“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! You can have this success too!
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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 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 and 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 for beginners.
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.
My advice: Give 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.
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.
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.
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.
Light Needs of Orchids in the Home
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.
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:
- Buy a small bag of orchid potting mix
- Choose a plant pot a few inches larger than your current plant pot (make sure it’s clean).
- Gently remove your orchid from its original pot. You may need to cut some roots to free it.
- Remove any rotten-looking roots or potting mix
- Place your orchid root ball into the new container and fill around with orchid potting mix.
- Make sure you remember to include your stem support stick or add a higher one if needed.
- Soak for about 20 minutes, drain, and place in a bright spot to enjoy.
How to Rebloom Orchids
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:
- Pluck off any dead flowers. You can also cut the flower stalk if it appears to have dried out.
- Leave the orchid to sit in a bright spot close to a window. Often times there is a temperature fluctuation closer to windows.
- Continue to water as usual and wait.
- 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).
- Continue to water and wait some more.
- 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. They 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 encouraged you to even try reblooming your orchid after its initial flowers have faded.
And, if you already have orchids in your home, I’d love to see them! You can share your photos with Take Them Outside on Twitter or Facebook. Also, if you 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 and Twitter.