Orchids have a (well-deserved) reputation for being a bit tricky to care for – unlike the succulents we talked about a few weeks ago, orchids require a lotof TLC. These beautiful blooms, however, are well worth the trouble. They fill your home with color and give any indoor space a tropical flair, no matter the season! If you’re at all intimidated by caring for your own orchids, keep reading for some helpful hints to keep your orchids healthy and beautiful. For example, one tip we highlight is the use of worm teas to add microbial diversity to your orchid soil.
So, you’ve spent some time at a nursery or flower store picking out your dream orchid. It’s the perfect color, and the flowers have a memorable appearance. You’ve carefully driven your new plant home…and now what?
The first thing you should do when you walk through the door with your orchid is water it! Make sure that you’re extra-careful not to get the flowers wet, and dampen the soil with room temperature water. Then, spend some time getting to know your new bloom! Carefully examine its leaves, stems, and flowers. How many blooms are there? How many un-opened bulbs? Are there any bugs, especially on the underside of the leaves?
Also critical during the first few weeks of your orchids life is regularly “weighing” your orchid. Bear with us! This might sound strange, but gauging the weight of your orchid when the soil is wet versus when it is dry will help you better care for the orchid.
Learning about the state of your bloom will help you to better care for your orchid for a long time to come!
One of the most important considerations when beginning to care for an orchid is just where you’re going to put it in your home. Although you might already have a dream location in mind, there are a few things you should consider before you commit your orchid to a particular spot.
Think about the temperature of the space – is it near heating and/or cooling ducts, or close to a window that gets a lot of sun? That might not be an ideal location, as orchids thrive in a fairly regulated, steady temperature. While orchids do certainly look beautiful on a fireplace, for example, the temperature fluctuations when a fire is started will not do it any favors! This also holds true for kitchens (think about how hot your oven gets) and near the windows on sun porches. Completely dark rooms are also not ideal for orchids; their flowers need some sunlight to develop, so make sure there is sun for part of the day in your orchid’s new home.
Do you have pets? Make sure that your orchid is out of reach for Fido and Fluffy! The delicate blooms of an orchid can be tempting for animals, but are also in danger of being knocked down by a wagging tail.
After you’ve selected the ideal location for your orchid, you’ll need to prepare it for its new home by potting it. Many folks wonder how to repot an orchid. Although it sounds fairly basic, this is actually often one of the biggest challenges for new orchid growers.
Orchids are potted in different materials, each of which retain water and distribute nutrients differently, so make sure you’re familiar with the type of pot and the type of material you’re using. Commonly used materials include sphagnum moss, bark mixes specially formulated for orchids, and redwood fiber.
Generally, the best resource for learning what your plant will thrive in is the nursery where you bought it – this will also be the best place for you to buy your potting material!
It’s important, too, to know when it’s time to re-pot your orchid (you’ll need to do this frequently to keep it in peak condition!) Generally, you’ll want to re-pot your orchid at the beginning of a new growth cycle – that is, when the orchid has finished blooming. You’ll start seeing new roots as well as blooms on your orchid.
To actually pot and re-pot your orchid, slowly and carefullyremove the plant from its current location by grasping the base and gently tugging. You might need to gently squeeze the sides to loosen it. When the orchid is out of the pot, take a peek at the roots; do they look healthy and thriving? If they look off, make note of that. You might need to consider a different growing medium.
When you’re ready, gently place the orchid in its new pot and growing material, rotating the pot as you fill it with your material of choice. Viola! You've learned how to repot an orchid. If your orchid is top-heavy, be careful to help it stand upright with a thin stake or garden wire.
Like all living plants, orchids need water to survive. And as with most plants, the key to keeping your orchids thriving is ensuring that you’re not over- or under-watering. With orchids, this doesn’t just depend on the specific type of bloom; the type of pot your orchid is planted in as well as the potting medium are crucial considerations for how often to water your orchid.
A good rule of thumb for an orchid in a six-inch plot would be watering about once a week, but it’s always important to make sure your orchid actually needs water. Remember our pointer about knowing the weight of your orchid in its pot? This is where it comes in handy! If your orchid feels light, it could probably use some extra water. If it’s still relatively heavy, then it’s probably fine.
One other thing to keep in mind is drainage – make sure the excess water has somewhere to go! Be careful, too, of watering the flowers themselves. Water should go in the soil so as not to damage the blooms, and should be room temperature.
Orchids, like all other plants, need nutrients in addition to water to truly thrive! There are plenty of specialty fertilizers for orchids on the market, so it’s important to do your research and make sure that the one you pick is best for your bloom.
As with most fertilizers, the most important ingredients are: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, although orchids also do exceptionally well with fertilizers containing trace elements, which exist naturally in the soil.
For most orchids, you should fertilize bi-weekly.
In addition to properly fertilizing your succulents, we recommend using worm tea to add microbes to the soil of your orchid plants. Think of it as vitamins for your orchids. This often overlooked step can make all the difference between mediocre orchids and orchids that flourish. Worm tea helps your orchids thrive by injecting the soil with a healthy dose of microbes.
Although it might seem counterintuitive in the care of the delicate orchid, air circulation is actually crucial to its survival! It’s a good idea to open the windows in the room where your orchid is located to increase circulation (although you should keep the orchid away from the window itself.)
If your room is still even with an open window, consider investing in a small fan that will keep the air moving.
We’ve never met an orchid that doesn’t love humidity. These blooms are generally from tropical corners of the globe, and appreciate a room with plenty of moisture. If your environment is naturally more dry, you could get a small humidifier for the room where your orchid lives.
For a visual step up from a simple potted orchid, you might consider mounting your orchid on wood, cork, or tree fern for a memorable “floating” effect. After you’ve decided what material to use, you’ll need to figure out when to mount your orchid.
Generally, this should take place when the orchid has flowered and is growing new roots at the base. These young roots will rather quickly take hold of the new mount. The specific technique used to mount your orchid depends on the type of orchid as well as the mounting material.
In large parts of the world, orchids will not be able to survive outdoors during the year as temperature fluctuations are too drastic for the delicate blooms. However, once nighttime temperatures in your area stop dipping below 55 degrees, you might consider putting them outside to “summer.”
A few things to keep in mind, though: just as you put sunscreen and a hat on to keep yourself from burning, your orchid needs protection too! Make sure it has some shade, whether from a patio umbrella or a sun shade. If your climate is dry in the summertime, too, make sure that you’re keeping an even closer eye on the soil’s moisture levels to keep your orchid from drying out.
Hopefully, this guide helped dispel some of your worries about introducing an orchid into your home! These visually stunning blooms, when given some TLC, will keep your home feeling fresh and lovely for years to come.
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