General Orchid care

Orchids are about the easiest flowering house plants to grow you’ll find.

If you read the house plant forums you’d think that every orchid needed its own private special micro environment, but that just isn’t true.

The orchids you are most likely to find for sale as house plants include: Cattelya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, and Phragmipedium.

Cattelya, Dendrobium, Oncidium and Paphiopedilum are epiphytic and should be grown in sphagnum moss or wood chips. But any planting medium that allows air to reach the roots will do just fine.

Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis and Phragmipedium orchids are terrestrial and should be planted in dirt.

Cattelya and Oncidiums need the most sun, Phalaenopsis the least. None of these want to be in a bright sunny window. You want east and west windows for most orchids. Phalaenopsis can also do well in a north window.

If your orchids leaves become darker, or it doesn’t re-flower for you move it to a sunnier window. If the newer leaves are longer and narrower than the previous set of leaves it needs more light.

If the leaves get white and bleached or lighten in color, move it to a less sunny window.

Orchids do not like to be dry, but will quickly rot if left standing in water. So check them often. I find mine need watering every 7-14 days depending on the time of year. If the leaves split, wrinkle or fold you are not watering them enough.  If you have your plants planted in moss and they are not drying out every 7-10 days you should plant them in bark instead.  If you plant them in bark you will need to water them 1-3 times a week depending on how humid your home is.  Put a finger in the bark or mulch.  If it is dry then water, if not don’t. Some growers keep a wooden skewer in the potting medium. Then you can just pull the skewer out to see how dry or wet things are deep in the medium.

Do not get water in the folds of the leaves of the Phalaenopsis, it will rot in as little as one day if water is left sitting there.

Do not use ice to water your orchids. There is no ice in the tropics. Orchids do not like the cold. Nor do they like only the top part of the planting medium getting wet. Give them a good soaking when you water them.

Common problems with orchids usually involve bugs, scale being the most common problem. If your plants are sticky you’ve likely got an insect problem. Put the plant in the sink, gently remove any bugs or reside and wash the plant with a little dish soap and water. If it is still sticky a little rubbing alcohol will remove the stickiness. Usually that is all you need to do, but you might have to do this a couple of times to totally be free of bugs.

Most pests that attack orchids in the house can be washed off the plant with some soapy water, then spray the plant with an insecticidial oil to keep them away till you’ve wiped out the population.

Neem oil is the favorite treatment for insects on orchids. Continue the treatment for 3 consecutive weeks.

If the orchid has no roots, it will still usually do fine for you. Cut off any dead material, spray Consan Triple Action 2o on the roots and root area. Plant it in sphagnum moss, give it a little fertilizer and it will likely grow a new set of roots. I prefer Shultz with the rooting hormone in it.

Orchids planted in bark do not do well in dry households. They may grow that way in the wild but unless your home is as humid as a jungle and it rains in there several times a day your orchid will quickly dry out. If you plant your home orchids in bark, be sure to check them every other day to see if they need water.

A lack of sufficient light is the largest reason your orchid might not do well. Lucky for us they love fluorescent lights. So just place a table lamp with a fluorescent bulb near your orchid during those grey winter months to keep it happy.

Window sills make orchids happy. They love the temperature drop near the window, and love the humid air that leaks in from outside along the window seams.

Under watering kills more orchids than over watering, keep an eye on them especially in the dry months of winter when the heat is running. Orchid containers should have lots of large holes to let the water drain quickly. They want frequent waterings but not to sit in water.

Fungus, bacteria and viruses all attack orchids. Fungus is easy to treat, copper based fungicides are available at more plant stores. Bacteria is usually not treatable, sometimes you can save the plant by amputating infected areas. Viruses are not curable, the plant should be destroyed immediately to keep the virus from spreading.

When you repot your plants use Consan Triple Action 20 to spray the roots and pot to prevent fungal infections.

See also:

First Rays Semi-Hydroponics
Present Day Gardening, Orchids
About orchids