Most orchid enthusiasts agree that the best orchid for novices is Phalaenopsis. One of the easiest and most popular to grow at home, they are better known as the “Moth Orchid.” They require average house temperature and moderate light. They adapt well to the typical temperature in homes (65ºF nights and 75ºF days) and the bright light near an east window. Phalaenopsis may be grown exclusively under artificial light. No other orchid is easier to grow indoors. You can also try growing orchids that are hybrids between Phalaenopsis and Doritaenopsis that are just as easy to grow. Moth orchids are widely available and relatively inexpensive. When properly cared for, plants will last a lifetime. Other commonly grown orchids are the Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper) that is another low light grower. Epidendrums produce an abundance of small (1inch) flowers. Like Phalaenopsis, they are considered very easy to grow.
Growing Orchids – Growing Rules
Growing orchids is really not much different from growing any other type of houseplant. Most orchids will thrive in your home if you follow a few basic plant care rules when growing orchids.
Growing Orchids – Rule #1
Don’t overwater. Over watering kills more orchids and houseplants than anything else!
Growing Orchids – Rule #2
Provide the right amount of light for the variety of orchid you’re growing.
Growing Orchids – Rule #3
Keep the temperature in an acceptable range.
Growing Orchids – Rule #4
Use a balanced fertilizer when feeding orchids
Growing Orchids – Rule #5
Keep the humidity high. Orchids like 40%-70% humidity.
Growing Orchids – Rule #6
Orchids like Good air movement.
Growing orchids is much like growing any other blooming houseplant. But remember most orchids are epiphytes, which means they draw moisture through their leaves, not their roots and are planted in orchid bark, lava rock, or mounted on pieces of bark. Don’t plant orchids in soil unless you know they are the are the terrestrial type.
Growing Orchids – Light
A bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal for growing orchids. Generally 12 to 36 inches away from a south window is best. Plants should be placed in an east, south or west window and protected from direct noonday sun. Orchids are variable in their light requirements, depending on genera and variety. Plants that need high light, such as Cymbidiums, can be placed close to the window. This protects other plants that need medium light, like Cattleyas, by blocking direct sunlight. Low light can be maintained indoors by varying the distance between plant and window. Phalaenopsis is an orchid needing low light. If only a south window is available, a sheer curtain helps prevent scorching during months when the sun is low in the sky. Orchids also grow and bloom well under artificial fluorescent lighting. Artificial lighting is an option that makes sense in many situations for growing orchids. If you wish to grow under lights, provide artificial light only during daylight hours to initiate flower buds during the proper season. Varieties with lower light requirements bloom better in this type of culture. For best results, use wide spectrum fluorescent tubes such as grow lights. Warm and cool white tubes used together are also satisfactory. Lights should be on at least 12 hours per day. However, flowering will be improved in plants receiving natural and artificial light versus artificial light alone.
Read the leaves. Pay attention to your orchid’s foliage to learn if the light you are providing is right. If new leaves are lush, soft and darker in color than the mature leaves, the plant is not getting enough light. Plants won’t flower if the light is too low. Foliage that is stunted, hard and yellow indicates the light is too bright.
Growing Orchids – Temperature
Growing orchids generally require the same temperature range as houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70’s and nighttime lows of 55-65ºF will keep orchids and houseplants growing happily. Warm growing orchids should have a day temperature of 72-80°F with sun and nighttime low temperature down to 65°F. Day temperatures for intermediate growing orchids should range from 68-70°F with sun, and night temperatures should be around 60°F. Cool growing orchids require a day temperature of 65-70°F with sun, and night temperature of 50-55°F. Orchids (and other houseplants) next to windows on extremely cold nights may be cold damaged and should be moved away from windows. Plants grow faster in higher temperatures but they also need more humidity and air movement when it’s hot. All varieties tolerate higher temperatures in hot summer weather, but additional shade and misting is necessary to keep them cool.
To initiate flower spikes, provide nighttime temperatures to 55 degrees F for several weeks in the fall. An occasional drop below the recommended night temperature norm during the colder months will not harm the plants.
Avoid exposing plants to fluctuating temperatures as the buds develop or the buds may drop just as they are ready to open. Good ventilation is essential. Air movement around your orchids helps to prevent diseases. Good cross-ventilation is usually sufficient, but keep plants away from drafty, cold windows.
During the summer months, you can place growing orchids outdoors, after the danger of frost has passed, usually by the end of May. Orchids flourish outdoors on a porch or under a tree if they are raised off the ground to receive light and ample sun. If the temperature rises to around 90°F, mist the leaves several times a day to avoid sunburn.
Growing Orchids – Watering
Proper watering is critical to successfully growing orchids. Over watering will rot the plant’s roots, causing it to die. Depending on your climate and the season, frequency of watering may range from every other day to every 10 days. In general, water once a week. Orchids growing in clay pots may need more frequent watering. Don’t allow bark around orchids roots to dry completely. Nor should the plant’s roots stand in water. Add enough water each time to run out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
When you do water, flush the growing medium with water until excess runs out the drainage hole. The best time to water is morning so that leaves are dry by nightfall, making them less prone to disease. Use tepid water to keep terrestrial orchids moist below the surface of the media. Allow epiphytic orchids to dry out below the surface between watering. A soil amendment can be added each time you water to help maintain humus levels and healthy roots.
Growing Orchids – Humidity
Growing orchids like high humidity, usually between 40%-70%. Most homes are too dry for growing orchids, especially in winter. Use a humidifier or put plants on gravel in trays containing water. The easiest way to increase humidity around the plants is to set the pots on pebbles with water in a tray or saucer. The evaporating water makes the air around the plants more humid. The pot should not sit in the water but be raised above the water level by the stones. Decorative rocks may be used for a more pleasing appearance. Growing Orchids may also be misted with distilled water to raise humidity levels.
Growing Orchids – Fertilizer
Orchids are generally considered to be light feeders do not require abundant doses of fertilizer. But all orchids, including Catasetum Orchidglade, need to be lightly fertilized. Growing Orchids thrive if fed regularly during the growing season.
Orchids respond well to regular fertilization but are damaged or killed by too much fertilizer. Once a month, a water-soluble fertilizer should be applied as part of normal watering. Each month, water thoroughly with plain water to flush out any accumulated fertilizer salts. If the tips of the leaves turn black you are over fertilizing.
In the early days of orchid cultivation, osmunda fiber was the medium of choice; it required almost nothing else to grow orchids. But for the past 40 years or so, as fir bark has become the most common growing medium, regular supplemental fertilizing has been necessary since the bark provides little in the way of nutrition for the plants as it breaks down.
This is an orchid pot sold here at Emerson Creek. These planters are individually handcrafted to display your orchids gracefully for years to come. Choose from a wide variety of lovely, handpainted patterns that are sure to add visual interest to your orchid collection even when your plants are out of bloom. We invite you to try just one of our orchid pots and believe you’ll soon decide that every orchid in your home deserves the royal treatment of an Emerson Creek Pottery