Elegant and mysterious, orchids are one of the oldest flowers in existence and are found on every continent except Antarctica. They have a reputation for being difficult, but orchids just require patience. These beautiful flowers are resilient if their needs are met.
An orchid’s first flowers take five to seven years to appear after germination, so the orchids displayed in shops or residences may be a decade old. Orchids, with their slender curves and soft petals, may hold up to 3 million microscopic seeds that require a certain fungus in order to germinate. Some orchids are cloned and grown in laboratories.
Safe for pets and allergy sufferers, orchids are a beautiful addition to any home. Orchids have the largest variety of flowers and some even have the appearance of insects or animals. Some orchids can live up to 100 years.
With all these captivating traits, it is no surprise that these mysterious flowers have inspired obsession that reached a point of madness in the Victorian era. These flower-obsessed fanatics were said to be afflicted with orchidelirium, and they financed orchid hunters to go on dangerous expeditions in the hopes they would return with the exotic flowers.
Nowadays, if one were to develop orchidelirium, orchids are widely available and taking them from the wild is illegal. It’s a good thing because many orchid hunters faced tigers, angry natives and diseases. The orchid hunters were concerned about their exotic orchid specimens surviving, but they should have been a bit more concerned about their own survival.
If you are feeling worried about your orchid’s survival, have no fear. Our orchid care tips will make it all perfectly clear.
Foiled by Soil
Since most orchids will be purchased already placed in an adequate container, we want to mention, as a precaution, that most orchids will not grow in soil. In fact, the fastest way to kill your orchid is to place it in normal potting soil.
Interestingly, orchids are codependent and grow attached to other plants. Most orchids will do best if they are potted in something like loose bark, stones or other chunky ingredients and repotted every one to three years as the bark decreases. The type of bark or other material used depends upon the type of orchid, but they do need well-aerated, moist, well-draining conditions.
Your orchid’s pot should have adequate drainage because it is not good for your orchid to be sitting in water. Nothing kills an orchid faster than being waterlogged because the lack of oxygen causes the roots to suffocate and rot.
Where to Place that Pretty Face
Deciding where to place your orchid can be difficult. Orchids are incredibly beautiful, and their pretty face means they look great no matter where they are placed. For many orchids, an east-facing window with morning light is a good location.
If you decide to park your orchid plants near a south or west-facing window, you will likely need to rescue them from the harsh, mid-day sun and relocate them in the middle of the day.
Wherever you place your orchid, avoid places near sources of heat like radiators or refrigerators because proximity to heat can dry out the leaves of your plant.
Light that is Indirect and Bright
Orchids need bright, indirect light. The relentless direct sunlight around noon can singe the leaves or cause the flowers to wilt. Different orchids have different light requirements and fall into three separate categories including medium-high, medium-low or low light.
Inadequate light is a leading cause of an orchid failing to rebloom.
Temperature and Humidity
Similar to how orchids can be grouped according to light needs, different orchids have different temperature requirements. Orchids can be grouped into cool, warm or intermediate temperatures. Consider buying a high-low thermometer to measure the temperature range.
Most orchids prefer temperatures between 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the most breathtaking blooms, orchids thrive if they experience temps 10-15 degrees cooler at night than during the day.
Most orchids grown indoors come from the tropics, which means they flourish with more humidity than the typical living room offers. To boost humidity, group orchids together.
An option for increasing humidity is to place the orchids on a dry well. You can create one by placing plastic lattice or pebbles in a tray and placing the orchids on top of the lattice or pebbles. Add water until it reaches just below the lattice or almost covers the pebbles.
Another option is to mist your orchid or get a humidifier and place it near your orchids. Whichever method you choose to increase your humidity, your plant will need 50 to 70 percent humidity to thrive.
Depending on which type of orchid you have, you will need to water it every 5 days to once a week with lukewarm, room temperature water, adjusting for the climate in your home. You want to let your orchid dry out before watering again.
Pour water under the plant’s leaves. Avoid wetting the crown area, which is the center of the plant from which everything grows. If the crown stays wet for too long, it can lead to crown rot and ultimately the death of the plant.
Since orchids are often potted in bark or a similarly loose material, the water you pour in will run out the bottom. This is how you want it to happen.
If your orchid is potted in moss, water less frequently. Be aware that the moss on the exterior may feel dry, but the interior may still be moist. Stick your finger an inch or two down to access whether it is actually dry.
Wrinkled leaves can be a sign of too much or too little water.
If your orchid is stuck in a rut, don’t be afraid to cut. What that means is cut blooms that have died. There are two options. The first is to cut the spike down to the leaves, which will lead to a new, stronger stem of flowers in about a year.
The second option is to cut right below the lowest dead bloom, which will lead to more flowers in as little as eight to 12 weeks.
Leaves with a light or medium green color with slight yellow tones signal a plant that is receiving adequate light.
When growing orchids, fertilize them correctly and note that fertilizer can be very dangerous for pets. Check with the manufacturer of the fertilizer for more info regarding pet safety. Also, avoid fertilizing an orchid that is dry. Many orchid growers fertilize on either a weekly or monthly basis. If fertilizing weekly, use a weaker, diluted solution. Follow the instructions for the fertilizer you use.
No matter which schedule or fertilizer you choose, you will need to rinse the potting medium thoroughly to eliminate any fertilizer that wasn’t absorbed by the plant once a month.
Your Orchid isn’t a Loss so Don’t Toss
There are signs of trouble that can alert you to an unwell orchid. Dark leaves and poor flowering can indicate that the orchid is not receiving enough light. Conversely, leaves with a red hue mean the orchid is receiving too much light.
If your orchid’s needs for proper temperature, humidity and light are met, yet it still won’t bloom, repotting may be necessary.
Evaluate your orchid’s roots. If they look brown, you may be watering too much. Repotting may be necessary to save the plant. Also, repotting is a good idea if the planting material resembles potting soil or if the roots creep over the edge of the pot.
Orchids are sometimes plagued by mealybugs, scales or aphids. These problems are minor and can usually be washed off or treated with the proper insecticide.
It is important to know when your orchid should bloom, so you can identify when your orchid may be having issues.
The flowering of an orchid can last one to three months. Afterward, the plant enters a state of dormancy where leaves turn dull, blooms fall off and the stem may shrivel and turn a disturbing shade of grey or brown.
Encourage your orchid to get through that unsettling phase by continuing with weekly watering. Make sure your plant is also receiving plenty of indirect light. Placing the plant in an area with a slightly cooler temperature may also help it reemerge.
Once you learn how to properly care for your orchid, you will feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It is a special feeling to know that you nourished something to such an extent that you get the opportunity to watch it rebloom.
Let our florists at Wild Strawberry & More in East Lansing, MI, help you discover the rewarding experience of owning and caring for orchids. You may even get a tiny case of orchidelirium!