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

“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!

Are orchids easy to care for?

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

How to take care of orchids in 5 easy steps:

  1. Place your orchid in a bright window away from cold drafts and hot south-facing sun
  2. Water your orchid every 7-10 days by submerging the roots for 15 minutes or giving it a few ice cubes
  3. Cut off any dry leaves, shrivelled flower stalks, and dead roots growing out of the pot
  4. Repot your orchid only after a few years using orchid potting mix
  5. Fertilize your orchid by following the orchid fertilizer instructions
a large white orchid bloom, text overlay reads easy care tips for orchids

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you make a purchase through my link I receive a small commission at no added cost to you. I only recommend stuff I use and enjoy. See my about page for more information)

Which orchid flower should you buy?

My advice: Just buy the prettiest one.

More specifically, go to the grocery store (or whatever large department store that also happens to sell houseplants) 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.  ‘Orchid care tip’ instructions sheets and a lovely pot are a bonus.

a purple orchid houseplant for sale at a grocery store

Tips for picking out an orchid:

  • Choose an orchid with fat, unopened flower buds – this way you’ll have a longer bloom period to enjoy their beautiful colours
  • Try to find an orchid that isn’t potted in moss, but has pieces of bark as the rooting substrate instead
  • Avoid plants with discoloured spots on their leaves or rotting leaves
  • Some orchids will have more than one flower stalk – I’d suggest grabbing one if you see it, because you’re getting bonus blooms on that one!
  • Take a peek for tiny tiny insects under the leaves, inside the flowers… if you see bugs, I’d suggest avoiding that whole group of orchids… because where there’s one bug, there are usually more!

Here’s the truth of my orchid success:  I’ve only ever bought the cheap department store orchids (two from the grocery store, one from Ikea).  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? (But, is it really a good idea to get an orchid shipped in the mail? With the availability of orchids in shops, I am very hesitant to order one online!)

Indoor Orchid Care: What’s the best temperature for growing orchids?

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

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

But, that being said, don’t leave them where they’ll be in a draft or too close to a vent.

Updated to add: Recently our furnace quite when we were away for a few days… we returned to a house that was 4 degrees Celsius (39 Fahrenheit)! So, I can tell you, from experience, that is too cold for an orchid! It’s also too cold for African Violets!

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.

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

How to water Orchids?

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. So, you’ll need to make sure you’re soaking or watering your orchid every 7-14 days.

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

How often should you water an orchid?

Orchids should be watered once a week, allowing the potting mix to dry out between waterings. It’s important to not overwater, or let your orchid’s roots sit in water as this can lead to root rot.

Should you water orchids with ice cubes?

Yes, you can water orchids with ice cubes. Watering with ice cubes can help to keep the roots cool and reduce the risk of root rot because it limits how much water the plant is given.

I have read that there is some concern that the cold water will shock the plant. However, I have been doing this off and on for years now and my orchids are growing just the same as they were before I started using ice cubes.

I think the ‘ice cube water system’ works because the slow melt encourages the bark to absorb some water, giving the roots a chance to drink it up at their pace.  Otherwise, if you just pour regular water into your pot, you’ll notice the water very quickly just runs through and out the bottom.

How many ice cubes do indoor orchids need?

Well, I’m just guessing here, but I’d probably try the following. If you live in a very humid climate, perhaps decrease the ice cubes by one for each size.

  • 2 ice cubes per week for a tiny 2-3 inch pot
  • 3 ice cubes per week for a 4-6 inch pot
  • 4-6 ice cubes per week for a 6-10 inch pot.

How to soak orchids for watering

Sit your orchid in a larger container of water for about 15 minutes and let the water soak up through the drainage holes.  Doing this every few weeks will allow for the planting materials to absorb water and slowly release that back to the roots.

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

This is how I water my orchids with the soaking method:

See how I take care of orchids in this video below, I prefer to use the soaking method. I try to do this about once a week. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I just give them a splash of water or a few ice cubes.

You can also see what I mean by double-potting (which I mention below) in this video. You’ll see I also cut off a dead flower stalk and a dried out root while I was watering.

Keeping humidity levels up

As for keeping the humidity up, there are a few things you can do.  Keeping your orchid in the bathroom or kitchen 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.

What is a pebble tray?

A pebble tray is simply a tray or dish with pebbles and water that you sit your plants on. This point is to increase humidity levels around your plants. So when you water your plants, you should also add water to your trays. You can use regular stones from your yard in any sort of container, or make a very pretty display using small glass decorative stones in a beautiful shallow dish… both work just as well!

What does double potting mean?

Ready for my planting secret? It’s double potting!  I put my orchids into slightly larger pots or bowls.  Then, I put some rocks or some plastic bottle caps on the bottom of the larger vessel to hold my orchid up off the bottom.  When I water my orchid with a splash of water (or by using ice cubes) any excess water runs into the bottom and I leave it there to slowly evaporate, providing humidity. 

The important piece is that the orchid is raised up.  Don’t let the orchid’s roots sit in that water! If there’s too much water in the bottom (or it’s scuzzy and yucky) dump it out and cut off any rotten roots that had been sitting in that water!

How to fertilize orchids?

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.

Our Picks for Orchid Fertilizers:

No fuss, easy to apply, top-rated, orchid fertilizers.

Do Orchids need sunlight?

Orchids do best with medium to high light like east and west-facing sun.  Most guides recommend against northern exposure; although, my mom’s orchid (below) has had many reblooms. And her orchid sits in the middle of a huge north facing window. And, we’re in Canada… that north window doesn’t get any sun at all!)

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

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

Can orchids grow in a north-facing window?

Yes, orchids can survive in a north-facing window as long as that window is big with lots of bright light and you are watering it properly.

Here’s proof! This particular orchid below was purchased from a grocery store about 3 years ago. Plus, my mom cares for her orchids in a very non-professional way: no fertilizers, a splash of water when she remembers, no re-potting, and a north facing window. Beautiful! (But my photography skills could use some work!)

pink orchid reblooming in northern window, how my mom takes care of her orchid
My mom’s north-facing window Orchid in bloom again!

Tips on re-potting an Orchid

When should you repot an orchid?

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 like a giant sea monster’s tentacles trying to drown a ship!

If your roots are potted in moss and you worry that perhaps your roots are rotting or are too wet too much of the time you should consider changing out that potting mix for something that drains quickly and will allow some air to get down into the roots. (Check out the video below.)

My advice:  wait a few years… unless your orchid’s roots are potted in moss… if that’s the case, repot them now!

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. Dig between the roots if needed.
  5. Place your orchid root ball into the new container, try to push bark pieces gently in between the roots, and fill around with smaller pieces of the 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 20-30 minutes, drain, and place in a bright spot to enjoy.

Cost-saving & eco-conscious tip: If you have a nice fancy pot to put your double-potted orchid into, go ahead and re-use a yogurt container (or whatever fits) for the inside pot. Just make sure to cut out some water drainage holes in the bottoms and air holes in the sides if you’re feeling ambitious.

What if your orchid is potted in moss?

uh oh!

Help, my orchid is potted in moss and it is dying!

I hope this isn’t your situation, but the more I learn about orchids, the more I see people’s orchids arriving home with their roots packed into moss… and that can cause a lot of root rotting damage if those roots stay too wet!

This video demonstrates very clearly how to repot an orchid that has been packed in moss.

How to encourage an Orchid to rebloom?

How to rebloom orchids:

  1. Pluck off any dead flowers. You can also cut the flower stalk if it appears to have dried out.
  2. Leave the orchid to sit in a bright spot close to a window. Often times there is a night-time temperature fluctuation closer to windows and this daily fluctuating temperature may help with triggering reblooming.
  3. Continue to water as usual and wait.
  4. If after 6 months you don’t see any new flower buds or a flower stalk growing, you can try to cut the old flower stalk down (cut just before a little bump on the stem).
  5. Decrease watering and provide lower light levels to encourage a dormant period.
  6. Wait some more.
  7. If you still haven’t seen any new flower stem growth, try moving the plant to a different spot. At this point, you just need to experiment a little – maybe a bit of fertilizer? maybe change up your watering routine or find a spot with a cooler or warmer temperature?
a pink reblooming orchid in a white pot, sitting on a wooden table
my little orchid on it’s third reblooming

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 and I think this is probably why we’ve had success… we tend to keep our homes cooler at night, especially during the winter season.

Troubleshooting orchid reblooming:

Should you cut dead flower stalks?

Whether you cut the dead flower stalks is a personal preference. Mom and I have differing opinions on whether or not we should cut those flower stalks. I tend to cut them. She doesn’t. Both of us have had our orchids rebloom.

I have seen youtubers have success with getting their orchids to rebloom from the same flower stalk if they keep that flower stalk (and the little nodes on it) moist. I think they’ve used aloe vera gel for this (but I can’t seem to find that video to share with you here). But, this one is also very informative.

What if your orchid still isn’t reblooming?

Try moving your orchid to a less-bright and slightly cooler location. Give your orchid a bit less water than you would normally. Then, after a few months, move it back to the brighter location, give it some fertilizer, and start watering more regularly. Hopefully this little forced dormancy will reset your orchid and encourage it to bloom.

Can I really take care of orchids?

I get asked this a lot… and you can see above, that really, once you get into the routine of watering them regularly, they’re sure to reward you with plenty of years of beautiful flowers.

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.

References and where to go next for more information about Orchids:

pink orchid in a white pot on a wooden table

35 thoughts on “Orchid care for beginners- it’s easier than you thought!”

  1. Thank you so much for all your advice. I just received a beautiful (aren’t they all?) orchid as a birthday present and I was looking for tips on how to keep it alive. I had one once when i lived in the south, and after reading your page I think I know what went wrong with it. Now I’m in the northeast and I hope I can keep my plant healthy for years.

    1. Hi, I’m so sorry to hear your orchid has lost all the leaves! If you think there’s still some potential life in the plant, this is what I’d try:
      1. Carefully remove the roots from the root material and ensure you don’t have any rotten roots or that the rooting material is relatively dry. Cleanly cut off any rotten roots.
      2. Replace the roots into an orchid rooting mix (bark pieces)
      3. Cut off any dead leaves
      4. Soak the repotted plant for about 10-15 minutes, then drain
      5. Place the orchid into a bright spot without hot direct sunlight
      6. Wait and maybe if there’s still life there… maybe it will come back?

  2. Pingback: Mastering the Basics: How to Care for Orchid at Home

  3. Hey there, your articles are very informative. I need to know, my orchid has so many roots coming out of the pot. Some are quite long. It’s looking kinda like a spider. It hasn’t bloomed for quite a while. If I repot it should I cut a few off or all of them? Thanks for any advice.

    1. Hi Sharon, Sometimes I’ll trim those off a bit, especially if any of them appear dead or rotting. It sounds like perhaps your orchid could use a repotting, up to a bit of a larger pot? Also if it hasn’t rebloomed in a long time you might also want to try a new location: less light, more light, cooler night temps… these could trigger a change and perhaps get it to set new blooms. Goodluck!

  4. I purchased a beautiful orchid about 1 month ago. the blooms a slowly falling off. Dònt know if tòo much or too little water.

  5. Dorothy Mortenson

    I just got my first grocery store orchid. Or rather, my husband d bought it for me! I’ve always been nervous about trying to grow them, but here goes my first try. I’m wondering what temperatures they naturally grow in. I live in a very humid environment (Houston, TX), which I know is what orchids prefer, so I’m wondering how they’d respond to being in a shady. spot on an outdoor deck?

    1. Hi Dorothy, sorry that I didn’t see your question earlier. I wonder how your orchid managed on your shady outdoor deck? I’d think that as long as it didn’t dry out too much or get too hot that might be a great location for an orchid?

  6. Hi Jenn,

    Thanks for replying back!! 🙂 Also do you recommend “soaking” weekly AND “watering”? Also the idea of the stones at the bottom of the pot is only for the “watering” style? I thought I got an email with a link to video but I cannot find it for the life of me… could you place link for video here? My orchid is quickly dying ahhaha so thank you so much for taking the time for this im really excited for it!! 😀 Take good care!!

    1. Oh my gosh, sorry to hear your orchid is dying! I did put the video of how I water right into this post above. Every week I either water by soaking OR give it a bit of water, not both. Also, perhaps you should pull your orchid root ball out of the container it came in and make sure that the roots aren’t too wet. If you find that your orchid roots are packed in moss (or dirt) that is holding water, take that moss out and give your orchid roots some air so they can dry out. It’s okay for the roots to dry in between watering. Orchid potting mix consists mostly of bark pieces that drain quickly and don’t retain a lot of moisture. Orchids want a humid environment, not wet roots. I’ll see if I can find the video I watched recently about orchids being potted in moss and how to change that out. Best of luck!

    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!

  7. 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, 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?

      1. Hi there. I wonder if the stems are being confused with air roots. Sometimes the orchid will grow long roots up out of the pot if the roots are kept too moist. Or it is outgrowing the pot and suffocating. I kept an orchid in a camper van for quite a while. It did well until I was unable to keep it warm enough. She was a beauty!

        1. Also, that was an ice-cube phae variety I picked up at Wal-Mart because it was too gorgeous not to. White with beautiful pink and purple dotting and streaking. I miss her.

  8. Shirley Conn

    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:)

  9. 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


  10. João Pereira Rosa

    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:)

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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,


    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:)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *