THE COMPLETE GUIDE
Orchids are a wonderful plant to gift to your loved ones but let's be honest, they have a reputation for being difficult to keep alive. In fact, with a little know how, you'll find that orchids are surprisingly easy to care for and it is entirely possible to keep an orchid living for years.
Follow our step-by-step orchid care guide to help keep orchids thriving.
Orchid Watering Myth
Although orchids are commonly found growing wild in tropical rainforests, they do not need heavy watering.
In fact, the most common way people harm an orchid is by over watering. When it comes to watering an orchid, the golden rule is to ensure the plant is not constantly sitting in water so that it causes the roots to rot.
Here are three ways you can water an orchid plant...
- Most orchids will live in a clear container with a potting medium such as soil and bark. This will then sit inside a holding pot like the one pictured.
- Using distilled or recently boiled and cooled tap water, fill the clear orchid pot and holding pot so that the orchid roots are fully submerged.
- Do not fill above this point - fill just under the crown of the orchid and leave the orchid to soak
- After 10-15 minutes remove the orchid from the water and allow it to drain for 5 minutes. Pour the remaining water out of your holding pot.
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- Once the orchid has drained away the excess water, pop it back inside the holding pot and return it to its home.
- Depending on where the orchid is placed and the time of year, submerge it once a week.
Yes, that's right. Ice cubes straight from a small/medium sized ice cube tray are a great way to water orchids. 'Why would you use ice cubes?' we hear you ask. Well using ice cubes will...
How Often Should You Water with Ice Cubes?
- Depending on the season and where the orchid is kept, pop one cube twice a week on top of the potting medium underneath the leaves.
- Be mindful to ensure no water is left standing in the pot and if possible, remove any excess water if you notice any water pooling on the orchid. You can also tell that there is too much water if the pot has become very heavy and sloshes when you tilt it.
- If submerging or ice cubing isn't your thing or if the orchid can't be removed from its pot, you can try the pouring method.
- Simple pouring is still fine to water orchids. If the orchid cannot be removed from its larger pot, be mindful that it may not have any drainage holes.
- In this case, water sparingly as orchids will suffer when they are standing in pooled water. Also, make sure the water is not poured directly onto the plant and is poured into the roots underneath the leaves at the base.
- Avoid getting water into the crevices of the leaves. If this happens, grab a towel and dab any excess moisture away to prevent rot.
- Depending on seasonality and where your plant is situated, adding ¼ glass of distilled or boiled and cooled tap water every week is suitable.
Here's a guide for 4 of the most popular varieties available to buy in the UK:
Vanda orchids require a great deal of water. Keep them moist at all times but avoid over-watering.
Phalaenopsis orchids generally require brief dry periods between every watering.
Cymbidium orchids need their soil to be evenly moist at all times. Be careful to ensure the soil is not soggy or wet.
Dendrobium orchids require evenly moist soil during growth but also need a brief dry period between watering when it is not growing.
How to Tell When to Water Orchids
Watering can be a little bit of trial and error. Keep in mind that long summer days may require you to water the orchid more and short winter days will require less watering.
Here's how to tell if the orchid needs water...
Roots that are green are getting just the right amount of water.
Roots that are soggy and brown are getting too much water.
Roots that are grey or white are not getting enough water.
Another easy way to judge if the orchid needs watering is to use your finger to poke deep into the pot:
- If the mix is wet or damp - don't water it
- If the mix is dry - water it
Humidity is important as it recreates the conditions of an orchid's natural habitat, which of course helps them thrive.
There are multiple ways of creating ideal humidity for your plant but by far the easiest method for indoor orchids is to mist them regularly.
What is Misting?
- Misting is simply spraying an orchid regularly with a fine mist spray bottle.
- Spray the orchid leaves and any aerial roots up to two times a day depending on the plant's location in your home. This may sound like a lot but water very quickly evaporates. Do a finger test if you're worried about overwatering.
Avoid plain Tap Water
If possible, use distilled or water boiled in the kettle and cooled for your mist bottle. Standard tap water is laden with impurities, which can cause the orchids leaves to become covered in white crust. This can be unsightly and can also block moisture from entering the leaf.
How to Tell When to Mist
Insufficient misting and lack of humidity can lead to a few problems. If you notice any of the following, increase your misting:
Like most plants, optimal light is the absolute key to keeping orchids happy.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
Under no circumstances, place the orchid in direct sunlight, as they will get sunburnt - yes, really!
It can happen in a matter of hours, so keep your eyes on the light the orchid is receiving.
An ideal place for the orchid to live is in a room that stays at a consistent temperature through the day, away from drafts, fruit and where it can receive indirect sunlight.
What's indirect sunlight?
Indirect sunlight is simply sunlight that has been filtered by bouncing off a wall or through an object before hitting the orchid.
If you're unsure if your location is suitable, try this:
How to Test if the Light is Just Right
The simplest way of measuring light intensity is to use your hand.
It sounds strange but, at the height of the day, when the sun is pointing through the window at its brightest (a bright day is best to try this rather than overcast), put your hand a few inches above the plants leaves so that you cast a shadow over the plant.
If there's little to no shadow then the light intensity is too low.
If the shadow is a soft light grey then the light intensity is perfect.
If the shadow is very strong and dark, this indicates too much light.
How To Feed An Orchid
- If using liquid food, don't pour it over the plants leaves as this will burn them
- Use a narrow spouted jug, lift the leaves and distribute the feed into the soil
- Theres no need to water the orchid on the week that you feed it
- Try and wash away any remaining fertilizing salts with your next watering
Ice Cube Feeding
Alternatively, you can make things even easier and freeze your feed mix as well as your water.
Just like ice cube watering, this great orchid tip allows the food to be absorbed by the orchid much more effectively. It also prevents the possibility of burning or over fertilizing the orchid.
Just make sure you label your ice cube tray so you dont end up with a strange taste in your gin and tonic!
Tips for Feeding Orchids
- Avoid increasing the concentration of your fertilizer if you miss a feed, it is much better to fertilize more frequently with weaker doses
- Very dark green drooping leaves can be a sign of fertilizing too much
- When you notice the orchid actively growing, fertilize it
- If you spot that the orchid is in poor condition, avoid fertilizing
How Often Do Orchids Need Pruning?
When the orchid peaks its blooming period, its new flowers will last up to 12 weeks. After this time, they may fade, droop or fall off their stems (spikes) when they are spent.
Once they do this, you will need to determine how to prune the orchid. First, check if the stem is healthy or in poor condition:
Healthy stems are green and firm to the touch.
Unhealthy stems are brown/yellow in colour and hard to the touch.
Orchid Pruning Tips
Cutting back an orchid for the first time can seem daunting. Nevertheless, by following the next few tips, you should expect the orchid to produce their beautiful flowers for its next blooming cycle (providing all other care instructions are followed of course!).
- Bear in mind when pruning that orchids are very fragile plants and cant be handled like you would a shrub. For example, if you partially cut an orchid leaf, the rest of the leaf may die as a result
- With sterilised and sharp shears or a knife, trim away any dead leaves, tissue or roots as well as your stem
- As a rule, if something is still green, it is living
- When you make the cut, be sure to cut diagonally as shown
- Healthy Stem ✔
- First Time Pruning ✔
If your stem is healthy and this is the first prune. Trim the stem just above the stem notch/node where the first flower had bloomed.
This will allow a new shoot to emerge.
- Unhealthy Stem ✔
- Second Time Pruning ✔
If your stem is unhealthy or you have already rebloomed your orchid pruning once already, it is best to cut an inch above the base of the stem.
This allows the orchid to focus its energy into producing new strong leaves and roots.
If you're an orchid veteran or a newfound orchid enthusiast, explore our stunning collection below.
My orchid isnt flowering, is it a lost cause?
Often people think because there are no flowers that an orchid is past its best. Dont worry, if the leaves are healthy then keep going. Often insufficient light causes orchids to concentrate their energy elsewhere. If the orchid has already bloomed, try pruning them
My orchid is losing lots of leaves, is this right?
Some loss of leaves for an orchid is natural, providing they dont all fall at once. Excessive leaf loss usually indicates that the plant is either kept too cold or is overwatered. Allow the plant to dry and remove the dead foliage.
What is the sticky stuff on the leaves beneath the orchid flower?
This is orchid nectar which is created to attract insects to pollenate it. If you notice this in excess on the leaves, wipe it away with a damp cloth.
My orchid leaves are crinkly, is this ok?
When new leaves grow from an orchid they tend to stick to one another if the atmosphere is too dry and crinkle. If you spot this, increase the humidity by misting
My orchid has lots of aerial roots, is this normal?
Orchids commonly grow on trees with their roots exposed to a moist rainforest atmosphere so this is normal. Lots of aerial roots is a great sign that the orchid is happy in its environment. Spray these roots regularly with the misting technique
to keep them green and healthy and not grey and dry.
My orchid leaves are turning yellow, what am I doing wrong?
Yellow leaves are either a sign of too much water or too little light. Check that your roots are not brown and waterlogged. If they are, hold off the water and allow the plant to dry. If your roots are healthy then try the plant in another spot to get more light. Also use the Light measuring technique.