How to Grow Orchids

How to Grow Orchids

I never thought I could grow an orchid, let alone more than one. Their reputation for being finicky scared me off… after all, who wants to spend money on a plant that practically assures you it will not survive! Then one day I was at the store, and saw some inexpensive, beautiful flowering orchid plants for less than $10, and decided for that price, they would make a gorgeous home accent for awhile, and that was worth it. Not only did it survive, but it thrived and bloomed multiple times! The biggest surprise? Once I got the conditions right, it took less care than any of my other house plants. So I am here to dispel the notion that you can’t grow orchids.. Forget the snobby attitude we all assumed surrounded this regal and sophisticated plant! Here is how to grow orchids, even for beginners!

How to Grow Orchids

First, choose the right orchids. There are 3 types of orchids that I feel are easy to grow for anyone!

 

Moth Orchids – Phalaenopsis

Moth orchids are the ones I grow, and the most common ones you can buy, They are relatively inexpensive, gorgeous, and less picky than most. They prefer medium to bright light, watering every 10-14 days, and light fertilizer made for orchids. They often are seen in bright, dyed colors which I find brash and far from the elegant flowers they are meant to be, but to each his own! My favorite are white with a pink or green throat. The blooms can last for months.

How to Grow Orchids

How to Grow Orchids

 

Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobium orchids usually have larger flowers, and are the kind most often seen at a florist or in professional arrangements. They have the same basic requirements as moth orchids, but prefer a bright light for the best blooms. All white Dendrobium are the most amazing flower! The flowers usually last about a month on the plant.

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Cymbidium Orchids

Cymbidium orchids are an easy care houseplant that enjoys bright light and a little more water than the other two… once a week, or even every 5 days when the air is dry. They can be brought outside during the summer months, but usually need cold to bloom. They bloom most often in winter and early spring.

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In my opinion, (and I am no orchid expert) there are four conditions you have to get right in order to be successful with orchids. Keep in mind, different types of orchids vary in their needs to some degree, but all of these are important, no matter which variety you choose.

Soil

The best soil is the orchid mix you buy at the nursery… largely bark pieces, it drains well and has an acid base. Orchid aficionados everywhere are going to gasp, but I never repotted my orchids. You should, because one of mine did eventually give up, probably because the soil was drying out too fast. However, orchid mix is so light, (cheaper to ship)  that most plants you bring home from the store are probably in a reasonably decent soil… In any case, don’t use regular potting mix… Also, buy a liquid fertilizer meant for orchids, and apply as directed once a month.

Water

This is the part most people get wrong. Since the orchid mix soil is basically bark, it feels dry a lot of the time and some people tend to overwater. Make sure you water no more than is suggested for your orchid type, but never let it dry out an inch or two below the surface. There is a cheater method, that again, make orchid experts cringe, called the ice cube method. It involves putting one or two ice cubes on the surface of the soil every other day, and allowing it to slowly melt. The idea is that it allows the bark soil to absorb the water without it just running straight through. Many, many people swear by this method! I’ve used it, but I have an issue remembering every other day. Either way works, or once every two weeks, submerge the whole pot in a sink of water, let sit 15 minutes, then drain.

Humidity

They do like a little humidity, especially in the winter when heating zaps the air of moisture. I grow mine in a bathroom, or over the kitchen sink so the humidity is taken care of for me there! Another option is to mist a few times a day, or to create a pebble tray for your orchids to sit on. Fill the tray with water to just below the tops of the pebbles, and set the pots on top. This will keep the air humid around the plants. Use distilled water to keep from getting that yucky white deposit on your pretty pebbles. (Dollar store sells pretty pebbles!) Here is a YouTube video from ‘Growing Wisdom’ on how to make humidity trays for your plants!

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Light

This is the most important condition to get right for your orchids to bloom. Medium to bright light is best. I grow mine in a frosted glass window, so it always gets bright light without getting direct sun. West or east facing is ideal, and not too far from a window.

Hint: Many orchids can be promoted to bloom by a drop in temperature. I think mine bloomed so well because they were in a window, so nighttime temps next to the glass get cooler.

You can grow orchids, and remember, you can raise them in one area of the home, and move them for special occasions to become home accents for entertaining… Learn how to grow orchids!

Image Credits: flowers by suzanne, Southern Living, My Orchids Journal, Growing Wisdom

 

 

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Comments

  1. Wow this is really helpful! I will give it all a try and proceed with confidence – or at least something better than fear and trepidation…

  2. Margaret Rose says:

    This is very good advice. I have been lucky with what must be perfect conditions for my cymbidiums and here in Northern California I can leave them out on my front porch all year. I had never been able to keep a moth orchid alive till this past year. Indoors and with what seems to be the right light. I read on Pinterest somewhere that if you put two ice cubes on the moss every couple of weeks they will thrive, did it and they did…and bloomed. Thanks for these tips.

  3. what do you do with stock after orchid bloomed?

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Can you show pictures of where to cut the stems once the blooms fall off, so that you can have another blooming time?

  5. Once mine bloomed and the flowers fell off, nothing more happened. All I have is the green leaves, root shoots coming up out of the potting mix (orchid mix) and a dead stalk. I have reported once. It sits in an east window. Lots of light but no direct sun. Am I to cut the dead stalk off? If so, where?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We cut our stalk off down to the base… be patient! Also if you can out it next to a cool window at night, sometimes that can get it going!

    • Janice Pope says:

      I didn’t cut mine off and it surprised me and put out another shoot and bloomed again. This was after blooming for a few months and I just left the stalk after all the flowers fell off.

      • i didn’t cut mine off as well and when new bloom shows , never cut the stem until it dries out on its own. Keeping my orchids on east facing window , over the heater , and under air condition and there is nothing wrong with them :-) every few months I dipp pots in water and shower the plant with luke warm water and let them drain before putting them back. I started it also as ” how hard it can be” and bought lots of pots , some without flower. Now , I am enjoying my orchids almost year round, for years. Most flowers develop starting from november and they bloom almost till end of may- june. Less work than for cactus :-) and much more beuty . And , yes, I have special liquid fertilaser for orchids. And never take them out from that clear pots, just put them in another like that. Thats my experience. Sorry for any mistake I made, English is not my language :-)

  6. …sorry, re-potted…

  7. I’m trying to grow orchids from seed, does anyone know how?

  8. I am really having a hard getting mine to re-bloom, I purchased one with a Blue and one white, what is the best way to enhance re-bloom.?

  9. Has anyone ever had new plants start at the base of the parent plant? If so how do I separate them to report?

    • I have! I have a mother plant with a Keiki [baby]. I never separated them and now both Mom and Child are in full bloom. They seem very happy attached so I am leaving them alone. I read you can let them be for as long as you can stand it. If you wish to repot baby, cut as close to the spike holding the keiki with a sterile blade and then apply some cinnamon to both mother and keiki’s cut site to prevent fungus invasion. I’ll probably separate mine after they are done blooming. Good luck.

  10. CHARLOTTE ALLEN says:

    What causes the leaves to go limp & soft?

  11. I have a moth orchid plant tht has never grown back from over a year ago. However the leaves are still green but the stems never grew back. I live in south Florida so I try to leave it in front a large glass sliding door where it gets sun but not too much. So far nothing had happened. Any ideas wht I can do?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Have you tried a dose of fertilizer? Also, some orchids need a bit of a cool shot to start blooming again… Perhaps mov it to a cooler spot for 2 weeks and see if that helps stimulate the blooms!

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