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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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