Orchid growing for beginners

Phalaenopsis orchids are the most common variety of orchid to be kept at home. Thankfully they have relatively low light requirements compared to other species of orchid. But the amount of light that they get makes a big difference to how well they thrive. This article will tell you exactly how much light phalaenopsis orchids need, and how to identify and fix any problems.

How much light do phalaenopsis orchids need? Phalaenopsis orchids need bright but indirect light and are best placed in an east or west facing window. Avoid exposing your orchid to more than 1 to 2 hours of direct sunlight per day. Pale leaves with brown patches indicate excessive light. Dark green leaves indicate insufficient lighting.

Phalaenopsis orchids typically grow beneath the tree canopy in forests and are not used to getting much if any direct sunlight, as little makes it through the canopy of the forest. As a result, they have adapted to low light conditions, which is fortunate for us, as our homes typically have lighting conditions not dissimilar to a forest floor.

Phalaenopsis Orchid Positioning

To get the perfect amount of light for your phalaenopsis orchid, place it in an east or west facing window. Putting your orchids in the middle of a room far from a window, or in a north facing window will typically not provide sufficient light to let it thrive.

Excessive direct sunlight in a south-facing window or positioning your orchid where it gets more than 1 to 2 hours of direct sunlight per day will typically lead to problems with excessive sunlight.

Phalaenopsis orchids can be quite adaptable, and whilst ideal light conditions will help the plant to thrive, they can often survive quite well for short periods of time in less than ideal light conditions.

Interestingly, excessive lighting can at first seem to help phalaenopsis orchids, as the additional light gives them the energy to produce more blooms, more frequently. However, the damage done by excessive lighting will take its toll over time, and eventually, this will lead to damage to the plant.

Light conditions often vary dramatically depending on the distance your orchid is from a window. A south-facing windowsill can get almost 10 times as much light as a position just a few feet away from the window. Just moving your orchid from directly beside a window, to a nearby table may be all that is required to fine tune the lighting to perfection.

How To Check How Much Light My Orchid Is Getting

There are a few different ways to check how much like your orchid is receiving. If you want to assess whether you have got your orchid in the right place, check the light levels on a bright and sunny day. Here are the two best ways to check light levels.

  • The simplest way to measure light levels is to measure the amount of shadow that falls on the leaves of your orchid. Hold your hand about 12 inches away from the orchid and try to cast a shadow on the Leaves. Ideally, you should only see a faint and irregular shadow forming on the Leaves. If you see a well defined, black shadow, this indicates bright light conditions and is excessive for your phalaenopsis orchid. This should prompt you to move your orchid to a better location.
  • Alternatively, you can use a lux meter, which can give you a very precise measure of the light that your plants are receiving. Lux meters are actually very affordable, so if you have quite a number of plants, or are struggling with the care of your orchids, it is well worth getting one.

Phalaenopsis Orchid Lux Requirements

Lux is the scientific measure of the intensity of light that hits a surface, measured in lumens per square meter. Ideally, phalaenopsis orchids should get about 10700 to 16000 lux for at least 8 hours per day, for optimal growing.

They will tolerate much lower light conditions for a long time, but may not thrive. Prolonged higher lighting levels will lead to damage to the foliage, which can be easily identified and reacted to. Phalaenopsis orchids are ideal for growing in indoor conditions, where lighting conditions are generally much lower than those outside.

Orchid Light Problems

The great thing about phalaenopsis orchids is that you can monitor lighting conditions by observing the leaves. I’m going to discuss exactly how to assess the lighting of your orchid, identify problems and resolve them quickly.

Phalaenopsis Orchid Excessive Light Problems

If your phalaenopsis orchid is getting too much light, the first place to look is the leaves. They will start to become paler in color and can take on a yellow appearance with prolonged excessive light conditions. They can also develop pale reddish spots around the edges of the leaves which can be easily identified on inspection.

With prolonged and intense direct sunlight, the leaves of your phalaenopsis orchid will also develop brown tips or edges. They can also become wrinkled due to the very low humidity conditions that this will produce.

Of course, excessive light isn’t the only reason a phalaenopsis orchid will get yellow leaves. So read more here about the other causes of why orchids get yellow leaves.

Interestingly, I have tried placing phalaenopsis orchids in direct sunlight during the summer. Although this eventually caused significant harm to the plant, it initially helped blooming. In particular, it increased the rate of reblooming from the same flower spike.

However, don’t be tempted to do this, as the damage to your phalaenopsis orchid will be quite significant. The excessive direct sunlight will do often cause irrepairable damage to the leaves.

So if you see direct sunlight on your orchid for more than 1 to 2 hours per day, move the orchid to a different location. They will typically be able to tolerate some early morning direct sunlight in an east-facing window, or late evening direct sunlight in a west-facing window. But the direct sunlight in the middle of the day from a south-facing window will simply be too intense and will damage your orchid.

If you really want to keep your orchid in a south-facing window, sheer curtains can reduce the intensity of the sunlight, or you could place another barrier in front of your orchid to shield it from direct sunlight.

Problems With Too Little Light For Phalaenopsis Orchids

Low light conditions can be more difficult to identify, as the leaves will often look extremely healthy and vibrant. They will become a darker and richer green color, as the leaves try to produce more chlorophyll to maximize the use of the scarce light available.

However, this is a sign that your phalaenopsis orchid is struggling. An orchid that is kept in low light lighting conditions is very unlikely to produce new blooms. If you are having trouble getting your phalaenopsis orchid to rebloom, definitely consider lighting as a cause of the issue.

You need some caution when moving an orchid from low light conditions to higher light conditions. It will take them a while to acclimatize to higher light levels. Suddenly moving a phalaenopsis from a dark room to a south facing window, can cause sunburn. It’s better to move it to a location with moderate light levels first for a few days. Then you can move it to the location you have identified with perfect light conditions.

Growing Orchids Under Led Lights

It is possible to grow orchids under grow lights, but not usually necessary unless you have limited light conditions. If you are trying to grow a phalaenopsis orchid in a dark room, LED or fluorescent grow lights are best due to their low heat output and high efficiency. You should set them up to provide 11000 to 16000 lux for 8 to 12 hours per day.

Do Orchids Need Light On Their Roots?

Phalaenopsis orchids have green roots, which is a characteristic that is unusual to most other plants. The reason for this is that phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytic plants. They grow attached to trees rather than in soil.

As the roots are exposed to light, orchids have adapted to this and produce chlorophyll in the roots. This can contribute to photosynthesis and energy generation for the plant. Whilst it is generally best practice to expose phalaenopsis orchid roots to light, it is not completely necessary. Your orchid will thrive as long as the leaves are receiving good levels of sunlight.

Generally though, I would recommend placing your orchid in a very loose potting medium in a transparent pot. This allows the roots some light exposure to help the plant increase its ability to thrive and bloom. Read my article on how to repot orchids for more information.

Growing Orchids

Orchids are fairly hardy and can survive in a variety of conditions, but the light requirements of orchids are an important consideration because light is very important for orchids’ flowering. And, because there is a lot of sunlight at tree tops, epiphytic orchids and orchids with pseudobulbs usually need more light than terrestrial orchids or those with soft leaf growth.

While it may take an orchid plant three to eight years before it is mature enough to bloom, some orchids will sit around fat and green for years and never flower until they get enough light. In contrast, when the plants start to shrivel and get yellow, the light is too strong. When growing orchids in a window, resist the temptation to crowd the plants together. Keep them far enough apart to make sure that each plant gets its share of the light. Turn the plants from time to time so the whole plant gets the benefit of the light.

When growing orchids outside or in a greenhouse, orchids may need shade in the summertime to protect them more from heat than from the light. This is done outdoors by growing them under trees or in a lathhouse. In a greenhouse this can be done by using blinds inside or out, by using mesh, or by painting shading compound on the glass.

These indoor orchids are blooming beautifully
because they are receiving the proper
light requirements.

When there is not enough natural light, orchids can grow and flower under artificial light. The smaller, compact plants are easier to handle. Some orchids can take as long as two years to adjust to growing under artificial light but, when they do, they often bloom more frequently. In addition, high artificial light intensity can speed up the growth of seedlings.
With orchids, a mixture of fluorescent and incandescent light seems to work better than fluorescent light alone. A proportion of five watts of cool white and daylight fluorescent light to one watt of incandescent light works well. Because of the heat generated by the standard 25 watt (120 volt) incandescent bulbs, 25 watt (130 volt) extended service bulbs are often used. They are cooler and last twice as long. Use the longest fluorescent tubes available that will fit your growing area; the light intensity always falls off at the ends of the tubes.
Not all orchids are affected by seasonal changes in day lengths, and many orchid growers keep their lights on 14 hours a day. However, timers are a must if you are growing a lot of plants indoors and under lights.
Water is another essential for every type of plant, so orchids are no exception. On the next page, learn how to water your orchids appropriately.

Check these resources to find more ideas and information on placing plants around your house:

  • Gardening: Whether it’s vegetables, flowers, or foliage you’re considering, the facts you’ll need are here. Learn all the basics of successful gardening.
  • House Plants: Wondering what might look nice in your kitchen window? Find out which plants are happiest inside the house.


Insufficient light is one the chief causes of orchids failing to bloom. Different kinds of orchids need different levels of light. If an orchid’s leaves are light green, it is probably receiving enough light to bloom. Dark green leaves may indicate that the plant needs brighter light.

  • Some kinds, such as Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum, can do well under artificial lights. Flourescent lights work well, and are energy efficient. Keep the lights 6-8 in/15-20 cm above the plants, but check that the bulbs do not burn leaves.
  • Some orchids require bright light, but no direct sun. Orchids such as Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum live as epiphytes in lower parts of the forest. Trees and clouds block the direct rays of the sun. Direct sun can cause sunburn on the leaves, leaving large dead spots. Give these bright shade instead.
  • Many orchids can handle some direct sun. Morning sun is usually best; most need protection from direct midday sun and hot afternoon sun. These include Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Laelias, and Oncidiums.
  • Orchids that grow at the tops of trees and in other exposed conditions can handle full sun. These include Vandas and some Epidendrums.
  • In wintertime when the sun is lower in the sky, many orchids can handle brighter light. Be sure to move them back into more shade in springtime.
  • Plants moved into brighter light need a few weeks of adjustment so that their leaves do not sunburn. Gradually introduce the plant to brighter light, and make sure it receives adequate water and humidity.

Our 3 favorite orchids to grow indoors

The white and purple blossom of a moth orchid. (Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Elegant and delicate, orchids have a mystique all their own. With blooms that last up to four months (and re-bloom for years on end), they make a great hostess gift, houseplant, or replacement for cut flowers. Here are the easiest types to grow indoors.

Lady’s slippers orchid (New York Daily News / Getty Images)

1. Lady’s slippers orchids

Named for their pouch, lady’s slippers (Paphiopedilum—paph, for short) boast pouch-like blooms from winter through spring.

WaterLady’s slippers need more water than the others on this list. The exact amount varies on whether you pot your orchid in sphagnum moss (less often) or large bark (more often). But still be careful not to overwater roots. Lift the container up before and after watering to get a sense of its weight when it’s dry. And when in doubt, wait a day.

LightWhile they need more water than the others, paphs require less light. An east-facing window is ideal. Reddish leaves are a sign of too much light. Err on the side of too little while you’re figuring out your paph’s preferences.

TemperatureLady’s slippers will be happy in your home (60-65º at night and 75-85º during the day). Remember that temperatures next to windows fluctuate more than the rest of your house.

FertilizerUse a balanced orchid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength weekly, skipping every fourth week to avoid accumulation of salts.

PruningSnip spent blooms down to leaf level. Keep watering and fertilizing, and you should see a new flower stalk within a year.

RepottingRepot every 1 to 2 years. And ideal potting medium for Paphiopedilums 4 parts fir bark to 1 part perlite. Smaller fir bark (l/8th to 1/4 inch) is actually preferable to the medium or large chunks used for Cattleya and moth orchids, recommended below.

Green cattleya orchid with a lovely purple splash (Photo by Sangjib Min/Newport News Daily Press/MCT via Getty Images)

2. Cattleya orchids

This group includes species and cultivars of Cattleya, Laelia, Rhyncholaelia, Sophronitis, and hybrids. Their flowers are shorter lived, 1 to 4 weeks on the plant, and blooms usually happen between winter and late spring.

WaterCattleya orchids like to be the driest among this list of three. They need to be allowed to dry completely before the next watering. The best way to know when the plant is dry is to learn the difference in weight a wet plant (heavy) and dry (light). When in doubt, wait a day or two, and always use lukewarm (not cold) water.

LightThis is a light-loving group of orchids. Bright indirect light is still ideal ideal, but you can play around with giving Cattleya more light than less.If leaves are a nice shade of medium green, your plant is getting the right amount of light. Dark green means too much shade, and reddish leaves mean too much sun.

TemperatureCattleya orchids will be happy in your home (60-65º at night and 75-85º during the day). Remember that temperatures next to windows fluctuate more than the rest of your house.

FertilizerUse a balanced orchid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength weekly, skipping every fourth week to avoid accumulation of salts.

Repot on occasionNo potting soil allowed! When bark chips have decayed (usually between 1 and 3 years), water your cattleya orchid, jiggle it out of the pot, and wash the old bark from the roots, snipping off any dried or mushy roots with clean clippers. Repot in moistened, medium-grade bark so the base of the bottom leaves sits above the bark and 1/2 an inch below the pot rim. The best time to repot an orchid is after its bloom cycle is over in late spring.

Two types of phalaenopsis (moth orchids): ‘Leopard Prince,’ left and rear, and ‘Prince Sun,’ right. (Photo by Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)

3. Moth orchids

With flowers that look like butterflies and last for months at a time, moth orchids (Phalaelnopsis) bloom from winter into late spring.

LightAn east-facing window that gets morning light is ideal. South- or west-facing windows work, too, but be sure your orchid is shielded from the brightest (and harshest) of afternoon sun with a sheer curtain. The leaves should be a bright shade of olive green. Darker leaves means the plant is not getting enough light; red-tinged leaves mean there’s too much exposure to light.

WaterA once-weekly lukewarm watering is usually enough for Phalaelnopsis. You might need to be a little more frequent in summer, and less so in winter. When in doubt, give it another day.

TemperatureMoth orchids are happy in the same temps we are: above 60º at night and between 70º and 80º during the day. Remember: Temperatures on a windowsill are colder or hotter than the rest of your house, and fluctuating temperatures can cause buds to drop off right before they open (causing a huge bummer). Pay close attention that your moth orchid is out of the way of any drafts.

FertilizerFeed weekly with a light fertilizer (a teaspoon of 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer to a gallon of water—remember, I’m fine using fertilizers indoors). Once a month, skip the fertilizer and use clean water to flush any excess salts.

HumidityIncrease humidity slightly for moth orchids by placing the containers on trays of gravel, filled partially with water. Plants still need circulation and should not sit in standing water

PruningWhen flowers fade, you have two choices: Cut the spike down to the leaves and the plant will grow a strong stem with even larger flowers within a year. Or you can cut stem just above the first node (it looks like a bump) below the lowest faded bloom. Often the remaining stem will produce another round of flowers within 8 to 12 weeks.

Repot on occasionExact same instructions as Cattleya types just above.

Growing Orchids for Beginners

So you want an introduction to growing orchids for beginners? You’re in for an adventure, since growing orchids is addictive! I’ll give you some “gateway” orchid care instructions below. Once you know how to grow orchids, they’ll thrive for you, as most are easy to care for. They’ll grow bigger, make more flowers each year, and you’ll be far less likely to kill them and feel guilty about it.

Miltoniopsis Maui Mist ‘Golden Gate’ Growing orchids is easy! If you imitate a plant’s natural habitat, it will thrive. There are very many types of orchids, coming from a wide variety of different habitats (on every continent except Antarctica!) so there is almost certainly an orchid that likes the conditions you are able to provide. The most commonly available orchids, such as the Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis, are so popular because they do well in typical homes. I give links to specific orchid care instructions for the most common types below, at the bottom of this page. You might also want to see the page on growing orchids indoors for more information on reproducing orchid habitats in typical homes, or proceed to the slightly more advanced orchid care instructions in the caring for orchids section, which is not specifically aimed at growing orchids for beginners. Regardless of which of the many types of orchids you are growing, a few tips will help you keep them happy. Growing orchids for beginners mostly involves learning a few basics:


Different kinds of orchids have different lighting needs, which are generally divided into three rough categories:

  • High lighting (about 3,000-5,000 footcandles, or 30,000-50,000lux) is typical for south-facing windows in the northern hemisphere. Direct sunlight should usually be avoided, particularly at hotter times of the day. Some common types of orchids that like high light are Cattleya and Vanda orchids.
  • Medium lighting (about 2,000 footcandles, or 20,000lux)
  • Low lighting (about 1,000 footcandles, or 10,000lux) is common for shaded windows, or east-facing windows. Low lighting is preferred by Phalaenopsis and Pahiopedilum orchids, among others.

As a general guideline, orchids should be given as much light as they can happily tolerate. Leaves will tend to become greener when lighting is low, and yellower (occasionally with red spotting) when there is a lot of light. If sunburned black or brown patches appear on the leaves, reduce the lighting. Orchids with thicker and/or more erect leaves tend to be able to tolerate more light than those with thinner or more horizontal leaves. Too little lighting is one of the more common mistakes in growing orchids for beginners.


Orchids are often divided into three general temperature categories:

  • Warm-growing orchids like day temperatures between 70°F (21C) and 85°F (29C). This includes most Phalaenopsis orchids.
  • Intermediate orchids like day temperatures between 65°F and 75°. This is typical of Cattleya orchids.
  • Cool-growing orchids like temperatures to stay below 70°F (21C), say from 60°F (15C)-70°F (21C) during the day. This includes most Masdevallia orchid species, for example. Because this temperature range is difficult for most people to provide, these plants are not very widely marketed, except at places that mostly cater to orchid hobbyists.

Orchids generally appreciate a 10-15°F drop in temperatures at night (6-8C). Most of the commonly-available orchids are chosen to make growing orchids for beginners easy, which means that if you got your plant at a supermarket or orchid mass-market place, it will probably do well in temperatures that are comfortable for humans.


Most orchids like humidity to be about 70%. This is considerably more humid than most homes, so you’ll want to make some effort to provide your plants with extra humidity. Orchids usually appreciate misting with a spray bottle. If the plant has aerial roots growing up out of the pot, those roots will especially appreciate getting some moisture. You can also set up a humidity tray: put water in the bottom of a tray, with enough gravel that a plant set on top does not sit in the water. As the water evaporates, it will provide some extra humidity for the plant. These are a great help to growing orchids for beginners, or anyone else keeping tropical plants on a windowsill.


Overwatering kills far more orchids than underwatering; it’s the most common cause of orchid disease. So when in doubt, don’t water! The potting mix used has a lot to do with how often an orchid needs watering, but most orchids are sold in mixes that allow for roughly weekly watering. For most orchids, stick a finger a couple inches into its potting mix, and if the mix is dry, it’s time to water. Don’t water until it’s at least approaching dryness. To water an orchid, take it to the sink and run water through the pot until it flows out the bottom, trying to get as much of the potting mix wet as possible. Alternatively, submerge the plant’s pot in a bucket for a few seconds, then lift it out and let it drain off excess water. Symptoms of overwatering are similar to symptoms of underwatering: the plant appears to shrivel and dry out. In the case of overwatering, this is because most of the roots have died and rotted. If in doubt whether you’re overwatering or underwatering, lift the plant out of the pot and see whether the roots are firm and white (healthy) or soft and mushy (dead). In the latter case, the plant should also be repotted. Orchids often grow aerial roots up and out of the pot; try to get these wet when you water.


It’s best to repot orchids every couple of years as the mix (usually bark) that they’re potted in starts to break down. Most orchids are epiphytes (they grow on trees as air plants, rather than in the ground) so if the potting mix is starting to decompose, compress, and become denser, orchids get unhappy because their roots expect greater access to air.


Many people growing orchids as beginners wonder about pruning orchids. Trimming old flower stems that have turned brown is a good idea. If it’s still green, it may rebloom, either from the tip or by branching further back on the stem. So don’t cut back green flower stems. Pruning orchids to keep them small is a bad idea, because it is very stressful to the plant. If you cut a leaf, often the whole leaf will die back. Cutting stems is also usually bad. The only stems to cut on orchids are rhizomes (when dividing a plant; leave at least three or four growths per division) and flower stems (when they’re done blooming and have turned brown, or if you want to put cut flowers in a vase.) Trimming orchids should really only be done to remove leaves, roots, or flower stems that have already died and turned brown. Also, sterilize your cutting tools (or use disposable razors) so that you don’t spread orchid diseases between your plants.

Common First Orchids

If you already have an orchid, and are trying to figure out how to care for it, these pages give specific orchid care instructions for some of the most common first orchids, so they are useful additions to the general orchid care instructions above. There is also a page on the many other types of orchids, which indicates the ones that I think are good choices for beginners.


Cattleyas were discovered in 1824 when William Cattley received a sickly plant of Cattleya labiata used as packing material in a shipment of orchids and nursed it back to health. When it bloomed, it created quite a stir! Cattleyas are still among the most popular types of orchids today.


Dendrobium is a large genus, with about 1200 species. They come from many different habitats, so it’s necessary to read up on the particular type you intend to grow. They tend to like bright light, but most other care requirements have exceptions. They are one of the most popular types of orchids, and many are quite beautiful.


Many Oncidiums produce long, branching sprays of hundreds of flowers. They appreciate lots of water, and lots of air to the roots, a somewhat tricky combination! The flowers of some species and hybrids are so numerous that blooming plants are sometimes mistaken for swarms of bees.


Paphiopedilums are slipper orchids that come from southeast Asia. Many have attractive, mottled leaves, too! They grow well in relatively low light, which can be convenient for indoor orchid care. They are quite easy to grow, and are among my favorites; my first orchid was a Paphiopedilum.


Phalaenopsis, the Moth Orchid, is one of the most commonly available and easiest to grow orchid genera. It is often the best choice for orchid growing beginners. They have large, showy flowers that come in a wide variety of colors. Most species have several flowers per stem, but some have more, and others have as few as one or two. There are a great many hybrid varieties on the market.

Ask Orchid Care Questions!

Beginners usually have lots of questions about how to grow orchids! Ask them in the form below; other readers will help out, and I’ll try to answer as many questions as I can, too. Pictures are helpful in answering many orchid care questions, so include one if you can!

What Other Visitors Have Asked

Click the links below to see other visitors’ questions and to help out by answering them…

They came in a transparent pot with what did not look like soil, the pot looks far too small and what am i supposed to grow them in as far as soil is concern. …

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I have a couple of your orchids that say they were a white orchid but with “a little bit of magic” they are a different color. When they rebloom will they …

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i am not sure why the leaves are looking shrivelled and dry?????

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Stem or Root
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I have a Phalaenopsis orchid I keep indoors. I have watered it twice in the last 5 days however, this morning I found on one of the leaves a discoloured …

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Watering and Misting
Is it safe to mist an orchid daily and when misting can you mist the petals also?

how to cut back
where do I cut on the long stem

How often do Orchids re-bloom?
I have several orchids and it seems that they only re-bloom about once a year. Is this right? Or should I be doing something more to get them to re-bloom …

orchid roots
our orchid has started to grow shoots on the roots can you please tell what is happening

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Beginner Orchid Growing: Getting Started With Orchid Plants

Orchids have a reputation for being finicky, difficult plants, but many orchids are no harder to grow than your average houseplant. Start with an “easy” orchid, then learn the basics of growing orchids. You’ll be addicted to these fascinating plants in no time. Read on to learn about beginner orchid growing.

Orchid Growing for Beginners

Getting started with orchid plants means selecting the best plant for beginner orchid growing. Although there are many types of orchids, most pros agree that Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) performs well in the average home environment and is great for those just starting out.

A healthy orchid has a strong, erect stem with dark green, leathery leaves. Never buy an orchid that looks brown or wilted.

Basics of Growing Orchids

Light: The amount of light varies considerably, ranging from high, medium or low light, depending on the type of orchid. Moth orchids, however, prefer low lighting such as an east-facing or shaded window, or a spot where the plant receives morning sun and afternoon shade. You can also place the orchid under a fluorescent light.

Your plant will tell you if it’s getting too much (or too little) light. Leaves tend to become greener when light is too low, but they may turn yellow or bleached-looking when light is too bright. If you notice black or brown patches, the plant is likely sunburned and should be moved to an area with lower light.

Temperature and humidity: Like light, orchid temperature preferences range from low to high, depending on the type of orchid. Moth orchids, however, do well in normal room temperatures preferred by most houseplants.

Most orchids prefer humid environments. If your room is dry, place the orchid on a humidity tray to increase moisture in the air around the plant.

Water: Overwatering is the prime cause of orchid death, and orchid pros advise that if in doubt, don’t water until the top couple inches of potting mix feel dry to the touch. Water the orchid in the sink until water runs through the drainage hole, then let it drain thoroughly.

Decrease watering when blooming stops, then resume a normal watering schedule when new leaves appear.

Fertilizing: Feed orchids once a month using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Alternatively, use a fertilizer formulated specifically for orchids. Like watering, application of fertilizer should be reduced when blooming stops and resumed with new growth appears.

Repotting: Repot orchids into fresh potting mix every couple of years. Use a potting mix formulated for orchids and avoid regular potting soil.

Caring for Your Phalaenopsis (The Slightly Harder Part…)

There are a million and one ways to care for your plant and this is just a quick-and-dirty guide to help find an optimal place and routine for your plant. Orchids can be quite temperamental and, believe it or not, do a have a bit of a personality and preferences for what they like. If you’ve tried a few of the tips and your orchid is still not happy don’t despair! Keep experimenting with different locations and strategies to find a spot your plant enjoys and will thrive in.

How often do I water?

There’s a common misconception that because orchids are tropical plants they loooove a ton of water. Wrong! Phalaenopsis orchids should only be watered once the potting medium (the stuff around the roots in the pot) becomes dry to the touch. Poke a finger into the potting medium and if it’s dry give your plant some water—otherwise leave it be.

The best way to water an orchid plant is to remove the pot from it’s decorative container, place the pot under a tap of running water, and allow a stream of room temperature water to run through the roots and potting medium until water flows through the pots drainage holes at the bottom. Let water run through for about a minute but don’t allow the running water to touch the plant’s leaves. Once the potting medium is sufficiently damp allow the pot to completely drain of water BEFORE placing it back in its decorative container. Orchid pots should never be left to sit in a pool of water as this drowns the roots and eventually leads to root rot. (This applies to all plants!)

But I can’t remove my orchid from its decorative container!!!

In some instances it may be more of a hassle to remove an orchid from its container. In this case much of the same applies from above: only water once the potting medium is dry to the touch and water sparingly to prevent a puddle of water from building up in the base. Some strategies for using a minimal amount of water include placing 1-2 regular sized ice cubes on the roots and allowing the water to slowly trickle into the roots and potting medium. Another is to use a judicious amount, not more than ¼ cup of water, poured into the pot. These amounts apply to a large Phalaenopsis plant. Smaller plants will need much less water.

In this situation less is always better! It is better to give your plant less water more regularly than too much water in one go. You can tell if your plant is not getting enough water if the leaves begin to go droopy and/or wrinkly…in this case increase your watering frequency but again, not too much water! We don’t want to drown the roots!

OK. Got it don’t drown my plants roots! What next?

Orchids love humidity! (And each other apparently…)

Orchid plants thrive in a humid environment and ideally they’d love to be in a spot with 50-70% humidity. Although this isn’t ideal for humans (hair frizz anyone?!) there are still a few tricks to help your plant get a bit more moisture. First things first: don’t place your plant in a drafty spot. Next try a few of the tips below to increase the humidity for your plant.

  1. The easiest option: place a small humidifier near you plant.
  2. You can mist the roots of your plant daily with a small sprayer (Pick one up from Ikea or Daiso). The idea is to give the roots some moisture but not a full on watering! Use a light mist.
  3. If your plant is in a decorative pot place a few pebbles at the bottom of the pot and about enough water to come half way up the stones. Rest the orchid pot on top the stones. Water will slowly evaporate upwards creating a moist environment for the roots. You will probably need to top this up every 3-4 weeks.
  4. If you can’t take your plant out of its pot, place a glass of water near the pot. This option will probably give your plant the least amount of additional moisture.
  5. If you’re prone to hot steamy showers, place you plant near your bathroom door so it gets a shot of steam after each shower! (Some of us have been know to bring our plants into the shower a couple of times a week… not naming names…)
  6. Buy your plant a friend! Orchid plants like to be near other orchid plants. Clustering plants close to each other creates a humid environment for these beauties.

We’ve covered a lot about water… what about light?

Orchid plants want to be in a bright spot without direct sunlight. These guys can get sunburnt! Your plant’s leaves will tell you if it’s getting optimal light. In general orchid leaves should be bright green and not a deep dark green.

  • Bright Green Leaves: Great Job! Your plant is getting sufficient light!
  • Dark Green Leaves: Hmm, your plant is getting too little light find a spot near a window or under a florescent light. Plants need about 10-12 hours of light daily.
  • Reddish-Green Leaves: Rare but this means your plants is getting too much light, try to move it in a slightly shaded area.
  • Black Blotches on the Leaves: SOS Your plant is sunburnt! Move the plant out of direct sunlight!

My buds bloomed and then the blooms died. Now what?

As with all flowering plants, blooms eventually die. As each bloom withers pluck it off the stem gently. Although your stem may no longer have any blooms this does not mean your plant is dead. Orchids bloom annually and with care your plant may produce another flowering spike for you next year.

Once the stem no longer has blooms you should trim the stem above a node lower down on the stem. Nodes are little ridges that run along the stem of the orchid branch usually spaced 6-10 cm apart.

Keep caring for your plant as normal and if you get a new plant, place these guys next to each other! If the roots of the plant begin to grow out of the pot it means it’s time for your plant to get a new home. Bring it over to a florist to get new potting medium for the roots.

We’d love to hear if you have any tips to add in the comments! What’s your strategy for keeping your plant happy?

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care Instructions (Moth Orchids)

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care is probably the most common introduction to growing orchids for beginners, so I’ll make sure to cover all the basics in these orchid care instructions, even if they’re also included in my more general information on caring for orchids. Moth orchids, or “Phals” for short, are very easy to grow in most homes; growing them indoors on a windowsill works well, and is part of why these plants have become so popular among the various types of orchids. Phal. equestris (About orchid names) Image courtesy of orchidgalore Distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. If you’ve recently bought a Phal as your first orchid, you’re probably bursting with questions:

  • Will it rebloom? (Yes! Usually about once a year.)
  • It’s not growing in dirt? Why?
  • How do I water an orchid? How often?
  • When it drops its flowers, should I cut the stem back?
  • How much light should I give it?

Phals originate in Southeast Asia, but there are now many thousands of man-made hybrid varieties, many of which look quite different from the 60-or-so wild species. Fortunately, similar orchid care instructions are approprate for all the different Moth Orchids. Actually, most of the commonly-available varieties have been bred to be especially easy for beginners to grow in their houses, so that the attached “orchid care instructions” label can be simple. Most varieties of Moth Orchids bloom about once a year, and a few are fragrant orchids. In the wild, these plants grow as epiphytes, or air plants, clinging to the bark of trees with their modified roots. In cultivation, they should not be potted in soil; they are usually planted in a potting mix based either on sphagnum moss or pieces of fine-grade fir bark, though other types of orchid potting mix are sometimes used as well. The point is that these potting mixes are freely draining and allow a lot of air to the roots. Personally, I’ve had the best results using New Zealand sphagnum moss for my Phals, and growing them in plastic pots. As the potting mix breaks down over time and will eventually suffocate the roots, good Phalaenopsis orchid care instructions will advise repotting orchids every 2-3 years for most types of orchids. (Moth Orchids seldom outgrow their pots once they are blooming size: they have a monopodial growth habit, which means that there’s a central stem that grows upward with leaves on alternating sides of the stem, with flower stems and roots emerging from the stem at the nodes just above each leaf. Sympodial orchids, on the other hand, have a horizontal rhizome and will readily outgrow pots over time.) You’ll often see aerial roots growing up out of the pot to absorb moisture from the air; there is no need to bury these when repotting. Since Moth Orchids have no pseudobulbs or other water-storage organs, they don’t like to dry out too much. It’s best to water as they approach dryness, usually about twice per week. Of course, the easiest way to kill an orchid is through overwatering, so don’t keep them constantly moist or the roots will rot and you may also see other orchid diseases! To water an orchid, take it to the sink and run water through its pot until it runs freely out the bottom, trying to get all of the potting mix wet. Alternatively, dunk it in a bucket for a few seconds until the potting mix stops bubbling. Try not to get water into the plant’s crown (the top of the stem, where new leaves emerge), as it may be trapped there and lead to rot. You’ll want to fertilize at least weekly by dissolving an orchid fertilizer into the water you use; feeding orchids makes them grow better and bloom more profusely. When a Moth Orchid is done blooming, the flower stems will sometimes rebloom in future years. As long as the stem remains green, this is a possibility. If the stem turns brown, you should prune it back. You can also sometimes trick the plant into reblooming right away if you cut the stem back just as the plant finishes blooming: cut the stem about an inch (2-3cm) above one of its nodes, which are small scale-like leaves you’ll see on the flower stem if you look closely. Phalaenopsis prefer intermediate-to-warm temperatures of 70-85°F (21-30C) during the day, ideally with a nighttime drop of 10-15°F (6-8C). Be aware that temperatures above 80°F (27C) can signal to the plant that it’s not the right season to bloom. If the temperature is comfortable for you, it’s probably comfortable for Phalaenopsis too. Like most orchids, Phals grow best with humidity around 70%. This isn’t critical, but they appreciate it. If you want to raise the humidity, thorough indoor orchid care instructions will advise you to mist them with a spray bottle regularly, or to set up a humidity tray: fill a tray of water with gravel, setting the plant on top, then pour some water into the tray. The gravel keeps the plant elevated so it doesn’t sit in the water (that will kill most orchids), but it allows evaporating water to escape and humidify the air nearby. Relatively low lighting, about 1000 footcandles, is best for Moth Orchids. This is dim compared to what many orchids require, but it’s still pretty bright by indoor standards. Try an east window, or a slightly shaded south window (if in the northern hemisphere.) Direct sunlight is definitely a bad idea, as it will cause sunburn. If the plant fails to bloom for you but seems otherwise healthy, try increasing the light somewhat. The easiest way to propagate Phalaenopsis orchids is by planting their keikis, small plantlets that sometimes develop on their flower stems. Once the keiki has a strong root system and at least a few leaves, cut the flower stem on both sides of the keiki and pot it up on its own. (There’s no rush to pot it separately; in fact, you don’t ever have to cut the plants apart: if you can bend the flower stem so the keiki touches the parent plant’s potting mix, it will happily grow there.) They can also be induced to form keikis using “keiki paste.”

Let’s See YOUR Favorite Phals!

Share photos of your favorite Phals using the form below! Also describe how you grow them so successfully, to help others! If you need photography tips, read my advice on taking pictures of orchids.

Other Visitors’ Phals

Click the links below to see other visitors’ favorite moth orchids…

Aria (admin edit: Phal. Ariadne?)
I have only had this plant for about a month now. I water it 2 or 3 times a week and make sure it is a good distance away from direct sunlight. When it …

Doritis Phalaenopsis / Hybrid / Tiannong Rose Not rated yet
It’s growing in sphag moss at present but will be repotted to bark mix after flowers die off. Kept at 74 to 76 degrees, 40 to 50 percent humidity, bright …

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Water & Humidity

Because orchids like humidity, they are often kept in pots sitting on a drip tray like this one at Amazon.com. This helps maintain the humidity levels.

Over-watering is the number one cause of houseplant deaths! That said, orchids cannot be left to dry out.

It will vary by the conditions in your home but, in general, they need watering approximately once a week.

Buy Humidity Drip Tray Here


Find out exactly what your orchid needs. Mom occasionally uses a high-nitrogen fertilizer as well as fish emulsion.


Orchids enjoy cool evenings 50°F | 10°C and up, depending on the type.


A breeze or fan also seems to please them. Every little breeze seems to whisper ‘Louise’….


During the warm months, mom puts her orchids outside in a sheltered location. You don’t ever want the bright sun on them but they do love the warmth (here in Canada) and a fine summer breeze. Don’t we all?


After a moth orchid is done flowering, the flower spike can be trimmed to encourage reblooming in just a few months’ time. Look up diagrams online to see the precise way to trim the flower stem.


For moth orchids, repotting is necessary when the roots start to look crammed. Timing varies with each plant: could be every 1-3 years or so.

You can do it yourself or take the plant to a nursery and have them do it.

And that’s the basics. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I know I’m ready to get started with my first one and you can bet I’ll be calling the orchid hotline (mom) as any questions arise. And her reply will be, I always just look it up on Google.

Summary for Beginner Orchid Growers
1. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are a good starter plant.
2. Pick an indoor location with indirect sun.
3. The orchid should be potted in orchid growing medium (not regular potting soil).
4. Water as needed. Generally, this is approximately 1x per week, not more.
5. A drip tray helps keep the desired humidity levels.
6. Research fertilizers for your plant including the timing and amount to use.
7. Place outside in the summer months (optional), out of direct sun with a breeze.
8. Research reblooming. You may be able to trigger new blooms just a few months after the first flowers have finished.

Enjoy! They are such wonderful plants.

And thanks, Mom!

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛

More Propagation Tips


  • How to Grow African Violets from Leaf Cuttings | Grow more of what you have
  • How to Grow a Pineapple Plant Indoors | Propagate a grocery store pineapple
  • How to Grow an Avocado from Seed | Easy Method: No Toothpicks Required

How to Choose the Right Orchid

By Steven A. Frowine, National Gardening Association

Choosing the right orchid for your home requires some consideration. Few beginning orchid growers take the time to consider their environment before they buy, but it’s easy end up bringing home a gorgeous orchid that’s completely wrong for your home. Before you bring home an orchid, you need to consider the average daytime and nighttime temperatures in summer and winter where you live, and the amount of light the orchid will get in your home.

When orchid publications refer to temperature preferences, they always mean the evening temperature. The daytime temperature is usually about 15 degrees F (9.5 C) higher than the evening temperature. To determine your home’s high and low temperatures indoors, get a maximum/minimum thermometer that records this information and place it in your growing area.

The following table lists some of the most common types of orchids by temperature requirements. Notice that some orchids are adaptable enough to fit into more than one temperature range.

Orchid Temperature Preferences

Temperature (Nighttime Minimum) Genus
Cool 45 to 55 degrees F (7.2 to 12.8 degrees centigrade) Cymbidium
Cool 45 to 55 degrees F (7.2 to 12.8 degrees C) to Intermediate
55 to 60 degrees F (12.8 to15.6 degrees C)
Intermediate 55 to 60 degrees F (12.8 to 15.6 degrees C) Aerangis
Cattleya and hybrids
Intermediate 55 to 60 degrees F (12.8 to 15.6 degrees C) to
Warm 65 F (18.3 C or higher)
. Angraecum
. Ascofinetia
. Brassavola
. Cattleya
. Dendrobium
. Encyclia
. Epidendrum
. Neofinetia
. Neostylis
. Oncidium
. Rhynchostylis
. Vanda
Warm 65 degrees F (18.3 degrees C) or higher Angraecum

Just as important as temperature is the amount of light your orchid will get. Orchids that thrive in high light need several hours of direct sunlight (preferably in the morning to early afternoon), while those that thrive in lower light will perform with less direct and more diffused light in a windowsill or under lights.

Perform this shadow test to measure light intensity.

The following orchids require a bright greenhouse, a very bright south-facing window, or very-high-output (VHO) fluorescent lamps (which require specialized ballasts to operate) or metal halide lamps:

  • Angraecum

  • Some varieties of Cymbidium

  • Some varieties of Dendrobium

  • Vanda

The following orchids need a shaded greenhouse, an east-facing window, or a four-tube 40-watt florescent light fixture:

  • Amesiella

  • Ascocenda

  • Ascocentrum

  • Ascofinetia

  • Brassavola

  • Brassia

  • Cattleya and hybrids

  • Some varieties of Cymbidium

  • Some varieties of Dendrobium

  • Epidendrum

  • Laelia

  • Leptotes

  • Masdevallia

  • Miltonia

  • Miltoniopsis

  • Neofinetia

  • Neostylis

  • Odontoglossum

  • Oncidium

  • Paphiopedilum (strap-leaf multiflorals)

  • Phragmipedium

  • Rhynchostylis

  • Zygopetalum

The following orchids do well with a low level of light, easily attainable with two 40-watt florescent lamps or on an east-facing windowsill:

  • Paphiopedilum (not including strap-leaf multiflorals)

  • Phalaenopsis

  • All orchid seedlings

In addition to considering temperature and light when growing orchids, consider these questions:

  • Does the growing area have moist (humid) air, or is the air very dry? If it is already humid (50 percent or greater), it’s perfect. If not, your orchids will be happier with moister air.

  • How much space do you have to grow orchids? If you have plenty of head room, you can grow some of the taller orchids, like cane dendrobiums and full-size cattleyas. If space is at a premium, search out very compact or miniature growers.

  • When do you want your orchids to bloom? Spring, summer, fall, or winter? In the evening or during the day? Armed with this information, you can pick those orchids that will be in bloom in the season and time of day of your choice.

  • Do you have air circulation in the growing area? Most homes have adequate air circulation, but if your orchids are going to be located in the basement or some other spot where the air is stagnant, you’ll want to consider a fan of some type to provide them with fresh air.

So you want an introduction to growing orchids for beginners? You’re in for an adventure, since growing orchids is addictive! I’ll give you some “gateway” orchid care instructions below. Once you know how to grow orchids, they’ll thrive for you, as most are easy to care for. They’ll grow bigger, make more flowers each year, and you’ll be far less likely to kill them and feel guilty about it.

Growing orchids is easy! If you imitate a plant’s natural habitat, it will thrive. There are very many types of orchids, coming from a wide variety of different habitats (on every continent except Antarctica!) so there is almost certainly an orchid that likes the conditions you are able to provide. The most commonly available orchids, such as the Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis, are so popular because they do well in typical homes.

You might also want to see the page on growing orchids indoors for more information on reproducing orchid habitats in typical homes, or proceed to the slightly more advanced orchid care instructions in the caring for orchids section, which is not specifically aimed at growing orchids for beginners.

Regardless of which of the many types of orchids you are growing, a few tips will help you keep them happy. Growing orchids for beginners mostly involves learning a few basics:

Many people growing orchids as beginners wonder about pruning orchids. Trimming old flower stems that have turned brown is a good idea. If it’s still green, it may rebloom, either from the tip or by branching further back on the stem. So don’t cut back green flower stems.

Pruning orchids to keep them small is a bad idea, because it is very stressful to the plant. If you cut a leaf, often the whole leaf will die back. Cutting stems is also usually bad. The only stems to cut on orchids are rhizomes (when dividing a plant; leave at least three or four growths per division) and flower stems (when they’re done blooming and have turned brown, or if you want to put cut flowers in a vase.) Trimming orchids should really only be done to remove leaves, roots, or flower stems that have already died and turned brown.

Also, sterilize your cutting tools (or use disposable razors) so that you don’t spread orchid diseases between your plants.

Article courtesy of www.orchid-care-tips.com

How to Care for an Orchid

By Kacey Kroh, Abshier House

Knowing how to care for an orchid can sometimes seem difficult. Orchids may look very delicate, but in reality, they are not that difficult to grow or keep alive. According to the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families there are approximately 26,570 accepted orchid species.

Image credit: RF Company/Alamy Stock Photo

Even though there are so many different types of orchids, like all plants, they require these three things to survive:

  1. Growing medium
  2. Sunlight
  3. Water

In addition to the basic needs, there are a few more things you might need to know to help your orchid thrive.

What are basic care instructions for an orchid?

On a basic level, most orchids need the following to survive:

  • A well-draining growing medium
  • At least six hours of indirect sunlight (bright shade) a day
  • Moist, but not waterlogged, soil
  • Once-a-month fertilizer feedings (quarter strength)
  • A humid environment
  • Pruning, as needed

Keep in mind, some of the more delicate species of orchids require more light, less water, lots of humidity, and so on. If you’re growing orchids for the first time, you may want to start with a common species that doesn’t require special conditions.

You can use any plant food or fertilizer to care for your orchid, but you should only use one fourth of the amount directed on the package.

You can provide extra humidity to the area around the orchid by either spritzing only the leaves with a mist of water a few times or by setting the plant on top of a dish filled with moist or wet gravel.

Do not nest the orchid down in the gravel as it might soak up the moisture into the growing medium and waterlog the root structure. Also, do not mist the flowers. This may cause them to mold.

What growing medium do you use for an orchid?

The growing medium is subject to your preferences. Typically, most growers will use either moss or ground-up tree bark. And special orchid potting mixes can be purchased.

Do not use regular potting soil for your orchid. It will suffocate the roots and kill the plant.

If you want to be creative, you can mix mediums or you could even grow an orchid in a wad of wet paper towel. (With the paper towel method, the plant would need watered and fed fertilizer constantly. It is not recommended.)

How much sunlight does an orchid need?

In nature, orchids like partially shaded areas. When growing an orchid indoors, it is recommended that it receive six hours of indirect sunlight a day to stay healthy.

  • East-facing windows provide morning sunlight and the orchid will not overheat or dry out directly in the sun.
  • South-facing windows provide sun exposure all day, but the heat is too intense for an orchid to stay healthy. With this kind of light, the plant will usually dry out and die.
  • West-facing widows provide evening sun and, similar to south-facing windows, are too hot for an orchid to sit directly in the sun.
  • North-facing windows do not provide enough light to keep the plant healthy. The plant will likely become droopy and will die.

If the plant starts to look like its drying out and getting too much sun, try filtering the sun with a sheer curtain or moving the orchid further away from the window.

If the plant starts to look droopy and over-watered but the growing medium isn’t wet or soggy, try moving the plant to a room with better sun exposure or rotating the plant from indoors to outdoors.

How much water is too much water for an orchid?

Watering an orchid is as easy as watering any other plant. You can tell an orchid is getting too much water if the leaves start turning yellow. There is no recommended schedule for watering an orchid. If you take a regimented approach, you will likely end up with a dead plant. The water requirements for orchids can vary based on the environment the plant is living in, its size, and the time of year.

When watering the orchid, make sure to water the soil and not the plant directly. If water goes down between the leaves, it can cause crown rot. When crown rot occurs, the leaves fall off and eventually the whole plant will die.

Instead of creating a water schedule, try checking the orchid to evaluate whether it needs water. Stick your finger in the growing medium or soil, and if it feels dry, water the plant. If the soil feels wet, then wait and check again in a day or two. Always water the plant just before it goes completely dry.

How do you get an orchid to flower?

Orchids only produce flowers once a year and the flowers bloom continuously for about a month. Some varieties bloom in winter and some in spring, but the bloom period for most orchids is around August or September.

Towards the end of the bloom period you can trick the plant into blooming again by pruning the flower portion of the plant away at the node just below the first flower.

If you take note of the light and water conditions and duplicate the environment, you can actually keep trimming the node to keep the plant blooming all year.

What does it mean if an orchid goes dormant?

If your orchid drops all of its flowers, do not be alarmed. It will bloom again in one year. If it does not bloom again, it means the plant has gone dormant. Likely, the roots are stifled and the orchid needs new growing medium. Dead roots and stems need pruned before you pot the plant. This process usually needs to be done every two or three years. The orchid should send out a new stem and flower again during blooming season.

You can speed up the new growth by feeding the plant a quarter strength of fertilizer with every watering. Once the orchid is back to normal, you can cut back to regular feedings.

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