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Even though orchids are rather a popular topic, I still get asked about how I grow them frequently. Therefore, I decided to do a full guide on orchids to help you all out. So here come my best tips and tricks that I’ve discover and used over the long period of years.
It’s not a secret that orchids are delicate flowers and that you’ll need to pay more attention to them in order to get them to bloom beautifully. But once you’ve mastered these techniques, it will be easy as pie.
The only thing we have to keep in mind here is that there are about 28.000 species of orchids. This is a great deal of species, if I may add. Therefore, even though these suggestions can be applied to most of the orchid types, I can only vouch for the ones that I’ve grown and taken care of myself. Without further ado, here is my guide on orchids.
Facts About Orchids
I’ve already mentioned that there are about 28.000 types of orchids. But this isn’t the most surprising fact about them!
Orchids are perennials, which means that they can live up to 30 years.
Their natural habitat isn’t soil but, in fact, other tree branches and plants. We must all agree that this is a rather fascinating fact. There are, of course, orchids that grow on the ground, but Orchids grow in soil that consists mainly of organic matter. This isn’t the soil we use for growing potatoes, that’s for sure! Some of them grow even horizontally, which isn’t a rare scene, especially when they grow on tree branches.
Orchids have the reputation of needing to grow in a very humid climate, which is not entirely true. At least not for all the species. However, I am pretty sure that whichever type of orchid you choose, the environment won’t be too humid.
Also, orchids do need sunlight, but not too much since the direct sunlight can create drier air which is one of the greatest enemies of orchids. Now, since these clever little flowers need humidity and water, they developed a thing called “pseudobulbs”. These store moisture in order for them to survive in case there is a period of drought.
The orchids natural habitat is, as you could probably guess, Asian countries, like Cymbidium orchid. But they also live in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii.
Unfortunately, due to global warming and the destruction of the rainforests, many natural orchid habitats are actually vanishing. Sadly, this leads us to endangered species.
Now that we’ve settled the ground for your better understanding of what taking care of an orchid should look like, I think it’s time to get to the practical part.
A Practical Guide To Taking Care Of Orchids
Now, based on the questions people asked most about the orchids, I divided my pieces of advice into several categories. For example, some of my friends didn’t have any problems with humidity, while they found it hard to prune the orchids.
This way, you can just pick the topic that interests you the most and, hopefully, you won’t have any more doubts. I will, however, start from the very beginning, so this guide can be easily understood and followed even if you don’t have any experience with taking care of orchids.
1. How To Choose The Right Orchid
When you find yourself strolling down the garden centre looking at all these beautiful orchids, what is it that you should be looking for? All of them are absolutely stunning, there’s no doubt. The only question here is whether you can satisfy the requirements of that specific orchid type.
As I’ve already explained, there are many types of orchids, and although they all require similar things, some details might help you get the most out of your plant. Therefore, you should be looking at the requirements of that specific type. Naturally, this should be the base of your search for the right plant.
2. How To Shop For A Healthy Orchid
Once you’ve chosen the species you like, you should be looking at a couple more things to make sure that you leave the store with a plant that will last you for a long time.
Roots are an important part, and since the orchids are epiphytes, their roots are visible. You should go for a light or dark green color of the roots.
Don’t be scared. The roots can change their color from light to dark green when they get wet. Therefore, the fact that roots of a specific plant you’ve chosen are a bit different from the other one means solely that they’ve been watered at a different time.
However, stay away from yellowish roots. They are a bad sign!
Also, the leaves and the stem should be green, and the stem should stay upright. Good stems are a must because once your orchid has bloomed, it needs a stable stem to support all of the weight from flowers.
The buds are another thing to pay attention to. I always shop for the orchids that have more unopened buds than the ones that have bloomed, because that way you can be fooled with a couple of flowers. Whereas if you buy the orchid whose stem is covered in buds, you can be sure that it will have many beautiful flowers.
3. Proper Orchid Watering
Water plays a massive role in growing any plant, but for orchids it’s crucial. The best-known myth around orchids is that they need heavy watering since they are originally found in humid climates.
Let me tell you, this couldn’t be farther away from truth! In fact, this is the most common way people kill their orchids. The golden rule here is not to overwater it. There are a couple of ways you can water your orchid without getting it soaked in water:
- Submerging: Since people usually tend to leave the orchids in the plastic containers, which have holes in the bottom and then put them in a decorative pots, you can submerge the plastic container in water.
Make sure that the water doesn’t pass the rim of the plastic container. Also, be sure to take the container out of water after 10-15 minutes. After this, you should leave the container to drain for about 5 minutes and then your orchid is watered and ready to be put in the decorative pot again. You should repeat this process once every week.
- Ice-cubes: Put one ice-cube under the leaves. It’s less fuss then submerging the plant, and only needs to be done two times a week.
- Pouring: Avoid pouring the water onto the leaves. If this happens, grab a towel and dry them. Always pour the water at the base of the plant, right under the leaves. Use distilled or boiled and cooled down water. What’s more, you shouldn’t pour more than a quarter of a cup. Repeat this process once every week.
Those of us who don’t live in a tropical climate have to be smart about keeping our orchids hydrated.
Since the air in my house isn’t humid, I mist my orchids at least two times a day. I use a really fine mist spray bottle which doesn’t leave drops of water on the leaves. You should spray the roots and the leaves, just make sure not to have too much water.
From my personal experience, tap water is awful for the orchids. So whether I choose to water them by submerging them, pouring water, or mist them, I always use water that’s been boiled and cooled.
Also, keep an eye on your orchids so if you notice that some of the flower buds are falling off or that the leaves or roots are starting to get brown, increase your misting.
We’ve already established that these requirements may vary from type to type, but for most of the orchids the ideal light is the so-called “indirect sunlight”.
What this means is that the light, before it can reach the orchids, has been filtered in a way. Let’s say, for example, it’s reflecting on your wall or your kitchen cabinets. You can easily test this by putting your hand in the air on the spot where you’d keep the orchid, and if the shadow is soft grey, then it’s perfect. If it’s, on the other hand, a harsh, dark grey, the spot you’ve chosen may be too light for your orchid. Just make sure to never, under any circumstances, you keep your orchid in direct sunlight because it will wilt.
Fertilizing or, what some would say, feeding your orchids, is very easy. You just have to follow a couple of simple steps. There is so much food for orchids on the market, but you can also use a water-soluble general purpose fertilizer.
You just got to be careful with it because, if you pour it on the leaves, they will get burned. To prevent this, pour the liquid food with a jug that is narrowly spouted.
Also, on the weeks I fertilize my orchids, don’t water them because there is no need. However, continue to mist them regularly.
What’s interesting is that you can use ice-cubes even for fertilization. Just freeze your liquid food and put an ice-cube under the leaves and the job’s done!
If you notice that the leaves are getting really dark green, that might be a sign of fertilizing too much so make sure not to overdo it.
After you’ve enjoyed your breathtakingly gorgeous flowers, it comes the time when you have to trim off the dead parts of the plant.
This can be very stressful if you’re doing it for the first time, but it is a necessary part of taking good care of the orchids. You should keep in mind that this is, in fact, a delicate flower and that you should handle it with patience and attention.
Now, you’ll need a pair of sharp scissors in order to do this. The golden rule is to do the diagonal cuts and to cut off everything that is dead, whether it is a stem, a leaf or a root. You’ll know what is dead because if it’s green, it means that it’s still alive.
Depending on your plant’s health, you should decide where to make a cut. If this is your first pruning and the plant is in a good condition, then just trim the stem right above the stem node where the first flower has bloomed. If, on the other hand, you’ve already pruned the orchid before, it would be better to cut off the entire stem, which will lead to having stronger, healthier leaves and roots.
I know that is painful watching that marvellous natural bouquet of flowers become a trimmed off stem, but trust me and be patient. If you take good care of the orchids, they will reward you with their beauty.
Which types of orchids are your favorite and which ones would you recommend?
I am utterly in love with my Cymbidium orchid which I have in pink color. It is also a great choice for first-time growers since they are pretty low-maintenance, compared to other types.
I also like the Psychopsis Orchid, which I have in bright gold color. It is truly a masterpiece and I would highly recommend it because it has unique flowers and it is not hard to maintain.
If you are a skilled grower, then I would recommend you buy an Odontoglossum Orchid. These are a bit harder to grow, but they are definitely worth the fuss.
And to finish off, I also like the Angraecum Orchid because of its star shape and wonderful fragrance.
My orchid isn’t flowering, am I doing something wrong?
This worries most people. You put so much energy into taking care of your orchid and at times it seems useless.
Well, don’t be frightened. If the rest of the plant is healthy and you’re taking good care of it, it might be that the plant needs a bit more sunlight. But be careful not to overdo it. If your orchid has already bloomed, try pruning it.
The roots are visible, is that normal?
Don’t be alarmed, the aerial roots are a completely normal thing when it comes to orchids. Just remember what their natural habitat is and how their roots are almost always exposed. This is only a sign that the environment suites your orchid.
Also, make sure to mist those roots to keep them nice and healthy!
My orchids leaves are wrinkly, why is that happening?
Wrinkly and leathery leaves may be a sign that your orchid isn’t getting enough water.
If the roots are in good condition, then it simply means that you haven’t been watering your orchid as much as you’re supposed to.
If, on the other hand, the roots are in poor condition, you have overwatered the plant, which then led to root loss so now the plant simply can’t take enough water. Just be sure that you keep good care of the roots since many problems can arise from them being in a poor condition.