Orchids Are Hard – NOT SO!

Orchid-Chinese-FlowersThe beauty of orchids is known by all. Many a bride has carried stunning Phalaenopsis and Cymbidiums in their bridal bouquets.  Orchids are a favorite for flower arrangements, thank you and hostess gifts, and for Mother’s Day. As a houseplant orchids seem to have gotten a reputation for being fickle and finicky. Not so! Orchids make wonderful houseplants! With just a few tips, you can be on your way to loving orchids as much as we do!

Orchids need as bright filtered light. Without enough light, you will get lots of leaves but no flowers. With sufficient light, the leaves will be a bit lighter green, almost yellow-green with strong upright growth. Too little light will produce dark green foliage. Too much light will burn the leaves. There is really no magic formula for light, just test a bright window and leave your orchid there for about a month.

Orchid 1Air/Soil
Orchids cannot tolerate stagnant environment. While it is true they prefer not to be moved, they do need air circulation. A light breeze is good for keeping disease at bay and for providing optimum air flow. If possible a small fan near your orchids would be sufficient although never point the fan directly at the orchid. Orchid potting media should have exceptionally good drainage for air flow. Don’t use straight potting soil or the roots will eventually die. Potting media should have a combination of bark, peat, and other open substances that will provide air flow and hold nutrients.

Orchids prefer to slightly dry so watering does not have to be too hard. Let your orchid slightly dry between watering. It should be anywhere from 5-12 days depending on the season and how dry or humid your home is. If you have your orchid in an orchid pot (with slots on the sides for air flow) it may need to be watered a bit more frequently than if it is in a plastic pot with only a drainage hole. Probably the number one reason orchids die is due to overwatering. For each watering, water enough so that it runs out the drainage holes to flush out all the salts, then wait until the potting media is dry.

orchid fertilizedFertilizer
You can fertilize your orchids each time you water during the warm months and every other time during the cold months. If fertilizing every week, use half the amount as stated on the container. Orchids will do ok without fertilizer, but for optimum growth and flowering, use a quality fertilizer. For best results, wet the potting media slightly then water with fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer that has little or no urea.

Mix equal parts orchid potting mix with sphagnum moss to use as your media.

If your potting mix has broken down so that air flow is diminished (you can tell by seeing roots die-roots should be plump and white) you will need to repot in new potting media. If the plant has outgrown the container, choose a larger pot and quality potting media. Other than those two reasons, leave your orchid alone. Try never to repot when your plant is blooming.

orchid scalePests
Orchids are not immune to disease and insects. Scale, mealybugs, mites, and aphids may take up residence. An organic insecticide can be sprayed on leaves and soil but never on flowers. You can also use diluted isopropyl alcohol on a q-tip or cotton to lightly touch the insect. Be very careful not to use alcohol on the plant. The number one best way to deter disease like fungus, root rot or black rot is to keep air flowing and water properly. Never water the leaves, only the potting media and roots. Disease and fungus can spread quickly so go ahead and cut off the affected leaves or roots.