Orchids have such beautiful, delicate flowers, and they last for weeks. There are nearly 30,000 different species of orchids, one of the largest flowering families on earth. Yet, each orchid is distinctive in its perfection. They come in a wide variety of shapes and colors.
Despite their beauty, many gardeners prefer not to cultivate orchids. This is because orchids have a reputation as difficult plants to grow. Yet, if you create the right conditions for growing orchids indoors, your plants will reward you with a beautiful show of flowers each year. Read on to find out more about growing orchids indoors.
Learn from nature
In the wild, orchids grow on other objects. They attach themselves to the roots and branches of trees. They sometimes even grow on stones. Many of the orchid species grow in tropical forests prone to heavy downpours. Orchids absorb water and nutrients from the air and the rain. They store this water in their fleshy leaves, stems, and roots.
Some orchids are more particular than others, but there are plenty of rugged easy-to-grow plants in the vast orchid family. Choosing the right orchid for your indoor garden and you’ll have a better chance of success.
Given the right conditions most varieties of Dancing Lady (Oncidium), Moth (Phalaenopsis), or slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum) will happily grow indoors. Many of the other species need outdoor or greenhouse conditions to thrive.
Caring for your orchids
Unlike other houseplants, orchids don’t grow in soil. They need plenty of ventilation around their roots and they enjoy humid conditions. They prefer temperatures of between 50° and 85° F and they must have lots of filtered light. If you can create these ambient conditions, your orchids will flourish.
Watering your orchids
The main cause of orchid failure, indeed of most houseplants, is over-watering. Watering your orchids to a schedule won’t work. The amount of water these plants need depends on the species, the potting medium, and the ambient conditions in your home.
Get to know your orchids better; check the soil. Feel the weight of the pots. Once you get their watering needs right, they will thrive.
To water your plants, sprinkle plenty of water onto the potting mix so it runs over the roots and through the draining holes in the base of the pot. The water must soak through the roots and fill the pebble tray beneath.
Alternatively, ensure that the roots have a good soak by placing the pot into a basin with water all the way to the brim of the pot. Let the pot soak for up to 20 minutes. Then take it out of the water and let all the surplus water drain off. As a rule of thumb, orchids need a good weekly soak in the summer months.
Leaves that start to turn yellow indicate that your plant is in distress so slow down on the water.
Feeding your orchid
Orchids also need regular feeding. Choose a fertilizer that contains little to no urea. The orchid fertilizer should contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Fertilize your orchid once a month during the growing season which is from March to November. Always water your orchids well before fertilizing them.
No fertilizer is necessary from the middle of December to the middle of February.
Orchids need light
Orchids like a lot of light, but it must be filtered. Unless your orchid receives enough light, it may fail to bloom. Yet direct sunlight could burn the leaves.
The leaf color shows how happy orchids are with the amount of light that they receive. Though dark green leaves may look good and healthy, they imply that your orchid needs light. Medium to light green leaves with yellow tones suggest that your plant is happy with the light it receives.
Windows that face south or east offer the best light for orchids. The afternoon sun in west-facing windows is often too hot. Orchids can get sunburnt. When this happens, their leaves become bleached, turning white and eventually black.
If your orchid doesn’t bloom, it might be because there is not enough light in your home. Consider investing in grow lights. They come in various shapes and sizes so you can find one to fit your space. Grow lights dispense full-spectrum light onto the plants to encourage growth. You will have to leave your plants under the lights for 10 to 12 hours a day.
Ambient temperatures also affect orchid blooms. Orchids enjoy warm daytime temperatures but a drop of 15° F at night promotes better blooms. Many orchids bud in autumn and winter so the drop in temperature is particularly important at this time.
You can select orchids according to their temperature requirements. They are generally classified as warm, intermediate, and cool growing, though many will manage in less-than-ideal temperatures. The temperature classifications indicate the lowest night-time temperatures.
Warm growing orchids don’t like night-time temperatures to drop below 60° Fahrenheit. Intermediate growing orchids prefer night temperatures of 55° Fahrenheit and cool growing orchids thrive in night temperatures of 50° Fahrenheit. In general, orchids don’t like temperatures that rise above 90°.
Orchids need high humidity. They thrive when humidity levels of between 50% and 70%. Raise humidity levels around your plants by placing water in a tray beneath the plants. Group your orchids together and mist them daily. Consider using a humidifier in the winter months.
Potting your orchid
Orchids prefer small pots because they allow the potting mix to dry quickly. Orchid pots are often filled with bark chips or sphagnum moss. Bark drains quickly, so it is a good choice for orchids that need to dry between watering.
Moss, on the other hand, remains wet so you don’t have to water your orchids as often. Still, if you put too much water in the moss potting mix, it may have a detrimental effect on your orchids.
Other potting mixes include cork charcoal and sand. Some gardeners mix their own orchid potting mix with a combination of perlite, sphagnum moss, and bark. The orchid species that you’ve chosen to grow should dictate which potting mix is best.
Whatever the mixture, it must give the roots space to breathe and allow water to quickly drain off the roots. Nothing will kill off your orchid faster than drowning the roots in water. When they can’t breathe, they will rot.
Your potting mix will eventually start to deteriorate. Bark is especially prone to decomposition. Change the bark every year or two and when you do, clip the dead roots off your orchids. You can tell the dead roots from the fresh and healthy ones as they are darker and softer.
Grow your indoor orchid collection
It may be that orchids are a little finicky. Still, when you’ve learned how to manage your indoor orchids, you’ll look forward to the beautiful show of color during the cold winter months. We’re sure that once you’ve mastered the art of growing orchids indoors, you’ll be adding to your orchid collection.