How to Take Care of Orchids That Thrive All Year Long
"Orchids get a bad reputation as a tough houseplant because of two reasons: they require bright light, which not everyone has, and they’re not embraced when not in bloom," says Erin Marino, editorial lead at The Sill. "Nine times out of 10, I think orchids are purchased for their brightly colored beautiful flowers which makes a ton of sense. But orchids can be just as wonderful when not in bloom—embrace the thick broad green leaves they produce outside of their blooming cycle, instead of tossing your orchid once its flowers start to wilt."
“Despite what their exotic looks might suggest, orchid care may be a little different than you’re used to, but it’s by no means harder,” says Alfred Palomares, vice president of merchandising 1-800-Flowers.
How to take care of orchids
Success with caring for orchids comes from consistency, not owner expertise. “Orchids need a few things to stay consistent, so once you’ve established the best conditions for your new plant, you’ll be able to enjoy it year after year,” says Hewitt. “I promise, orchids may seem like advanced level plant care, but they are a low maintenance plant if you keep these few things in mind.”
1. Choose the right pot
First things first, Palomares says the first mistake to avoid when learning how to take care of orchids orchids is using the wrong potting mix. “In the wild, orchids grow on the bark of trees, so you’ll want to replicate that environment as much as possible,” he says. “Instead of soil, use a potting mix made especially for orchids. Also, you will want to repot your orchid when needed (approximately every other year). It’s important to remember that in addition to a new pot, you also need a new potting mix.”
2. Keep your orchid in a spot that receives bright indirect light
"Orchids love sunlight," says Marino. "They’ll do best in a spot that gets bright indirect light for most of the day. That being said, they can tolerate medium light if they have to, and they don’t love harsh direct light which can dry them out too quickly and fry their blooms."
Palomares says east-facing windows are ideal because they get plenty of early morning light that’s not too harsh. “Be sure to check the color of your orchid’s leaves [though]—if they start to darken, it means the plant needs some more light,” he shares.
3. Water your orchid sparingly (but regularly)
As tempted as you may be to mist your orchids like you do other plants around your home, The Bouqs Co. plant expert and lead floral designer Kaylyn Hewitt, advises against it. “Misting the orchid blooms can cause spotting and rot,” she says.
You may have heard that you should water your orchid with an ice cube, but Marino says that isn't the best idea. "I caution against using ice because they’re so cold that they could harm the root system or leaves of the plant if they’re directly against either," she says. "Think of the warm humid climates most orchids come from. I find watering with room temperature water is the way to go."
As for frequency, Hewitt says not to water your orchid more than once a week. Her go-to technique? Placing it under a very slow tap for 15 seconds. “This ensures that I’m not overwatering, but the orchid is getting what it needs,” she says. “When watering your orchid, remove it from the decorative pot (it should still be in a grow pot), and let it dry completely before placing it back in the pot.”
If you’re still not sure if your orchid is receiving enough or too much water, Hewitt says to monitor its roots. “Orchids’ roots are your main indicator for how your orchid is doing,” she says. “If they are bright green, they are healthy and are receiving the right amount of water. If your orchid roots are starting to turn gray, they need a good watering.”
How to water your plants without killing them:
4. Consider using a humidifier
Orchids have a tropical origin, so they thrive in bright, warm, humid spots. "Unless you live in a greenhouse, that might be difficult to recreate indoors," Marino says. "If you have a humidifier close by that helps with the dry air in your space, that’s definitely a positive since orchids are native to humid environments. But, it's not a necessity to have one."
That said, if your orchid seems to be suffering, a humidifier can help. So can keeping it clear of window drafts, and heating and cooling units, Marino says.
5. Don’t cut the roots
Hewitt points out that some orchid roots might start to grow up and over your pot—don’t cut them. “It's totally okay and these roots help your plant receive more energy,” she says, noting that cutting them can alter your orchids’ health.
6. Adjust your care once the orchid stops blooming
According to Marino, indoor orchids typically bloom once a year, and their blooms can stick around for a couple of months. "Once their blooming cycle is done, let their flowers wilt and fall off (or help with some gentle pruning), and enjoy your orchid’s thick green leaves until next year,” Marino says. Once this period of your orchid's annual growth cycle commences, she says that it’s okay to water your plant slightly less often until the next blooming cycle.
Where to buy an orchid
Palomares, Marino, and Hewitt recommend the phalaenopsis, or moth orchid. It's a pet-friendly plant with large, colorful petals, making it a great choice for beginners and expert gardeners alike.
Give all that green a pop of pink with this vibrant orchid from The Sill. Per our experts’ recommendations, its a moth orchid, which is one of the most beginner-friendly type of flowers. Choose from blush, cream, and mint pots.
Or, skip the classic pink and spice things up with the bright yellow of the Lady Luck from The Bouqs Co. Sustainably-sourced from a husband and wife duo in California, these orchids are easy peasy. With weekly water and indirect sunlight, it’ll be a ray of sunshine on your sill for weeks.
Or, go with a chic, timeless white. For $40, this moth orchid looks striking in any room. It also makes for a thoughtful any-occasion gift for friends, family, and partners.
How to choose the right plant for every room in your home:
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