Orchid Care is Simple
Orchids get most of their nutrients from the air and water, so they thrive easily, and maintenance is surprisingly simple. Follow these six care tips to keep any orchid healthy and beautiful:
- Light - Orchids like filtered light; do not place in direct sun
- Water - Water once or twice weekly - more when it's warmer, less when it's cooler. Allow water to drain out the bottom; do not let orchid planters sit in standing water.
- Humidity - To create a humid micro-climate around orchids, fill a dish with pebbles and water and set the planter atop the pebbles, or, gently mist orchid plants during morning or early afternoon hours. Also, grouping orchids together helps provide a humid environment.
- Fertilize - Use a liquid orchid food about once a month. Water the plant before fertilizing.
- Air - Orchids thrive in an environment with adequate airflow, but be sure to situate them in an area free of cold drafts.
- Temperature - Keep daytime temperature between 65° - 75°F/18° - 24°C; nighttime temperatures are best dropped only a few degrees.
Identify Your Orchid Type
The main difference to note is the type of root system your plant has - are there horizontal runners (rhizomes), or not?
Orchids with stems that grow upward from one tip.
Orchids that grow more than one stem from a creeping horizontal stem called a rhizome.
When to Repot Your Orchid
As your orchid grows and flourishes you should watch for signs that it has outgrown its pot. Choose a new planter that will accommodate about two years of growth.
- Repot if the growing medium breaks down or becomes mushy.
- It's best to wait to repot any orchid until after they have bloomed but are still in an active growth cycle, sending out new shoots and leaves.
- Sympodial orchids (such as Cattleyas and Vandas) need replanting when new pseudobulbs (and their fragile roots) hang over the edge of the pot.
Follow these simple and easy instructions to repot your orchid, and you'll enjoy their beautiful blooms for years to come.
Tools you will need:
- New or used larger pot
- 10% Chlorine bleach water solution, for sterilizing
- Kitchen knife, sterilized
- Heavy scissors or small shears, sterilized
- Pruning seal
- Clay shards, lava rock, or Styrofoam peanuts
- Potting mix, composed of medium-size chunks of fir bark
- Stake-ties or orchid clips
- Plant label
Gather materials, cover your work surface with newspapers, and sanitize tools: Soak kitchen knife, scissors, shears, and previously used clay pots in bleach solution for 30 minutes, then rinse well. Soak new clay pots in water for several minutes.
Wet the potting medium with boiling water and allow to drain and cool.
Remove stakes and plant-ties; set aside any plant labels for use after repotting.
Lightly water the orchid--this will help to loosen it, making it easier to extract from the planter.
- Un-pot the Orchid
Un-potting an orchid housed in a plastic container is relatively easy: simply turn the pot upside-down over newspapers, carefully grasp the stems and gently pull downwards. If needed, you can loosen the plant from the pot by rolling it from side to side against the edge of a table or workbench. If your orchid still won't release from the pot, cut the plastic container from top to bottom and peel it away from the root mass.
Ceramic pots are turned upside-down, and the sides and bottom of the container are thumped to dislodge the plant. Often, roots will stick to the pot, making removal difficult. If this happens, use a clean kitchen knife to loosen the roots and potting medium around container edges. If this fails to release your orchid, simply break the pot with a hammer and pick the shards away from the orchid's roots.
- Clean, Examine, and Groom Roots
Shake away loose bark and dead roots; remove old potting medium between the roots until they are clean and bare. This is an important step to ensure that your orchid will grow well and not have problems with root rot. If the roots are excessively enmeshed in the potting medium, you may have to slit the root ball in order to completely clean away all potting medium and dead roots.
Once cleaned, examine the roots. Healthy roots are firm, with a whitish or light brownish covering, and light-green growth at the tips. Dead roots are mushy and typically coated with a brown covering that easily peels away to expose the root thread within. To groom, cut all dead roots as close to the base of the plant as possible.
If your orchid is a sympodial, groom leafless psuedobulbs by removing them with clean shears. If there is more than one new growth, or "lead," you can divide the plant by cutting through the rhizome. Each division should have at least three pseudobulbs and a new lead. Make each of your cuts firmly, cutting clean through once you decide on the best location. Using your pruning sealer or anti-fungal agent, apply a thin layer to each cut. This will discourage the invasion of fungus or bacteria. Allow the material to dry slightly. Peel the brown sheaths from your orchid's pseudobulbs and inspect for insect da mage. For If you are repotting a Cattleya, do not peel the green sheaths from any new growth.
Orchids require good drainage, so place a generous layer of clean clay shards, lava rock, or Styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of the pot. Follow the next steps for your specific orchid type:
- Sympodial Orchids
(Cattleya, Dendrobiums, Paphiodedilum)
If you're repotting a sympodial, place a handful of the bark you have been soaking into the pot, forming a mound that almost reaches the top of the pot against one side. Position your plant so that its oldest part is against the bark side of the pot, with the eyes of new growth facing into the pot's middle. Spread roots evenly over the bark mound. You may need to bury a portion of the old pseudobulbs into the bark mound so that the new growth is level with a point approximately one and half inches from the top of the pot. Tamp the potting medium firmly until plant is stable.
- Monopodial and Terrestrial Orchids
(Phalaenopsis, Vanda monopodial orchids, as well as terrestrias, which grow in soil)
Place a bark mound in the center of the pot and position your plant over it so that its roots are more or less spread evenly on every side.
If the roots are too long, trim them sparingly, keeping at least three to four inches in length. Trim roots only if absolutely necessary. Fill the pot with wet bark to cover the roots. Press the bark down firmly into the pot, but be sure you not to tamp too close to the plant or any new growth.
- Staking and Labeling
Once positioned inside the planter with potting medium pressed firmly around it, tall sympodial orchids (such as a Cattleya and Dendrobium) will benefit from staking. Cut a wedge in one end of the bamboo stake; swirl the cut end in your bleach-water solution to sanitize, then rinse in clear water. Position the stake down into the potting medium next to your plant, and tie or clip the plant stem to the stake to support the plant. Reinsert your plant label into the potting medium so you're sure to identify your orchid.
Put the orchid in a lightly shaded location and mist both the plant and the surface of the bark twice daily until new root growth is evident. Once the roots have penetrated the bark, move the plant into brighter light and resume normal watering and fertilizing.
Now, you're prepared to enjoy the sculptural, exotic beauty of your orchid and delight as it grows and flourishes.