The Q&A Archives: orchids

Question: My aunt gave me an orchid. Can you give me tips on caring for it? Thank you

Answer: There are a few general guidelines for growing orchids indoors. Good lighting is essential. They like an east or west facing window, but shaded from direct sunlight. Orchids need 10-15 hours of light each day so supplemental light may be needed in the winter. To keep orchids from leaning toward the light, occasionally turn the pot.

Good ventilation is necessary: orchids do not tolerate hot and stuffy conditions. Day temperatures should be about 70F in summer and 60F in winter. Cool nights are important so there should be a 10F drop in temperature at night. It's also important to avoid cold drafts.

Water orchids when the growing mix feels dry to the touch, then soak thoroughly using soft, tepid water. Since orchids are grown in a fast-draining mix, you need to allow time for the water to be absorbed, then water again, covering the entire soil surface. Allow excess water to drain away. An orchid mix should not be kept constantly wet, nor should it be allowed to dry out completely.

Orchids thrive in a humid environment. To increase the humidity, place the plants on a tray of small pebbles. Keep the pebbles moist by filling the tray with water up to the bottom layer of pebbles. The pot should not be sitting in water, only on top of the pebbles. The water will evaporate from the pebbles and moisten the air around the plant.

Orchids like to be pot bound or repotting and division may only be necessary every few years. When repotting, use a special Orchid Compost.

Fertilizer is necessary for healthy growth. If you are using a mix that includes fir bark chips, the fertilizer should be a water-soluble 30-10-10. Apply the fertilizer as recommended on the label once a month or half strength every 2 weeks. Fertilizing every 2 weeks with a half strength fertilizer will provide a more continuous nutrient supply. Orchids grown in a tree-fern-fiber-based mix should be fertilized with a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer every month at full strength, or every 2 weeks at half strength.

Many orchids do require a resting period. This is usually in late autumn or early winter. During this resting period, they may lose their leaves. During this stage, the plant will need very little watering, only water if the potting soil is completely dried out.

Best wishes with your new orchid!

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