Few flowering plants are as beautiful as orchids or offer the same amount of variety. Some orchids possess refined qualities that bring to mind Japanese bonsai. Other orchid plants transport you to the rain forest with lush foliage and intense reds, purples, and oranges. Once you learn how to grow orchids, you can add these breathtaking pops of life to your home. With the addition of high-quality organic soil with Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner, growing orchids will also be much easier.
If you love the appearance of orchids but have held back from growing them, this easy-to-use guide is just for you.
Here’s what you’re going to discover:
- How to grow orchids
- What varieties are easiest to care for
- What kind of soil you need
- How much light and water to provide
- What common orchid mistakes to avoid
In a way, growing orchids is similar to riding a bicycle. After discovering the knack, it’s much easier to decorate your home with additional plants of a similar variety.
Everything You Need to Know About Orchids
To enjoy a gorgeous orchid plant in your home for many years, you first need to understand what kind of flower orchids are. This can give you an idea of what to expect. Here are a few essential facts to get you started:
Many orchids are tropical plants. Approximately 10,000 species of orchids grow in the tropics, surrounded by high humidity, warm temperatures, and indirect sunlight. If you want to grow these varieties successfully, you need to adapt your home or garden to the orchids’ needs, not vice-versa.
The orchid family has nearly 30,000 different species and countless hybrids. One unique thing about orchids is that they allow for an incredible amount of hybridization. This is why the nearly 30,000 species of orchids have given rise to possibly 200,000 hybrids or more.
Some orchids can live for decades. Caring for your orchid can be a deeply satisfying and rewarding endeavor. While many orchids are more intensive than a typical houseplant, there’s no comparison to the feeling of watching these precious petals bloom year after year.
Most orchids are similar to perennial flowers. Many orchids bloom once or twice a year for eight to 10 weeks. If the gorgeous bloom disappears, it doesn’t mean the plant has died. Your treasured flowers will likely return for several months the following year.
For orchid owners, these rare qualities are exactly what makes the plants so special. Orchid blooms instantly capture attention, whether featured on a living room console table or a reading table in the bedroom.
The Truth About the Difficulty of Growing Orchids
Are all orchids temperamental plants that are only appropriate for expert gardeners? Not at all. It’s true that certain varieties can put the techniques of the most experienced professionals to the test. However, countless hybrids are ideal for home living environments and can be cared for even by first-time plant owners.
Popular Varieties for Beginners
These orchids are popular as indoor plants in many parts of the United States. They tend to thrive in indoor and outdoor conditions with minimal maintenance:
- Cymbidium: What these long-lasting orchids lack in delicateness, they make up for in deep hues. Cymbidium has waxy petals and intense shades of violet and red. They typically bloom in the early spring although sometimes you can see flowers beginning to bloom in October or bloom all the way until June. They also grow best outside.
- Paphiopedilum: Lady’s slipper orchids, or Paphiopedilum, are what many people picture when thinking of an orchid plant. They feature a single, distinctive bloom with large petals resting atop a long and slender stalk. The major blooming season is from mid-autumn onwards although variations occur.
- Oncidium: For sheer volume of flowers, it’s hard to beat these bright and cheerful stars. Oncidium often has groupings of 50 small blooms or more. They are great for potting in the spring.
- Odontoglossum: What makes this species so attractive are its large clusters of vibrant flowers. A single plant can easily be the centerpiece of an entire room. Odontoglossum prefers cooler climates, so northern regions of the U.S. may be perfect. The best time to pot is in spring, after the plant has finished blooming.
- Cattleya: These gentle flowers maximize the beauty and fragrance of your home. The blooms tend to have bold color contrasts and a pleasing scent. They are best for outside, as they need ample sunlight, humidity, and air movement.
- Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica: Both Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica and the related Phalaenopsis gigantea feature spotted blossoms and sharp color contrasts. Also called moth orchids, these low-maintenance varieties are popular as house plants. They can typically re-bloom once every eight to 12 months as well.
Choosing an orchid plant is a lot like picking out a puppy. Some smaller dogs are happy to relax all day long, so they’re a great choice for apartment living. Other breeds are more energetic by nature. Similarly, certain orchids require more time and attention than others.
The Best Way to Grow Orchids
Any effort invested in growing orchids is rewarded immensely with colorful blossoms that add endless joy to your day. Get started by following these 10 steps for growing orchids:
1. Select the Right Orchid
Choosing your orchid variety is probably the most important part of adding this luxurious plant to your life. The best orchid for you is one that attracts your attention and fits your lifestyle. You also need to decide whether you prefer a small plant that energizes your kitchen or a tall ground orchid for an outdoor garden.
There are many hearty options available with stunning blossoms. Arguably, the easiest orchids to grow are Phalaenopsis (moth orchids).
Next, decide what type of blooming frequency you prefer. Depending on the species, orchids can bloom once a year, several times a year, or all year long. Plants that are always in bloom have a shorter life than annual bloomers, but they still last for several years.
Other important factors include the space you have available, your favorite colors and patterns, and the local climate (if you’re planting your orchid in the garden). There are endless combinations possible, so even if you’re just getting started, you can select something personalized to your tastes.
2. Purchase a Healthy, Mature Orchid Plant
Growing orchids from scratch is tricky because the seeds don’t store their own nutrients. They rely on a special growing medium with plant hormones. If you want to save yourself a lot of time and frustration, select an orchid that has already reached maturity.
Should you buy an orchid that is already blooming or one that hasn’t blossomed yet? That depends on your personal preferences.
Some people like to get a good look at the petals in the store. This can help with choosing plants that feel like a great fit for the home. On the other hand, picking orchids that haven’t quite bloomed yet lets you enjoy the flowers for as much time as possible.
To make sure the orchid plant is healthy, take a glance at the roots. Firm roots should be green — light green when dry and darker if wet. Brown or white roots, especially if they look shriveled, are a bad sign.
3. Get to Know Your Orchid Variety
The differences between orchid varieties are staggering. Some hybrids like abundant sunlight and temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Others require shady areas and cool temperatures before they’re ready to bloom. That’s why it’s essential to learn more about your orchid.
Fortunately, in the age of the internet, this kind of information is easy to find. In fact, many stores put care instructions right on the plant’s label. Pay special attention to a few main needs: light, water, fertilizer, and temperature. These numbers usually appear as a range. It can also help to check online for recommendations related to the growing medium and humidity levels.
4. Choose the Best Growing Medium
As you look at orchids in a store, you may notice that many varieties aren’t planted in the soil like other flowers. Orchids may be potted on top of smooth stones, coconut fibers, fir bark, peat moss, lava rock, cork chips, or even whole sections of tree branches. This is because tropical orchids often grow in the air instead of the soil.
Virtually all orchids need excellent drainage to stay healthy. They’re simply not equipped to have constant moisture next to their roots. Stones and other types of airy growing media allow the root system to dry quickly after watering.
What about terrestrial orchids such as Spathoglottis and Bletilla? These ground varieties are planted in soil, but they also need substantial drainage. For the best results, pair a high-quality organic soil with Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner. This combination of silica and nutrients offers an aerated growing medium that allows orchid roots to breathe while nourishing them.
5. Provide Ample Light
Orchids present an interesting puzzle when it comes to light. On the one hand, most orchids need to get a lot of light every day (at least six hours). On the other hand, too much direct sunlight can damage the leaves and cause flowering problems. This is the reason that orchids are classed as “part shade” plants. What’s the solution?
Select a spot for your orchids that has abundant indirect light. A bright living room table can be an excellent choice as long as you use sheer curtains to filter out strong rays. The American Orchid Society recommends choosing windows that face south or east. These directions offer a nice amount of illumination, and you don’t have to worry about intense sunlight.
Another option — virtually the only alternative if your home doesn’t have eastern- or southern-facing windows — is to use artificial grow lights. Full-spectrum LED lights or Compact Fluorescent Lamps are an excellent choice for most orchid varieties. When placing orchids under these lights, keep them at a distance of four to eight inches.
The number of bulbs required depends on whether you’re using CFLs as a supplemental light source or the only light source. During a dark winter with little light, for example, a bank of four bulbs is ideal. If you’re just adding some evening lighting for the orchids, then two bulbs may be enough.
6. Avoid Overwatering
Orchids do need moisture, but they don’t require extensive watering. These air-loving plants thrive when you water about once a week and give them maximum drainage. To be sure how much is too much, consult the watering instructions for your specific orchid variety. Excess water can quickly drown an orchid.
An abundant layer of stones, fir bark, or moss makes an excellent growing medium for tropical orchids. This type of base gives the plant’s roots something to cling to, but it also keeps them elevated far above residual water. As an added bonus, any water at the bottom of the pot adds a nice amount of humidity to the surrounding air as it evaporates.
To keep terrestrial orchids bright and healthy, you have to pay attention to your local climate. Take rainfall into account when deciding when to water. Generally speaking, water thoroughly every five to 12 days, letting the roots dry completely before watering again. Again, make sure to use a combination of organic soil and Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner to give terrestrial orchids the nutrients and breathing room needed to stay healthy.
7. Increase Ambient Humidity Levels
As mentioned in the beginning, many popular orchids are native to tropical rainforests. This means that they have higher-than-average humidity requirements. Humid air helps with growth and creates the ideal environment for orchids to bloom. Each variety is unique, but many types need 60%–80% humidity.
Places such as Florida and California often meet these humidity levels outdoors, but growing orchids inside an air-conditioned house can require some adjustments. One solution is to use a humidifier in part of your home. Another option is to place a humidity tray with stones underneath the potted plant.
8. Fertilize Orchids Frequently
Orchids need extra help getting the nutrients they’re missing with an open-air growing medium. A liquid fertilizer solution is one of the best methods for this. Growers may provide different suggestions, but the American Orchid Society recommends going with a 20-20-20 balanced fertilizer. Here’s what to do:
- Wait until orchid plants are in the growing stage (no blooms)
- Dilute fertilizer with water at one-fourth the normal strength
- Pour the mixture on the plant’s roots or the growing medium
- Avoid wetting the leaves with fertilizer
- Fertilize in this way each week during the growing season
- Water briefly before applying fertilizer solution
Coco coir mixed with Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner is one of the most nutritious growing mediums possible. The coir and silica hold on to the water for just the right amount of time before letting it drain away. At the same time, the Premium Soil Conditioner gives orchid plants 10 purified minerals, including phosphate, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and manganese.
9. Give Growing Orchids the Ideal Temperature
One of the most important things when investigating your favorite orchid variety is the ideal temperature range for growth. Warm-growing orchids need temperatures of 60–90 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool-growing varieties, on the other hand, are perfectly happy with temps of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Orchids also have an interesting peculiarity regarding temperature and blooming. In order to produce buds, orchid plants require the temperature to drop significantly at night. For example, if you usually keep the home at 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, you’ll want to drop the thermostat to 65 degrees when you go to bed. Some growers simply move the plant to the basement overnight.
10. Know When to Re-Pot
Re-potting can be important for restoring nutrients and ensuring adequate drainage if the growing medium has started to become compacted. Another time to re-pot is when roots have grown so much that they don’t have enough ventilation (a snug fit is okay, however). Look at recommendations from other growers for your specific orchid hybrid.
Depending on the amount of root growth, you may go several years without needing to re-pot. Certain orchids grow best when re-potted annually. A good rule of thumb is to avoid transplanting orchids plants as much as possible. They’re very sensitive to changes with their root system, and they may not bloom for some time after re-potting.
The Key to Stunning Orchids
As long as you adhere to these helpful care instructions, nothing is holding you back from enjoying lovely orchids adorning your home for ages. Pick a lovely orchid that makes you happy and give it the best nutrients possible for breathtaking results. Visitors will be blown away when they see the intensely colored blooms. The fact that even beginners can grow orchids successfully can be your little secret.