Orchids are gorgeous flowers. Don’t let their unique beauty fool you! They’re not much more difficult to care for than your favorite, easy-going succulent. To care for orchids all that is really required is a willingness to learn about the extra care and attention they need. Even if your track record for killing houseplants is fairly high (hey, we’ve all been there) with this easy guide below, you’ll be able to grow and care for orchids like a true greenthumb.
The most beautiful things are usually delicate. So if you’re looking to put your green thumb to the test, an orchid is the perfect plant to make your mark. They are a sensitive plant, but they can teach you a lot about patience, endurance, cutting off the toxic parts of yourself, and new growth.
Position it just right
Ideally, you want to position your orchid in a light-filled windowsill facing east or west. Direct sunlight is killer as is too little light, which is why north-facing windows can be too dark and cold, and south-facing windows might be too hot and bright. You might have to play around with its placement to find the right fit. If you don’t have a window that will provide the necessary sunlight and heat, then placing it under artificial light is fine. You can add it as a centerpiece to your table, so long as it’s already bloomed.
How to water an orchid
Over-watering is no bueno for orchids and is the common cause of their deaths. A good rule of (green) thumb is to wait until they’re almost dry and then water sparingly. Typically this might mean watering them only once a week. Initially, it’s a good idea to monitor your orchid’s potting soil to measure how wet or dry it becomes within a week’s span. You might even want to dig your fingers into the soil. Dry and dusty means it’s thirsty. Also, ensure your pot has drainage holes. Misting is also a better and more managed way to ensure your plant is getting all the hydration it needs. Especially if you keep your home air-conditioned, misting is highly recommended because it tends to dry your plants out. If your home has a humidity of 40 to 60 percent you won’t have to do this.
Have the right potting mix
Potting mix works as a home for your orchid — it provides drainage, air circulation, or moisture — which is why you want to have the best one for your little flower child so it’s able to thrive. Most potting materials for orchids consist of moss and bark. According to Better Housekeeping Magazine (BHM), moss acts like a sponge and takes a lot longer to dry out, which means “it needs a longer wait before watering and is less forgiving of too-frequent watering.”
While bark doesn’t hold as much water, according to BHM, it’s also why it poses less risk for orchids like Phalaenopsis and Cattleya. No potting material is better than the other. It’s more about understanding the differences between them and knowing what works for your particular orchid. No matter what potting mix you have, it’s always a good idea to check on it frequently throughout the week so you’re not watering your orchid too soon or too late.
It’s also important to note that bark also decomposes over time, so you’ll need to re-pot your orchid in bark every year or two.
How do you re-pot? Simple, according to BHM: “Just remove the orchid from the old bark, which you can just throw on the compost pile. Clip off dead roots (which will be dark and shriveled, compared to the firm, fleshy, light-color healthy roots). Place the orchid back into the pot and refill it with new bark.”
How to fertilize your orchid
While they might not instantly cure your orchid (especially if it’s already dying), fertilizers are a nice added boost to your orchid’s overall health. According to Dummies.com, when choosing a fertilizer for orchids, you want to check the label for the words nitrate nitrogen orammoniacal nitrogen, not urea. Also, choose a fertilizer that has 20 or less percent of nitrogen. More nitrogen won’t help your orchid to grow and “too much of any nutrient cannot be used by the orchid plant and, as a result, merely ends up as a pollutant.” If you can find a fertilizer with supplementary calcium (up to 15 percent) and magnesium (up to 8 percent), that’s a real bonus for your orchid.
The right temperature
Orchids like most flowers are delicate and even factors like the temperature inside your house can help or harm its growth. Make sure you’re keeping your orchids in a space that is 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pruning is just as integral to the growth of your orchids as watering them. So if you notice a dried stem, you need to cut the flower at the base of its stem. A great way to avoid the need to prune is to avoid overwatering your plants. This can cause your roots to rot, which increases the need to cut your orchid plants.
Now that you know how to take care of your orchid, you can sit back and enjoy its beauty.
If you’ve ever received an orchid as a gift, there’s actually a lot of symbolism behind it. We know these plants are absolutely stunning but they also represent richness, beauty, strength, and love. In ancient Greece, they were also a sign of masculinity and potency. It was believed that if a Greek man consumed new orchid tubers while their wife was pregnant, they would have a little boy. If the mother ate them, she would have a girl.
Above all, orchids are associated with love, the ability to have many children, thoughtfulness, and grace. There’s a reason why they’re the most popular flower on the block. They even have more clout than roses! So ladies if your boo gets you an orchid, he might know a thing or two.
This article was originally published on