Orchids have become one of the nation’s favourite indoor plant’s over recent years, and it’s easy to see why with the beautiful delicate flowers they produce and the astonishing colours that are available.
A lot of customers believe that Orchids are hard to keep, but really they are pretty low maintenance and are often killed with kindness by overwatering.
With that in mind, I thought I would put together a beginners guide on how to care for them.
Types of Orchids
Orchids comprise the largest family of flowering plants on the planet, most cultivated Orchids are native to the tropics.
The six most common Orchids that are sold in the UK are:
Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid)
These six Orchids can be divided into three groups according to the temperatures that they thrive in.
Cymbidium and Dendrobium Orchids like the temperature to be between 16-21°C (60-70°F) in the summer, and no less than 10°C (50°F) in winter.
Cattleya and Oncidium Orchids prefer temperatures of between18°C-24°C (65°F-75°F).
Phalaenopsis and Vanda Orchids like temperatures between 21-29°C (70°F-85°F) in summer and no less than 18°C (60°F) in winter.
Phalaenopsis are by far the most common and best-selling Orchid here in the UK and the temperatures they like make them ideal for our centrally heated homes in the winter.
How Much Light Do Orchids Need
A key factor to growing a healthy Orchid is how much light it gets. Too little will prevent your Orchid from flowering and too much sunlight may scorch the plant.
Orchids need bright but indirect light and are best placed near or on an east or west-facing windowsill.
How Long Do Orchids Bloom
How long your Orchid flowers depends on which variety you have, as well as the care it receives.
Typically Orchids bloom for 60 to 120 days.
How Long Will It Take For My Orchid To Rebloom
Once your Orchid has finished flowering it will go enter a dormant period of around 6 to 9 months. A lot of people think the orchid is now dead, but it isn’t.
The dormant stage is a resting period where the plant has time to replace nutrients that were used up while the plant was flowering.
How To Get My Orchid To Rebloom
With the most common Orchid Phalaenopsis, once all the flowers are spent, cut the stems down to just above a visible node (joint).
This may stimulate the production of other flower stems which you should clip to a support. If no shoots appear and the original stems turn a straw colour, then remove them at the base.
Most other orchids won’t flower twice on the same stem, so cut off spent stems straight after flowering has finished.
If you are lucky you may be able to get your Orchid to bloom twice a year.
How To Water Orchids
The demise of many Orchids is due to overwatering if your plant is constantly wet this will lead to root rot. Your Orchid then has no way of taking up nutrients, causing the leaves to droop and eventually your plant bites the dust.
The wise old saying is to water your Orchid the day before it dries out. Letting your plant dry out won’t kill it, what it will do is give you a guide on how much the plant weighs when dry and a signal of when to water your Orchid.
Alternatively, you could do the old stick your finger in the potting mix and feel if it’s wet. If you aren’t sure whether it’s time for water, wait one more day.
Generally, Orchids need watering twice a week in the summer, and once a week in the winter.
The best time of day to water your plant is early morning. This will give plenty of time for any water left on the crown and foliage to evaporate by nightfall.
The best place to water your Orchid is in the kitchen sink with lukewarm water from a previously boiled kettle (do not use salt softened water).
Some people suggest using ice cubes to water Orchids, but this could send your plant into shock as they are an exotic plant and aren’t used to extreme cold.
Water your plant for about 10-15 seconds to make sure that the potting mix is thoroughly watered. Then allow your Orchid to drain for 15-20 minutes.
After watering your Orchid it should be placed so that the pot doesn’t stand in any water. Some people like to stand the pot on a tray of damp pebbles or gravel to boost humidity.
When the water from the pebbles evaporates it gives your Orchid the added humidity that they like being a tropical plant.
It is also best to mist the foliage twice a week using tepid water, avoid spraying the flowers as the petals can get watermarked.
Vanda Orchids require a different watering regime. In the summer fill the vase with water, and then empty it after half an hour. Vandas also need direct sun, which would scorch a Moth Orchid.
Remember to keep watering and feeding your Orchid when it is dormant.
How To Feed Orchids
Orchids need regular feeding and it is best to use a fertiliser that has been specifically designed to feed orchids.
Always follow the instructions given, and never give an Orchid too much food. Your plant will do far much better with too little food than with too much.
Also do not to feed your Orchid when it is completely dry as the fertiliser can burn dry roots, water first before giving it a feed.
Repotting An Orchid For Beginners
Unlike most other plants that are grown in pots, Orchids do not need to be repotted regularly and in many cases thrive when root-bound.
After a couple of years, it may be worth repotting your orchid. When removing the plant from its pot remove as much as the compost as possible, and replant in a slightly larger pot with fresh Orchid compost.
Most Orchids are grown in see-through pots as the roots like to get as much light as possible. When repotting try to replant in another see-through if possible.
When repotting never cut away roots that are growing out of the pot. Roots that are growing out and over the pot are a signal that you have a healthy and happy Orchid.
Are Orchids Parasites?
A big misconception about Orchids is that they are a parasite. They are in fact called epiphytes or air plants, many Orchids cling to bushes and trees but do not injure or take anything away from the host plant.
Can Orchids Grow Outside In The UK?
There are 60 plus species grow wild here in the UK, with over 20 alone in Cumbria.
Is My Orchid Dying?
First, inspect your plant’s leaves, they should be green if healthy. Bleaching, dark spots and withering normally indicate that there is something wrong, this could be down to a pest infestation, fungal disease or too much sun.
Deciduous Orchids lose all their leaves during dormancy, but if you have an evergreen Orchid such a Dendrobium and it has dropped all its leaves without renewing them then it could be curtains for the plant.
Next, check your plant’s roots. Healthy roots are stiff and white with green tips. If all your Orchid’s roots are brown and soggy then your plant has root rot which is normally caused by overwatering and eventually kills the plant.
Also, yellowing stems may be a sign that your plant is dying.
What Pests Are Most Common When Growing Orchids?
The most common pests with Orchids are mealybugs and scale insects. Signs of pest infestation include a black sooty mould and stickiness on the leaves.
Mealybugs prefer new foliage, while scale insects can be found above and below the leaf surface, and on flower stalks.
Removal of these pests is quite easy, simply clean the leaves with a soapy sponge.
- The genus Orchis comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “testicle”; because of the shape of the bulbous roots. The term “orchid”, which is just a shortened form of the family Orchidaceae, was not introduced until 1845.
- Orchids produce several millions of miniature seeds. Only a few seeds will develop into a mature plant.
- Orchid seeds do not have an endosperm which provides nutrients required for the germination. Due to this fact, all orchids live in symbiosis with fungi during germination. Germination can last from a couple of weeks to 15 years.
- Orchids can live on the ground (terrestrial forms), attached to woody plants (epiphytic types) or under the ground.
- Orchids do not have usual roots. They have rhizome, tuber or aerial roots.
- Each orchid flower is bilaterally symmetric, which means that it can be divided into two equal parts.
- Orchid flowers always grow upside down when mature.
- Orchid plants can live to be up to 100 years old.
- Vanilla is one of the best known and widely used flavours. It is extracted from the pod of Vanilla planifolia, which is a species of orchid.