Orchid care for beginners- it’s easier than you thought!

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“Orchids don’t make good houseplants; don’t buy an Orchid”.  That was Grandma’s advice.  And since I considered Grandma a gardening expert, I believed her.  Yet, I couldn’t resist those tall exotic blooms and one day found myself leaving the grocery store with a beautiful white Orchid in hand.  “Oh well I thought, I don’t know how to take care of orchids, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts”

Well, Grandma was wrong!  That Orchid flourished.  It bloomed and bloomed and bloomed again!  I even repotted it and that orchid rebloomed again! 

And, you can have this success too!

Read on for practical non-expert orchid tips. Learn about orchid care, how to repot an orchid, which orchids to buy, and get tips for helping your orchid to rebloom again and again and again.

a large white orchid bloom, text overlay reads easy care tips for orchids

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Which orchid should you buy?

My advice: Just buy the prettiest one.

More specifically, go to the grocery store and just buy the one you think is prettiest!  Picking a plant with some un-opened buds means the flowering will last longer.  Avoid plants with dry or yellowing leaves.  Plant care instructions sheets and a lovely pot are a bonus.

There are tonnes of sites on the internet about growing orchids and some of them get pretty involved. 

Here’s the truth of my orchid success:  I’ve only ever bought the cheap department store orchids.  I have never even tried to figure out which orchids are recommended as houseplants.  In fact, I have no idea what variety my orchids actually are!

I just assume that the grocery store doesn’t want lots of people complaining that their plants have died so they probably figured out which ones would do best and are only selling those.  (Of course I could be totally wrong on this, but so far, I’ve been lucky).

If you really want to know, it seems many sites recommend the moth orchid or the Phalaenopsis orchid.  Did you know you can actually buy orchids online?  I found this one at Amazon!

Plant Care Today has a comprehensive article on caring for the Phalaenopsis, an easy orchid care for beginners guide.

Psst… In case you just want to skip all the shopping and deciding… but still want beautiful houseplants:

Yes, you might not get orchids, but if you’re here because you just want easy, beautiful indoor plants, you might want to check out either of these indoor garden subscription boxes.

Seriously easy, and pretty darn affordable too, considering they do the shopping, accessorizing, and decision making for you. Then, your new little friend arrives at your door ready for you to love and enjoy!

Check out the My Garden Box for a variety of indoor plants and beautiful plant pots and accessories or if perhaps succulents are more your style: The Succulents Monthly Box might be more of what you’re looking for.


What’s the best temperature for Orchids?

My advice: If you’re comfortable in your home, chances are orchids will be too.

Most orchids prefer an average home temperature and love when the temperatures fluctuate daily.  Because I have horribly-insulated windows, my orchids get a good dip in the temperature each night.

If you happen to live somewhere quite hot without much of a nighttime temperature drop, you might have more difficulties getting your orchids to rebloom.  Apparently, it’s the cooler night temperatures which help trigger blooming.


How to water Orchids

My adviceGive your plant a little water once each week and soak it when you remember.

According to the experts, most orchids like some humidity and don’t want to dry out too often.  If you dig around in that stuff your orchid is planted in, you’ll likely find big chunks of bark and maybe some mosses.  This stuff doesn’t absorb water very well.

Should you use the icecube orchid watering method?  I’ve heard of people putting a few ice cubes into their orchid pot every week.  I think this works because the slow melt encourages the bark to absorb water.  Otherwise, when you water you’ll notice the water very quickly just runs through the pot.

Another great tip is to sit your orchid in a larger container of water for about 15 minutes.  Doing this every few weeks will allow for the planting materials to absorb water and slowly release that back to the roots.

As for keeping the humidity up, there are a few things you can do.  Keeping your orchid in the bathroom or by the kitchen sink means it will enjoy an increased humidity level.  You could also double pot your plant or keep it on a pebble tray.  Grouping plants together also increases their humidity levels.

Getting yourself a soil moisture reader could be fun if you like monitoring these types of things.

What do I mean by double potting?  Here’s my planting secret.  I put my orchids into slightly larger pots or bowls.  Then, I put some rocks or something plastic on the bottom of the larger vessel to hold my orchid up off the bottom.  When I water my orchid the excess water runs into the bottom and I leave it there to slowly evaporate (provide humidity).  The important piece is that the orchid is raised up.  Don’t let the orchid’s roots sit in that water!

An easy pink orchid for beginners that rebloomed in the home
My orchid (bought at Ikea) on it’s third rebloom.

Oh, and don’t forget about fertilizer!   As plants grow and bloom and thrive they’ll slowly use up the nutrients present in their growing medium. You can replenish these important nutrients in a variety of ways. A quick Google search will give you all sorts of DIY orchid fertilizer formulas or you can skip the research and just buy yourself an easy to apply quality orchid fertilizer.


How much light do indoor Orchids need?

My advice: Don’t put orchids in the direct summer southern sun.  Sit them where you’ll enjoy them and where they’ll enjoy a few hours of sun each day.

Orchids do best with medium to high light like east and west-facing sun.  Most guides recommend against northern exposure; although, my mom has had many reblooms with her orchids in a huge north facing window.

My orchids have gotten ugly white sunburn spots on their leaves when they get too much direct hot sun… whoops!


Tips on re-potting an Orchid

My advice:  wait a few years.

Eventually, if you have success with your orchid, it will outgrow its original pot.  You’ll know it’s time to repot when the orchid is top heavy, or the roots at the bottom have exploded out of the container.

How to repot an orchid:

  1. Buy a small bag of orchid potting mix
  2. Choose a plant pot a few inches larger than your current plant pot (make sure it’s clean).
  3. Gently remove your orchid from its original pot. You may need to cut some roots to free it.
  4. Remove any rotten-looking roots or potting mix
  5. Place your orchid root ball into the new container and fill around with orchid potting mix.
  6. Make sure you remember to include your stem support stick or add a higher one if needed.
  7. Soak for about 20 minutes, drain, and place in a bright spot to enjoy.

Will your Orchid rebloom?

My advice: Give it time.

It is possible to rebloom orchids.  Both my mom and I have had tremendous success with our orchids and neither one of us has really done anything special.  According to the plant experts, an orchid will be best encouraged to rebloom if it receives nightly temperature fluctuations.

How to rebloom orchids:

  1. Pluck off any dead flowers. You can also cut the flower stalk if it appears to have dried out. Mom and I have differing opinions on whether or not we should cut those flower stalks. I tend to cut them. She doesn’t.
  2. Leave the orchid to sit in a bright spot close to a window. Often times there is a temperature fluctuation closer to windows.
  3. Continue to water as usual and wait.
  4. If after 6 months you don’t see any new flower buds or a flowering stalk growing, you can try to cut the old flower stalk down (cut just before a little bump on the stem).
  5. Continue to water and wait some more.
  6. If you still haven’t seen any new flower growth, try moving the plant to a different spot. At this point, you just need to experiment a little – perhaps try a cooler location with more sun if possible.

Bringing Nature In

Growing houseplants is one of the easiest ways to bring nature indoors and into your family’s life.  Plants make thoughtful gifts for almost any occasion.  They help clean the air and elevate one’s mood.  They help a home feel cozy and alive.  And, they’re just nice to look at!

So, if you’re looking for an easy way to start with houseplants, I would suggest trying an orchid.  Hopefully this ‘how to take care of orchids’ article showed you that they don’t need much special treatment and has encouraged you to even try reblooming your orchid after its initial flowers have faded.

If you already have orchids in your home, and have any orchid growing tips that work really well for you, I’d love if you shared them.  What works for me in my location will not necessarily work for everyone.  Happy growing!


P.S.  Bringing nature into your home and family life doesn’t just mean turning your family into avid hikers or going bird watching every Sunday morning.  There are myriad of ways to be more environmentally aware and appreciative of the natural world. 

Take Them Outside is all about helping busy families find time to bring nature into their lives.  If you’d like to receive helpful tips, news, goodies, and be part of the conversation join the Take Them Outside Club or follow along on Facebook.

Other gardening posts you’ll be interested in:

pink orchid in a white pot on a wooden table

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21 comments

    1. Yes, sometimes if the orchid is shocked for some reason it will drop all the flowers. Perhaps it got too dry, too wet, or too cold. I would definitely keep caring for it (west or east sun, weekly soakings or a few ice cubes) and hopefully it will bloom again. Do check to make sure the growing medium isn’t soggy and take a good look for bugs just to be sure that’s not a problem. Good luck!

  1. I want to know why my orchid grows so many stems . They don’t bloom. But another stem appears and it will bloom. I have many stems growing up in the plant. Should I cut them off? My orchid has bloomed about three times already.

    1. Hi Carol, I’ve heard of this happening. But, to be honest, I’m not an expert and can’t say why your orchid would be growing more flower stems. If that happened to me, I’d likely just leave the stems to see if they bud. I wonder if your orchid is planning to bloom but then is shocked somehow which prevents it from forming buds. Then, after a while tries again and perhaps the conditions are better this time and the buds and flowers come. I wonder if you frequently relocate your orchid plant? If so, perhaps these changes in growing conditions might be confusing the plant?

  2. Just recently was gifted with a beautiful moth orchid. Love plants, but have never tried to care for orchids. Live in Florida in a West facing Condo. Have my orchid sitting indoors next to sliding glass door. One of the stems has lost its blooms. What should I do? Have not fertilized it yet. Do I need to use boiled or distilled water?

    1. Hi Shirley, to be honest, I have never boiled or given distilled water to my orchids. I use my tap water, but I know there aren’t any additives in my water. As for your old flower stem, some people leave these, some cut them. I suggest leaving it for now to see if another will grow and if so, then cut the old dry stuff off. But, my grandmother says her orchid re-blooms from the old spent stems. This is why I suggest you leave it until you see what your orchid will do. I suggest just making sure the roots get a good soak now and then, not too much direct hot sun, and wait it out. Good luck! Oh, and as for fertilizer… again, I don’t fuss much with fertilizers, but I do know you can purchase quality orchid fertilizers. And, if you enjoy pampering your plants then I’d say go ahead and fertilize, but follow the instructions closely. All the best to you and your orchid:)

  3. Hey jenn,
    I love your content, the post is awesome -engaging, insightful and simplified (Indeed! Grandma was wrong this time about orchids).

    Just to contribute a little to the post if you don’t mind. I think that the state of leaves can determine if your orchid is getting the right amount of light or not – A dark green leaves show your plant is not getting sufficient light, Yellowish green to red leaves show your plant is getting too much light, and bright green leaves show your plant is getting sufficient light. What do you think?

    Good stuff, keep up the awesome work

    Cheers

  4. I need help with my orchids.
    Over the last 5 years I have bought my wife orchids as a celebration of being together.
    All our orchids were fine, blooming and lush green, until we moved from Lisbon (Portugal) to Madrid (Spain).
    Ever since we moved here I have been more and more concerned with them. All of them have stopped blooming and some are actually looking really bad. I’ve tried everything from what I find online and researched, but I’m starting to feel hopeless.
    Can anyone help me?

    1. Oh my, that does sound frustrating and sad, especially since all those orchids have special meaning. I assume you’ve given them new potting soil, checked for bugs, cut out any rotting roots, have them in bright spot without direct sun, and are making sure they are humid without being wet? I wonder if it’s too hot? Unfortunately, I’m unfamiliar with your climate. I wonder if the move was a shock and they need a few months to adjust? Best of luck with your orchids:)

  5. Thank you very very much. Very informative and usefull for beginners like me. Im from Malaysia. 34°C here in noon and 27°C at night. Huge challenge to get a bloom.

  6. I just received my issue of phalenopsis imperial Monterey dark (fancy sanchzy name) but some growers say to,soak the medium in water bsfore repotting. Is this necessary since i got medium from a reputiable dealer.

    1. Oh, that is a fancy name! I bet it’s beauty lives up to that name;) As for the growing medium, I tend to do the soaking method to water my orchids so, I’d probably just go ahead and soak it prior to repotting. Really, the roots getting enough moisture is the goal… so whether you soak your orchid prior to repotting or after, probably doesn’t make much of a difference (says a non-gardening expert!). Thanks for your question.

  7. Do orchids grow new stems to flower on i cut mine off like it said now havent gotten and flowers not even a stem if someone knows please text me at 4806219662 Phx Az please help me with my orchids. Thank u Connie Whitney

    1. Hi Connie, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had troubles with your orchid. I have always had my orchids regrow a stem for new flowers. Have you waited about 6 months yet? It does take a while for a new flower stem to grow. You might also want to move the orchid to a different light condition to encourage the re-flowering. Also, you might want to take a look at the root ball to make sure it has not rotted or dried out. Do the roots seem soft and mushy? or dry and brittle? If yes to either of these questions, you’ll need to take action: cut off the bad roots and dry the root ball out by letting it get air or if they’re dry, cut the brittle roots off and give the roots and material a good 15 minute soak.

  8. Thank you for posting this common sense guide to growing orchids! Like most people, I always thought these delicate creatures were beyond my level of care. You make some very valid insights. I love your point about the quality of grocery store orchids. It just makes sense! So, I have bravely bought my very first orchid from our grocery store. It is sitting above my kitchen sink and makes me smile.

    1. Hi Lisa, I’m so happy to hear you’re enjoying your orchid… and even happier to hear it brings you smiles! I do hope you have success with it.

  9. Hey takethemoutside.com,

    Gary here from PlantCareToday.com

    I’m emailing you today because we just updated our article on caring for Moth Orchids.

    Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) are often the first experience an aspiring orchid grower may have with orchid care. This native of southeast Asia is one of the most beautiful, and long-blooming orchids available for homeowners.

    All The Best,

    Gary
    PlantCareToday.com

    1. Gary,
      Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have included a link to your article. It is a very thorough guide which would prove helpful for anyone looking for more deailed orchid growing care instructions.

      1. Hi Miriam,
        As long as you set your orchid in the indirect sun and remember to soak it every week or 2, your orchid should do wonderfully! Happy Birthday:)

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