Caring for Orchids

Q: I just got an Orchid as a gift. I do not know how to care for them. Water? Light? Food? HELP!

Thanks very much.
Robyn from Kent, WA


A: Robyn,

Each type of orchid has its own special needs regarding care, but there are some general rules.

1. Orchids generally need daytime temperatures of about 70ºF in the summer, and 60ºF in the winter. Cool temperatures at night (a drop of around 10ºF) are also important. Setting orchids outdoors during warm summer days is okay, but they should be protected against frost and cold drafts.

2. Orchids need generous amounts of light (10-12 hours a day), but should be shaded from direct sunlight. A window with lace curtains or something similar to filter the sunlight is ideal. In the winter, artificial light can be used to supplement a lack of natural daylight. Make sure you turn the pots often to promote even growth.

3. Orchids need moist, humid air, so mist leaves occasionally and place pots on a pebble tray to help maintain humidity.

4. Water orchids with distilled, tepid water. Keep the soil moist, not wet, and reduce watering in the winter.

5. Orchids enjoy being kept somewhat pot-bound and should be only be repotted when the size of the pot seems to be impeding their growth. Plants can be divided during repotting, leaving at least 3 shoots on each division. Potting mix designed specifically for orchids works well when repotting.

6. How you fertilize orchids depends on what type of orchid you're growing and whether or not it goes seasonally dormant. Seasonally dormant orchids do not need feeding in the winter. In general, a balanced liquid orchid fertilizer (preferably organic) can be applied weekly to promote growth and one with a higher ratio of phosphorus can be used to promote flowering. The plant should be watered beforehand to avoid root burn. Orchids growing in bark may need more nitrogen.

Good Luck! Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

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April 20, 20060 found this helpful

Get a real orchid pot or make one by keeping the orchid in the clear plastic pot inside another pot, then getting a tray with water and stones, pebbles etc. and set the orchid pot in that.....they like humidity and it's the easiest way to give it to them short of putting it in the bathroom.

Also do not put them in direct sun.......they need light but not full sun.

Try the Orchid Society webpage for much more information on growing orchids.

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April 20, 20060 found this helpful

I almost forgot......water them once a week or a bit less and feed them with a true orchid fertilizer as directed on the package ;-)

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August 6, 2005 Flag

Q: Is there anyone out there that can tell me the easiest way to care for an orchid that has just finished blooming?

Deborah from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A: Deborah,

After the bloom has dropped off, you may notice the tip of the spike starting to turn brown. Don't cut it off. If you're lucky, your orchid may develop a second bloom within 60-90 days from this same spike. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen so keep watering and fertilizing as normal until you're sure foliage growth has stopped. When the whole spike turns brown, go ahead and cut it off. Most orchids prefer a rest period after blooming. This is so the plant can redirect its energy into vegetative growth. How long it prefers to rest will depend on the variety you're growing. Reduce your application of water and fertilizer during this rest period until you see new foliage starting again (this may be as long as a few months). If you plan to divide your orchids, the correct time to do so is after flowering.


Ellen Brown

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