Nature never ceases to amaze us with its ability to create order out of chaos in unique displays of color and seemingly non-random design. Orchids are an impressive example of nature's geometric talent, with flower halves that perfectly mirror their other side.
It's a trait called monosymmetrical, and their stunning flowers are one of the reasons orchids are so prized by plant lovers. Another unique feature of orchids lies in the way they reproduce. Unlike most plants with pistils and stamens, orchids fuse their male and female parts into a single column.
Orchid lovers often fuss over their plants, which has given them the undeserved reputation of being difficult to care for. Fortunately, this is not true, and with the following tips, you will soon have no reason not to try your hand at growing and enjoying beautiful orchids.
Ensure Your Orchid Receives Lots of Indirect Light
Orchids need plenty of bright indirect light, but you shouldn't just place them anywhere. They can be a little fussy about the amount of light they receive each day, but they are still reasonably easy to manage.
West facing windows are not ideal as the afternoon sun will be too bright and may get too hot. However, if west-facing windows are all you have, you still have options. Use a sheer curtain to filter the light, so it isn't as strong.
A north-facing window will not give your orchid enough light, and it will start to suffer if left there for too long. Use a grow light to meet the orchid's needs if north-facing windows are your only option.
East-facing windows are the best option for orchids, as the amount of light is just right for delivering optimal amounts of natural, indirect light.
Water Orchids Sparing but Regularly and Monitor Humidity
The volume of moisture your orchid will need depends on your climate, potting medium, and humidity levels.
Most orchids prefer humidity levels between 40% and 60%. If the humidity drops below 40%, use a mister on your orchids at least once a day. Rooms with humidity levels higher than 60% will need a dehumidifier placed in the room to prevent bacteria and fungi growth. Use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity around your home accurately.
Many new to orchid growing make the mistake of overwatering, so avoid it at all costs. Most orchid varieties prefer soft water at lukewarm or room temperature. Water in the morning as this will provide plenty of time for pooling water to evaporate.
An excellent strategy for monitoring how much water your orchid needs is to grow it in clear plastic pots. When you can't see any condensation on the pot, it's time to water. Clear plastic pots also give you a good view of the roots because their color will provide you with a lot of information about how well you are managing the watering of your orchid.
Gray orchid roots mean your plant is ready for a drink. Wrinkly leaves are another good sign that your orchid is thirsty. Water heavily once a week during the hot summer months. Thoroughly soak the roots, but let them dry out afterward, or your plant could get root rot.
If a clear plastic pot is not your idea of great decor, you can always place the clear pot inside a larger decorative pot; be sure to remove it to check the status of your plant regularly.
What's The Best Temperature for Orchids?
Most varieties of orchids prefer an average temperature and thrive when temperatures can fluctuate naturally between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't expose them to a draft or a nearby vent, as they won't respond well to sudden temperature changes.
The nighttime drop in temperatures triggers an orchid to rebloom, so you may have some trouble getting flowers to appear if you live in a warmer climate where the nighttime temperatures don't dip very much. However, you can simulate cooler conditions with strategic use of the air conditioner.
You may need to create gentle air circulation to keep the roots in good health because orchids don't grow in regular potting mix or garden soil. A ceiling fan on low that's not directly over the orchard will provide enough air circulation. If you don't have one handy, a pedestal fan pointed away from the plant will do as well. Doing this will prevent the air surrounding the orchid from getting stagnant and stale.
Pruning Orchids After Blooming
You will be able to enjoy your orchid's beautiful flowers for longer if you keep the plant in a mild, humid environment and keep it away from cold drafts or excessive daytime heat.
After the blooming cycle is finished, let the plants fall off naturally or use some very gentle pruning to help them along. You won't need as much water to keep the leaves thick and green as you wait for next year's blooming cycle.
Most orchids don't produce flowers on the same stem after the flowers have died. The Phalaenopsis and Moth Orchid are two notable exceptions. Cut the stem of a Phalaenopsis at the joints after the flower has died or just above the bottom two nodes.
Orchids with pseudobulbs can be trimmed above the pseudobulb. Like the American Orchid, other orchid varieties can be pruned as close to the growth medium as possible.
Use the Right Soil for Orchid Care
Orchard soil is not your average garden soil or potting mix. The best orchid growth mediums are high in organic matter and very porous. A combination of half sand and half peat moss can work well, but gardeners have also used bark, cork, or brick chunks. Anything that provides plenty of air space for the roots to breathe will work. A peat moss mix will need careful monitoring as it retains moisture very well, and the moss can get compacted over time.
As you can see, orchid care is not difficult when you know how. Use the above tips to keep your orchids in the best of health so you can enjoy their beautiful blooms year after year.