Orchids can be challenging to take care of, but are still a very popular flowering houseplant! The unique flowers they produce are so beautiful, it's hard to resist them in the store. Here, we'll go over some tips on how to care for the orchid to ensure they live long and healthy!
Orchids are native to tropical regions, and sometimes deserts! They are going to want to stay warm. They also grow in trees, wrapping their roots around branches or trunks as they grow. Keep this in mind when caring for your orchid - it'll be happiest mimicking its native conditions.
Watering an Orchid
Orchids usually want water about once a week. There are a few ways you can water them.
Always check your plant before watering it - the fastest way to kill a plant is overwatering. If the pot looks/feels like it still has moisture in it, you probably don't need to water it that day. Water your orchid once the soil is dried out. This is easiest to see and assess when using a clear plastic orchid pot, which we will talk about later.
Ice Cube: A lot of plant tags say to put one or two ice cubes in your orchid pot once a week. This can work for a lot of plant owners, but be careful. The cold ice from the cube can put the plant into shock from being too cold. If you're using this method and your orchid is thriving, great!
Soaking: Another method of watering an orchid is to completely soak the roots in water for a few minutes. Your orchid should be in a pot that has plenty of holes in it, so you can submerge the whole pot in the sink or a bowl so the rots can soak up what they need. Make sure to use lukewarm or room temperature water, too cold or too hot can harm the plant.
Regular Watering: You can also simply hold the orchid under the faucet until the water has had a chance to run through the soil for about 15 seconds. Then, make sure you let it drain any excess water out before putting it back in a cache pot.
The method you use may depend on what soil medium and pot you have. The coarser the soil medium and the more holes in your pot, the faster it'll dry out, and the more water it'll want at a time. For example, if you have your orchid in only orchid bark, I would recommend the soaking method, but if you have an orchid mix that is a little denser, I would recommend the ice cube or regular watering method.
Orchids are going to want orchid soil (surprise!). There are many mixes out there, and they usually contain a mix of sphagnum moss, tree bark, coconut husk or other plant fibers!
The bark or chunks of wood found in these mixes help aerate the soil and provide more drainage. Remember, in the wild, orchids grow in nooks and crannies of trees, so they don't need to be buried in a dense layer of soil like many other plants do.
Repotting an Orchid
When you're potting up or repotting an orchid, try to find an orchid pot, which have lots of holes in the sides to provide that air flow to the roots. These are found in both ceramic and plastic varieties. You'll want to find a pot about 1-2" larger in diameter than the pot it is currently in.
Take all the old soil off of the roots, and trim any roots that have died (brown, black or mushy/soft roots you'll want to clip off). Healthy roots are silvery green and are firm.
Stick your plant in the new pot first and hold it upright while you fill in the empty space with the soil mix. Bury the roots in your orchid potting mix up to the base of the leaves. If some roots still stick out the top, that is okay, the roots get nutrients from the air too (just like in the wild). Don't take those roots off (unless they are mushy or dead), the plant needs to survive somehow!
If you chose a plastic orchid pot, feel free to place that plastic pot in a decorative pot if you'd like to.
Light requirements for orchids may be the hardest part. Some require full sunlight all day to bloom, and others want to be shady. Most of them are going to be happy somewhere in the middle. but if your plant is unhappy where it is, feel free to move it and see if it blooms better in another spot. This could take some trial and error. I'd recommend a window facing south or west to start, and if the leaves start to look burned, I would move it to a less sunny area.
To ensure your orchid has the greatest opportunity for blooming, your main 2 focusses should be location and fertilizer.
Usually when you buy an orchid, it is in bloom already. Once those blooms fall off, don't cut that stem off. It will rebloom from the stem. You can cut off any black parts or tips of the stem, but don't cut it all the way back. (I have made that mistake before!)
Once your orchid is done blooming, you can fertilize with an orchid fertilizer maximum about twice a month. (These have a different mix of nutrients than regular fertilizers. They will encourage blooms). You can mix a water soluble fertilizer into the water you water your plant with every other time until it blooms. It is not necessary to fertilize it while it is blooming, but it won't hurt if you do.
If you are fertilizing, and the orchid still wont rebloom, try moving it to a sunnier spot in your home or consider a grow light.
Hopefully your plant will rebloom within a few months!
Orchids are amazing plants, and even though they can be challenging to take care of, those blooms are so worth it!
Keep going and keep growing!