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How to Take Care of Orchids That Thrive All Year Long—No Greenhouse Necessary

Kara Jillian Brown

Kara Jillian BrownMarch 23, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images / Kristina Strasunske

There are over 25,000 varieties of orchids, and only a handful are viable as house plants. Orchids are notorious for being hard-to-grow plants, but Erin Marino, director of marketing at The Sill, explains how to take care of orchids for those of us who don’t have a personal greenhouse. Given the right conditions, anyone can make an orchid thrive.

“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 Marino. “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.”

Marino says the easiest variety of orchids to care for is the Phalaenopsis, or “moth orchid.” The moth orchid comes in a  variety of colors, which are now available to purchase online at The Sill.

how to take care of orchids
Photos: The Sill

When you order an orchid from The Sill, you also pick a pot that comes included in the price. Currently, The Sill is selling a Petite White Orchid ($75, left), Petite Sunset Orchid ($75, right),  Petite White Spotted Orchid ($75), Petite Purple Orchid ($75), Fuchsia Orchid ($95), White Orchid ($95), and Purple Orchid ($95).

Once you bring an orchid into your home, Marino explains there are a few important steps to take in order to keep it alive.

How to take care of orchids

1. 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 quick and fry their blooms.”

Depending on where you live geographically, you’ll probably want to put your orchids in a south-, east- or west-facing window. “Most likely, a north-facing window won’t provide enough light—but it really depends on where you live, and what’s outside your window.”

2. Water your orchid sparingly

Marino says the biggest mistake she sees people make with their orchids is overwatering. “If your Phalaenopsis orchid’s leaves are yellowing, that’s usually a sign of overwatering or too much direct light,” she says. “If the leaves are drooping and/or wrinkling, that’s usually a sign of underwatering.”

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,” says Marino. “Think of the warm humid climates most orchids come from. I find watering with room temperature water is the way to go.”

Water your orchid every one to two weeks, once the soil has dried out. “Use tepid, filtered water if possible,” she says. “Saturate the potting medium, dump any excess water about 30 minutes later, and wait to water again until dry.”

3. Consider using a humidifier

“Orchids do best in a bright, warm, humid spot. Unless you live in a greenhouse, that might be difficult to recreate indoors,” says Marino. “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.”

She says the Phalaenopsis variety is hardy and can adapt to your space. Keep it in a spot that has a pretty stable temperature. “Don’t put it in front of an open window with a draft, or an air conditioner or heating unit,” she says.

4. Adjust your care once the orchid stops blooming

“Indoor orchids typically bloom once a year, and their blooms can stick around for about two to three months,” says Marino. “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.” She says once it stops blooming, to water it slightly less often until the next blooming cycle.

5. Keep it in one spot

Although it can be tricky finding the right window, Marino says you don’t want to move your orchid around a lot. “As with any other houseplant, it’s best to let it be.” says Marino. “They appreciate some stability in the environment around them.”

Orchids are great for any plant parents looking to incorporate blooming plants into their collection. And the Phalaenopsis is a great beginner blooming houseplant to get comfortable with.

These 7 indoor plants are the easiest to care for, and just so you know, your plants aren’t actually purifying the air in your home.

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