from any light source.
Nort-facing windows may provide too little light, even for the ‘low light’ orchids, but if you place them on a South window, you have to think about some shading options.
East-facing windows provide excellent conditions for growing your orchids, as they get plenty of soft early morning light. A good indicator for checking if the lighting is alright or not is through the colour of the leaves.
The leaves should be bright green if the lighting conditions are appropriate. If the leaves are dark green coloured, it means the lighting is insufficient, and red-coloured leaves indicate the plant is getting too much light.
Humidifier may help
Orchids are a beautiful, popular type of house plant. They typically come from humid, tropical regions and do best in a similarly humid atmosphere. In many centrally heated homes, the air is dry, so it’s important to mist the foliage of your orchid every two to three days using tepid water, but avoid spraying the flowers, as the petals can be marked by water. For indoor growing orchids, you can use humidity trays or humidifier.
Choose the right pot
- If you’re growing moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), you need to grow them in clear containers to allow their green roots to photosynthesise.
- You can use opaque pots for Dendrobium and Cymbidium orchids, as their roots are not photosynthetic.
- Vanda orchids are quite different – they are ideal hanging basket plants. You can grow them in wooden baskets and clay pots or attach them to driftwood. Their roots do not need typical potting soil but good airflow.
Avoid over-potting orchids, as too much compost, will take a long time to dry out and may cause root rot.
Fertilizer frequency and quantity
Fertilizer is essential for promoting reblooming in your dormant orchid. Depending on the instructions, you’ll need to feed the plant by fertilizing it with a balanced houseplant fertilizer either weekly or monthly. Use a high-potassium liquid orchid food.
To encourage flowering, use a high-potassium liquid orchid food.
Just following the instructions on the package is good enough for proper fertilizing. Be careful about the amount in applying fertilizer.
Using more fertilizer can adversely affect the roots and leaves, inhibiting buds’ blooming. If you use less fertilizer, it will impact the growth of the plant in a negative way.
Water your orchid when they need
It’s important not to overwater your orchid, as this can lead to root rot.
- The best way to tell when your orchid needs watering is to stick your finger into the potting mix. When the mix feels dry, it’s time to give your plant a drink.
- Another way to tell when an orchid needs watering is to lift the pot and feel how heavy it is. A dry pot will feel very light.
- To water moth orchids correctly, look at their roots. If their roots are green, the compost is still providing moisture, but if they look silvery, it’s time to water the plant.
- Vanda orchids are often grown in glass vases without compost. They require a special watering regime which includes filling the vase with water daily during the summer months and then emptying it after half an hour.
To keep your orchid healthy is important to water it regularly. You may need to water your orchid twice a week during the warmer months when the plant is actively growing. In the colder months, watering once a week should suffice. Be sure to use room-temperature water and water slowly until it flows out of the pot. One easy way to do this is to soak your orchid in a bowl with water but let the excess water come out completely before placing it back in the decorative pot.
Common pests to be aware of
If you grow orchids through organic seeds, the probability of pests attacking is comparatively lower. However, prevention is always better than cure! Therefore, you should use pesticides to get rid of the pests. Some of the common pests that can hinder the plant growth include:
- scale insects;
- mealy bugs;
These bugs easily attack the tender leaves and steps that inhibit the growth of blooming buds. You can find scale insects on the flower stalks and above and below the leaf surface, while the mealybugs prefer new leaves. An easy way to remove them is to use soapy water and a sponge and clean each leaf. Alternatively, you can use an insecticide. Consult with the local florist about the usage of pesticides according to the variety of orchid and the bugs that are attacking.
FAQs regarding orchid care
When should I re-pot the plant?
You should re-pot the plant after two to three years of interval.
What will cause my plant to crinkle?
Lack of water will make the plant crinkle.
What does black blotches on the leaves mean?
It means the plant was exposed to too much sunlight.
Should I trim the roots?
It’s a common scenario for some roots to start growing up and over your pot, but these rots are actually helping the plant to collect more moisture and feel healthy. You can only trim an orchid root if it’s dry and you’re certain it’s dead, but you should be very careful not to cut too deep and harm the plant.
Do you water an orchid after the flowers fall off?
After your orchid’s blooming cycle is complete, allow the flowers to wilt and fall off. Enjoy your orchid’s thick green leaves until next year. During this period of your orchid’s annual growth cycle, you can water it slightly less often in preparation for next year’s blooming cycle.
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- We would recommend that you stick to only one or two species of orchids for your convenience in terms of both cost and maintenance of the plant.
- The growth of the plant is slow compared to other blooms and you need to be patient with the plant to get the desired blooms.
- Take your time to research the exact orchid type, so you can provide optimum conditions in terms of light, watering, soil and pot so that you can enjoy the beauty of your plant for months.