How to Take Care of Orchids

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Orchids are one of the most interesting houseplants that form colourful and fascinating flowers.

Many people avoid growing orchids in their homes because they can be demanding.

However, orchids can be less demanding if you choose to grow the right varieties. Orchid needs are quite different from other indoor plants, and for success nurturing orchids those needs must be met.

In this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know to care for your orchids to help you grow and nurture them successfully, I promise. So let’s get started.

Today, I will share with you the following:

  • How to shop for orchidsam
  • Caring for orchids
  • Varieties of orchids -names and pictures
  • Potting soil for orchids
  • Pests and diseases

How to shop for Orchids?

If you’re not sure where to buy orchids, a garden centre is often the best place to buy orchids: orchids are provided with excellent growing conditions, and are usually well looked after by their knowledgeable staff.

The care tag attached to the plant gives reasonably information on required light, water, temperature, fertilizer, and growth patterns. In some ordinary shops or stores, the quality of plants sold may vary greatly.

To avoid buyer’s remorse, you need to have the buyer’s checklist before going shopping.

Caring for Orchids

Light

The state of leaves can determine if your orchid is getting the right amount of light or not.

A dark green leaves show your plant is not getting sufficient light. Yellowish green to red leaves show your plant is getting too much light. And bright green leaves show your plant is getting sufficient light.

As a rule of thumb, it is recommended to know the amount of light your plants need before deciding the best spot to position them.

Orchids flourish best when placed in bright light, shaded from direct sunlight.

You can position them on the window sill, verandas or balconies where they get few hours of morning and afternoon bright light. Miltonia and Paphiopedilum do best in medium light, and should never be exposed to direct sunlight at any given time.

During the short-day winter, expose epiphytic orchids to direct sunlight and supplement with artificial light so they can have 8 to 10 hours of light daily.

Temperature

A rise and fall in the amount of day and night temperature are essential for orchids to bloom.

Sit your orchids where they can get a steady level of warm temperature of about 65°F to 75°F during the day with a drop in the night temperature to about 55°F to 60°F all year round.

 

Watering

Over-watering and under-watering is the cause of death, and probably most problems associated with potted orchids.

Ensure pots have holes or effective drainage. Water your orchid plant regularly in the morning hours so that the leaves dry out by nightfall. Water once or twice a week or when compost or potting mix is loose and feels dry.

During winter, when active growth stops, flowering stops and leaves start to fall off in some species, cut down your watering, and water just enough to prevent the compost or potting mix from drying out completely for few weeks during the winter rest period.

 

Feeding

Feed orchids once or twice in a month with weak concentration, especially during the active growth period.

Usually, orchids grown in a good potting mix do not need much feeding -a little feeding is just enough.

During the resting period, orchids are usually dormant and need no feeding. However, if you must feed ensure you don’t overfeed. Overfed orchids will result in lush growth at the expense of flowers.

How to pot orchid plant?

When you see plenty of roots shooting out from the bottom of your container, it shows that your orchid plant is matured enough to be potted to a larger container .

Pot your orchid plant when new growth starts, usually in spring or early fall after flowering so that the roots have enough time to settle and establish before the temperature starts to warm up.

When potting, prepare a new pot that is one size larger than the original pot (ideally, a pot that can only accommodate two years’ growth) then cover the drainage from the inside with pieces of bark or styrofoam to achieve an effective drain system.

To remove the plant easily from its current pot, invert the pot and tap the rim on a hard surface.

Once the plant is out of its pot, look at the root ball. If the roots are densely bound in a pattern, having the shape of the container, break up the pattern to loosen the roots and trim off roots that are dead or damaged with a sterilized sharp knife or scissors.

From the remaining roots, carefully remove the residue from the old potting mix.

Put a small amount of the new potting mix in the base of the new pot to about an inch or two, slightly firm with your fingers.

Set the plant such that the root ball is at the right height, then work-in the potting mix around the sides, turning the pots and pushing the potting mix down.

Once done, gently firm the compost with your fingers, and leave about 2 inches space between the compost level and the rim of the pot to accommodate watering and future feeding.

After potting, mist-spay the foliage for about 3 to 4 weeks before you resume moderate watering.

A step by step video guide on repotting an orchid plant

How to propagate orchids?

Orchids can be propagated from the aerial roots, leaves or seeds. These propagation methods can be demanding but the most common and easiest way to propagate orchids is by division.

This method is fast, efficient, and reliable when compared to other methods.

To propagate orchids by division method, start early spring with the “mother” orchid that is in good health with no disease and no insect problems then cut through the rhizome with a sharp sterilized knife, where each division will have two or three pseudobulbs.

The cutting should be done in advance, like a months’ plus so that the injury made from the cut can heal before actually dividing the top growth.

Replant each division singly in an appropriately sized container and water by mist-spraying regularly until new growth shoots out.

Varieties of Orchids

There are over 20,000 varieties of orchids. About half of these varieties are terrestrial -they grow from the ground, and get nutrients from the ground, and the other half are epiphytes -they grow on trees, shrubs, rocky areas or plant surfaces.

For a beginner, the best and easiest varieties to start with are the Miltonia, cymbidiums, epidendrum, and paphiopedilums. Other varieties can be grown successfully as house plants if you meet their needs.

 

Miltonia

Miltonias are also known as pansy orchids, commonly grown as house plants. The flattened pseudobulbs (storage organ) can grow to about 2 to 4 inches tall, and 1 to 2 inches wide.

The pseudobulbs bear 1 to 3 long-narrow green leaves.

The leaves are 10 to 15 inches long, and 1 to 3 inches wide depending on the hybrids.

The flower stalk that arises from the base of the pseudobulbs grows between 6 to 18 inches long, bears 1 to 10 large flat flowers that are richly coloured.

The flowers last for several weeks, about 4 to 5 weeks. M. spectabilis, M. vexillaria, and M. warscrewiczii are commonly grown as house plants.

 

How to Care for a Militonia Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in moderately bright light, away from direct sunlight. Too much light will turn the leaves yellow.

Expose them to 2 to 3 hours of light during the short-day winter.

Temperature

A minimum day-time temperature of about 70°F and night-time temperature of about 65°F is ideal throughout the year, with high humidity.

Ensure temperature does not rise above 75°F or fall below 62°F at any given time. Mist spray in the early morning hours.

Watering

Water regularly during their active growth. Allow the compost or potting mix to almost dry out before you water again.

It is best to water in the morning so that the leaves are dry by nightfall.

Feeding

Apply liquid fertilizer with high nitrogen every 2 weeks to stimulate growth most especially during the active growth period. Cut down feeding to once every 4 weeks during the short-day winter.

Cymbidiums

Cymbidiums are both terrestrial and epiphytic. The epiphytic cymbidiums are commonly grown as houseplants.

The ribbon-shaped pseudobulbs grow up to 2 inches tall, bearing 5 to 7 fleshy green leaves. The leaves are 10 to 15 inches long, and 1 to 3 inches wide, depending on the hybrids.

The flower stalk grows up to 14 inches long and bears 12 to 18 colourful scented flowers, which can last up to 6 weeks. C. devonianum, C. minuet, and C. peter pan are commonly grown as houseplants.

 

How to Care for a Cymbidium Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in bright light, but no direct sunlight.

Temperature

Cymbidiums thrive well under room temperature throughout the year with relatively high humidity. Mist-spray if environment is dry.

Watering

Water regularly during the active growth period. Allow the compost or potting mix to almost dry out before you water again.

During the winter rest period, cut down your watering and water just enough to prevent the compost or potting mix from drying out. Over-watering causes root rot.

Feeding

Apply orchid liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks to stimulate growth, most especially during the active growth period (follow feeding instructions on how and when to apply).

Epidendrums

Epidendrums are epiphytic with pseudobulbs.

The pear-shaped pseudobulbs grow between 2 to 12 inches tall, developing 2 to 3 fleshy green leaves at the tip. The leaves are 4 to 5 inches long, and ½ to 1 inch wide depending on the hybrids.

The flower stalk develops in-between the leaves in late summer or early fall, bearing numerous fragrant flowers that clustered at the tip. The blooms can last up to 4 weeks. E. pentotis and E. vitellinum are commonly grown as house plants.

 

How to Care for a Epidendrum Orchid?

 

Light

Position your Epidendrum orchid plant well in bright light and ventilated space throughout the year, but no direct sunlight.

Temperature

Epidendrum thrive well in both warm and cool temperatures with relatively high humidity. A minimum day-time temperature of about 70°F and a night-time temperature of about 55°F is ideal throughout the year.

Watering

Water regularly during the active growth period. Allow the compost or potting mix to almost dry out before you water again.

During the winter rest period, cut down your watering and water just enough to prevent the compost or potting mix from drying out.

Feeding

Apply orchid liquid fertilizer every once or twice in a month to stimulate growth; most especially during the active growth period (follow feeding instructions on how and when to apply)

Paphiopedilum

They are also known as slipper orchids are terrestrial with no stem, commonly grown as houseplants. The 8 to 12 inches tall green leaves arise from the short rhizome.

The flower stalk develops from the centre of the leaves and grows up to 10 to 18 inches tall. The fleshy flowers normally develop from fall to spring. Each flower looks artificial and can last 8 to 12 weeks.

 

How to Care for a Paphiopedium Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in moderately medium light, but no direct sunlight at any time. Artificial light from late fall to early spring will help improve flowering.

Temperature

Room temperature is ideal throughout the year with relatively high humidity. Mist-spray when temperature rises above 70°F.

Watering

Water regularly during the active growth period. Allow the compost or potting mix to almost dry out before you water again. During the rest period after flowering allow the compost or potting mix to dry out before watering.

Feeding

Apply liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks to stimulate growth during the active growth period except during the short-day winter.

Phalaenopsis

They are also known as moth orchids. The main stem bears leaves that are approximately 3 inches high, and the flower stalk that emanates from the leaf axil (between the upper side of the stem and the leaf) is about 36 to 40 inches high.

The flower stalk bears long-lasting flowers at any time, which last from 2 to 4 weeks.

Phalaenopsis orchid

 

How to Care for a Phalaenopsis Orchid?

 

Light

Position in well-lit and ventilated space throughout the year, but keep away from direct sunlight. During winter, you can add extra lightening- artificial white light can serve as substitute to improve flowering.

Temperature

Keep Phalaenopsis in well-ventilated rooms, away from heat and draught sources. They love warm temperatures with relatively high humidity.

A temperature of about 68°F to 70°F is ideal throughout the year. Spray plants with water if the environment is dry.

Watering

Water in the morning hours according to need, most especially when compost is loose and dry. Water more regularly during summer and less in the winter. Do well to avoid over-watering.

Feeding

Apply a slow-release fertilizer to the potting mix or water with a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks (follow feeding instructions on how to apply)

Oncidiums

They are also known as dancing lady orchids, and are epiphytic. The egg-shaped pseudobulbs grow up to about 2 to 10 inches tall, with two fleshy green leaves that are 6 to 10 inches long and ½ to 2 inches wide depending on the hybrids.

The flower stalk develops from the base of the pseudobulbs, which bears small numerous flowers from 40 to 50 blooms.

 

How to Care for a Militonia Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in bright light even under direct sunlight in the morning hours except at mid-day. During winter, artificial white light serves as substitute. Artificial light also help to improve oncidium during the short-day winter months.

Temperature

Keep oncidium in well ventilated rooms, away from heat and draught sources. They love warm temperatures with relatively high humidity.

A minimum temperature of about 65°F is ideal throughout the growing period. At resting period (immediately after flowering) expose your orchid plant to temperature of about 55°F. Mist-spray if environment is dry, at temperature above 70°F.

Watering

Give them a good soak when compost is loose and feels dry. Sit your orchid plants in a tray and allow drained water to soak up for ½ an hour maximum, and then discard excess water.

At resting period, sparingly water just enough to prevent the pseudobulbs from drying out.

Feeding

During the active growth period, feed with orchid liquid fertilizer once every 4 weeks

Vanda

Vanda orchids unlike other epiphytes have no pseudobulbs.

They grow from a single stem emerging from clusters of roots. The single stem can grow up to 2 ft. tall while some hybridized vanda (Vanda teres) can grow up to 7 ft. tall.

The aerial roots grow from the stem, and the alternating fleshy green leaves grow along the stem. The flower stalk varies from 4 to 12 inches long, which bears about 7 to 10 colourful flowers each, and can last for several weeks.

 

How to Care for a Vanda Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in bright light but no direct sunlight. However, some vanda species can adapt to direct sunlight. During winter, artificial white light serves as substitute.

Temperature

Vanda love warm temperature with relatively high humidity. A daytime temperature of about 68°F to 72°F, and night temperature of about 53°F to 57°F is ideal throughout the year. Mist-spray daily.

Watering

Water vanda orchids daily in the morning and evening. Never allow the compost to dry out completely. Sit your orchid plants in a tray and allow drained water to soak up shortly, for about ½ an hour maximum, then discard excess water.

Feeding

Vanda are heavy feeders, so apply slow release fertilizer to the potting mix or water with liquid fertilizer 2 to 3 times weekly (follow feeding instructions on how to apply).

Sarcochilus

Sarcochilus are also known as butterfly orchids. They are epiphytic and bears colourful red or white flowers.

The main stem bears leathery leaves 10 to 14 inches high and approximately 1 inch wide. The flower stalk that emanates from the leaf axil bears long-lasting flowers, which can last for several weeks.

 

How to Care for a Sarcochilus Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in bright light but no direct sunlight. During winter, artificial white light serves as substitute. Artificial light help to improve flowering during the short-day winter months.

Temperature

Sarcochilus loves cool temperature and shady location with high humidity. A minimum temperature of about 65°F is ideal throughout the growing period.

However, some species can withstand low temperature up to 40°F. Mist-spray if environment is dry.

Watering

Sarcochilus enjoy plenty water. During the active growth period, water daily, morning and evening, but cut down your watering to once or twice a week during the resting period.

Sit your orchid plants in a tray and allow drained water to soak up shortly, about ½ an hour maximum, and then discard excess water.

As a rule of thumb, water whenever your compost feels loose and dry.

Feeding

Apply slow release fertilizer to the potting mix or water with liquid fertilizer to stimulate growth, most especially during the active growth period.

Dendrobium

Dendrobium orchids are epiphytes with tall pseudobulbs. The tall pseudobulbs are stem-like and grow several alternate green leaves along the tip.

The short pseudobulb is the flower stalk, which bears beautifully scented flowers. Dendrobiums have over 1000 species. D. infundibulum, D. kingianum, and D. nobile are commonly grown as house plants.

 

How to Care for a Dendrobium Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in bright light, even under direct sunlight through a translucent blind in the morning hours except at hot mid-day.

Temperature

Dendrobiums love warm temperatures with relatively high humidity. A temperature of about 60°F to 70°F is ideal throughout the active growth period.

During winter, a midday temperature of about 60°F to 65°F and night temperature of about 50°F to 55°F is ideal for orchids to bloom.

Watering

Dendrobium enjoys plenty of water.

During the active growth period, water moderately, sit your orchid plants in a tray and allow drained water to soak up shortly about ½ an hour maximum, and then discard excess water.

Let the compost or potting mix dry out almost completely before you water again.

To prevent rot, do not allow water droplets to remain on the new growth. During the winter resting period, cut down your watering and water when compost is dry.

Feeding

Water with liquid fertilizer to stimulate growth during the active growth period (follow feeding instructions on how and when to apply).

Cattelya

Cattelya are epiphytic orchids with rhizomes (creeping rootstalk that have the ability to grow new shoots and roots) that develop fascinating beautiful flowers.

The pseudobulbs (storage organs) grow up 8 to 15 inches tall and develop one or two fleshy green leaves that are 4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide depending on the hybrids.

Flowers are produced singly or clusters, which last 4 to 5 weeks.

 

How to Care for a Cattleya Orchid?

 

Light

Position well in bright light without direct sunlight. During winter, artificial white light serves as substitute. Artificial light also help to improve flowering.

Temperature

Protect from sudden temperature changes, heat and draught sources. They love warm temperatures with relatively high humidity.

Temperature of about 55°F to 60°F is ideal throughout the year. Mist spray if the environment is dry at a temperature above 70°F.

Watering

Give them a good soak regularly when compost is loose and feels dry during the active growth period. It is best to water your orchid plant in the morning hours.

Feeding

Water with orchid liquid fertilizer directly on the leaves every once or twice a month during the active growth period.

 

Pest and Diseases of Orchids

Plant diseases are caused by pathogens, which can either be a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Fungal attacks on plants often come from the soil, and are difficult to treat most times.

Every plant, as well as the orchid plant, is prone to pests and diseases.

Generally, pest problems happen when plants are not well rooted and in the best planting medium. Also, if plants are over-watered or under-watered. It is easier to completely eradicate plant diseases if detected early.

Below are the most common pests and diseases of an orchid plant, effects and control.

 

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are sucking insects that feed on the plant sap. Their activities result to yellowing of leaves and total leaf loss.

mealybugs feeding on plant sap

Control

Mix water, liquid dish soap, and Neem oil in a spray bottle. 5mls of Neem oil and 3 drops of dish soap.

Apply the treatment and repeat every 2 weeks until the 3rd application. Spray plant surfaces, as well as the undersides of leaves.

Aphids

Aphids are sucking insects that feed on buds, flowers and new growths. Their activities may cause stunted growth, yellowing, wilting, flower buds not opening, and leaves may have sticky deposits.

Control

Wash plants with jet water (you can create pressure with garden hose) or spray with soap solution.

Mix 20mls of alcohol and 50mls water into a spray bottle. Then, add about 3 drops of liquid soap

Thrips

Thrips are small to tiny sucking insects that feed by piercing the leaf tissue and sucking out the cell content. They are translucent white, yellowish, dark-brown, black or brightly coloured in some species.

Control

Trim affected areas, and spray mildly using pesticides or neem oil. Repeat the treatment every 2 weeks until the 3rd application.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are small insects that feed on buds, flowers and new growths. Their activities may cause stunted growth, yellowing, wilting, flower buds not opening, and plants may lose their vigour and become susceptible to diseases.

Control

Wash plants with jet water (you can create pressure with garden hose) or spray with soap solution.

Mix 20mls of alcohol and 50mls water into a spray bottle. Then, add about 3 drops of liquid soap. Repeat the treatment until flies are no more.

Scales

Scales are sucking insects that feed on leaves, pseudobulbs and rhizomes. Their activities may cause stunted growth, yellowing and leaf drop.

Control

Wash plants with jet water (you can create pressure with garden hose) or spray with soap solution.

Mix 20mls of alcohol and 50mls water into a spray bottle. Then, add about 3 drops of liquid soap.

Snails and slugs

Snails are chewing organisms that leave irregular holes in leaves, flowers and roots. They leave traces of their slime, which show their presence.

Control

Apply snail pellets at the base of your plants. Application should be done in the evenings when they are most active.

Leaf spots

Leaf spots are frequent diseases of orchid plants. It is most often introduced through infected seed or transplants.

Make sure your seeds and transplants are free from leaf spot. Infected leaves turn brown or black, sometimes with a yellow halo. The spots enlarge gradually and spread to the entire leaves.

Orchid leafspots

Control

Trim affected areas to improve air circulation and sunlight.

Apply neem oil or sulfur sprays or copper-based fungicides weekly at first sign of disease to prevent its spread.

These organic fungicides will not kill leaf spot, but prevent the spores from germinating.

It is always recommended to keep the soil under the plant clean to prevent the disease pathogen from spreading.

Fusarium wilt

Fusarium wilt is caused by a fungus called Fusarium oxysporum.

The fungus invades the plant tissue by blocking the conductive tissues (Xylem and Phloem), so it becomes difficult for water and minerals to reach the leaves.

The failure of xylem and phloem to conduct water and minerals result in stunted growth, yellowing, tissue death and defoliation. Fusarium will render your plant less productive.

Control

Sterilize your tools and trim off affected areas. Keep the soil under your plant clean, and then apply neem oil or sulfur sprays or copper-based fungicides.

That's It!

I hope you have enjoyed learning How To Grow and Care For Orchids. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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