Orchid Care 101: How To Care for an Orchid
Orchids are often treated as cut flowers, usually being given as a gift and having their blooms be enjoyed until they fade. Some people do attempt to care for the plant after the blooms fade, but many plants end up dead or in the trash. Caring for orchids can be a rewarding experience, and they are not as difficult to care for as many might assume. So, if you have taken an interest in orchids or were gifted an orchid plant that you are determined not to let die, we are here to help. Before we get started though, it is important to understand that different species of orchids have varying care requirements, and it is always recommended to follow care instructions specific to your variety. Here are some general guidelines to help you understand how to care for an orchid.
How To Take Care of an Orchid Plant
Orchids really are not difficult to take care of. Most orchids do not survive due to overwatering, severe neglect, or incorrect care. There are also many common orchid care tips and practices that are not ideal and really should not be followed. So, to help you understand how to take care of an orchid plant, here are their basic needs.
Orchid Lighting Requirements
Orchids generally prefer bright, indirect light. Place them near a window with filtered sunlight or provide them with artificial light if natural light is insufficient. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as this can damage the leaves.
How To Water Orchids
Orchids should be watered thoroughly but infrequently. The exact frequency of watering will depend on various factors such as the type of orchid, potting medium, and other environmental conditions. It's crucial not to overwater orchids, as this can easily lead to root rot. Most orchids are potted in a bark-like growing medium in a clear container that then sits inside a decorative pot. If this is the case with your orchid, pull the clear plastic container out of the decorative pot and look for any signs of moisture. If the container or the growing medium look moist, hold off on watering. You can also inspect the roots of your orchid to determine if it needs to be watered. If the roots are light green/silvery-grey in color, this means they are sufficiently dried out and can be watered. If they are bright green, this likely means there is still enough moisture in the container and it does not need to be watered. When watering your orchids, we suggest letting the roots and growing medium soak in water for 20 minutes. Drain all the excess water thoroughly and do not water again until you notice the plant has dried out sufficiently. Always use water that is at room temperature, as hot or cold water can shock the roots. One common orchid care tip is to water by placing an ice cube in the pot with your orchid. This is NOT recommended as the intense cold can cause shock or damage to your plant. If you notice that the leaves of your orchid are beginning to look soft or wrinkly, you may need to increase watering frequency.
Temperature & Humidity
Most orchids thrive in temperatures between 60°F and 80°F during the day. Different species may have specific temperature requirements, so it's best to research the specific needs of your orchid. Be careful to never expose your orchid to temperatures lower than 60°F, as this can cause the plant to go into shock and die. This is especially important to be aware of during the winter months if you are accustomed to keeping your orchid next to a window or any other drafty areas of your home.
Orchids also prefer humid environments and do best with 40-60% humidity. You can increase humidity by placing a tray filled with water near the orchids, using a humidifier, or grouping your houseplants together to create a microclimate. You can also mist the leaves occasionally, especially in dry climates. Avoid misting the flowers directly.
Orchids benefit from regular feeding, especially if you want to encourage them to rebloom every season. We recommend primarily using a growth fertilizer to stimulate root and foliage growth throughout the times of year when your orchid is not in bloom. Switching to using a bloom-specific fertilizer several weeks before your orchid begins to bloom will help to stimulate bigger, brighter, and more beautiful blooms. In terms of frequency, a good rule to follow for how to fertilize orchids is to fertilize weakly, weekly. We generally recommended fertilizing at about half the recommended strength once per week or as often as you water your orchid, still being aware of not overwatering your plant. It is also good to flush the potting medium with water occasionally to prevent the buildup of mineral salts. Fertilize when the orchid is actively growing and reduce fertilization during dormant periods.
In their natural environment, orchids can be found growing on trees and other woody surfaces. These epiphytic plants are rarely, if not never, found growing in soil like other houseplants. For this reason, orchids typically require a well-draining potting medium that allows for good air circulation around the roots. Commonly used mediums include orchid bark and sphagnum moss. Orchids do not need to be repotted frequently, however, if you notice that it is becoming very root bound within its current container, it may be time to repot. Overcrowded roots can hinder blooming, so repotting orchids every two years or so (or whenever you notice that it may be starting to get root bound) is a good way to help ensure that your orchid will bloom again. When repotting, trim any dead or rotten roots. Avoid repotting your orchid when it is in bloom as this could cause it to drop its flowers.
Common Orchid Care FAQs
What Do You Do With an Orchid After the Blooms Fall Off?
Remove spent flower spikes by cutting them back to the base of the plant. If leaves or pseudobulbs become yellow or shriveled, they can be trimmed off as well. Use sharp and sterilized cutting tools to prevent the spread of diseases.
How Do I Get My Orchids to Bloom Again?
In the right circumstances, orchids will rebloom around once per year. It is even possible to get them to rebloom several times per year, however, your orchid must be happy and healthy in order to be able to produce blooms. Make sure that all of the growing conditions mentioned above are being met. If lighting, humidity, watering, nutrients, or the potting medium are not ideal, this will stress your plant and it will not be able to put energy towards blooms as it will be putting all of its energy into surviving.
Some orchids require a rest period to initiate blooming. This is especially true for certain types of orchids, like Phalaenopsis. The general growth cycle for orchids consists of leaf growth throughout the summer and early fall. You may begin to notice a bloom spike beginning to grow in late fall or early winter, and then blooms generally emerge in early spring. The rest period is often triggered by the lower temperatures or reduced light that late fall brings. Reduce watering and decrease fertilization during this time to allow the plant to store up energy and prepare for blooming. Fertilize your orchid with a blooming-specific fertilizer several weeks before it blooms to help encourage bigger, more beautiful blooms. Orchids can take time to bloom again. Some species may bloom once a year, while others may have multiple blooming cycles throughout the year. Be patient and consistent in providing the necessary care, and your orchid will likely reward you with blooms.
Do You Water An Orchid After the Flowers Fall Off?
Even after the flowers fall off, your orchid is still alive and growing, which means it definitely still needs to be watered! As was mentioned above, water when the growing medium has had a chance to dry out. Generally, this may mean watering once per week during the growing season. Growth will slow during the cold months of the year, so your orchid will not be soaking up as much water, which means it will need to be watered less to avoid overwatering the plant.
How Long Does It Take for an Orchid to Grow a New Stem?
Many orchids bloom once per year, though some varieties can bloom more often than this. Bloom spikes can look like aerial roots when they first start to form and can take several weeks to grow fully.
How Long Do Indoor Potted Orchids Last?
Many orchids are treated as temporary houseplants and are either thrown away after the original blooms fade or are not cared for properly and die. However, orchids can live for up to 15 years if cared for properly.
How To Care for an Orchid
Remember that different orchid species may have specific care requirements. It is always recommended to identify the specific type of orchid you have and learn about its particular needs. Observing your plant closely and adjusting care as needed will help you develop a successful routine that will lead to a happy, healthy, and blooming plant. If you have any more questions regarding how to care for an orchid, check out some tutorial videos on orchid care or stop into the Garden Center to talk with one of our houseplant professionals. We are always here and happy to help with any of your plant needs! Get in contact with us today!