Select Page

How to Take Care of Orchids

by

Orchids are one of the most interesting house plants 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.

nature-blossom-plant-white-flower-petal-492079-pxhere.com

Shopping for Orchids

A garden centre is often the best place to buy potted plants most especially orchids because they are well-looked after. The care tag attached to the plant gives reasonably information on required light, water, temperature, fertilizer, and growth patterns. But in ordinary shops or stores, the quality of plants sold may vary greatly. When buying from an ordinary shop, check to see that the compost is moist, but if the compost is dry, it’s a sign of neglect, don’t buy. 

Check the drainage hole, a few small roots shooting out from the bottom is a good sign but if many roots are shooting out from the bottom, it’s a sign of neglect because the plant is matured enough to be re-potted. Lastly, be bold to turn the leaves over and examine the leaves meticulously for holes, spots, diseases, yellowing, wilting, lope-sided etc. If you see any of these, don’t buy.

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.

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 a bright light, shaded from direct sunlight. You can position them on window sill, verandas or balconies where they get few hours of morning and afternoon bright light. Miltonias 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 is 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, even during the short winter months. Of course with high humidity and air circulation, except during the short winter months.

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 under required conditions 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 over feed. Overfed orchids will result to lush growth at the expense of flowers.

Potting Orchid Plant

Your plant is matured enough to be potted to a larger pot or container when you see plenty roots shooting out from the bottom of your pot or container. Pot your orchid plant when new growth starts, usually in spring or early fall, after flowering, so roots have enough time to settle and establish before temperature starts to warm up.

When potting or repotting, prepare a new pot that is one size larger than the original pot (ideally, a pot that can only accommodate a two years’ growth), cover the drainage with pieces of bark or styrofoam. 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, and carefully remove the residue from the old compost or potting mix from the remaining roots of the plants.

branch-blossom-plant-flower-bloom-spring-739352-pxhere.com
Orchid roots hanging carelessly
blossom-plant-flower-petal-window-home-799125-pxhere.com
Repotted orchid

Put a small amount of compost or potting mix in the base of the new pot to about an inch or two inches, and slightly firm with your fingers. Sit the plant such that the root-ball is at the right height, and then work-in compost around the sides, turning the pots and pushing the compost 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 or topdressing. Mist-spay the foliage for about 3 to 4 weeks before you resume moderate watering.

Propagation of Orchids

Orchids can be demanding to propagate, but the most common and easiest way is propagation by division. This method is fast, efficient and reliable compare to other methods. To propagate orchids by division method, start early spring with the “mother” orchid that is in good health, no disease and no insects, and 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 appropriately sized pot or container and water by mist-spraying regularly until new growth shoots out.

Varieties of Orchids

There are over 20,000 varieties of orchids, and about half of those 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 miltonias, cymbidiums, epidendrum, and paphiopedilums. Other varieties can be grown successfully as house plants if you meet their needs.

Care for Miltonia Orchid

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.

File name            	:DSCN3707.JPG
File size            	:945.6KB(968306Bytes)
Shoot date           	:2004/08/25 17:26:02
Picture size         	:2048 x 1536
Resolution           	:72 x 72 dpi
Number of bits       	:8bit/channel
Protection attribute 	:Off
Hide Attribute       	:Off
Camera ID            	:N/A
Model name           	:E995
Quality mode         	:FINE
Metering mode        	:Multi-pattern
Exposure mode        	:Programmed auto
Flash                	:No
Focal length         	:16 mm
Shutter speed        	:1/15.6second
Aperture             	:F3.5
Exposure compensation	:0 EV
Fixed white balance  	:Auto
Lens                 	:Built-in
Flash sync mode      	:N/A
Exposure difference  	:N/A
Flexible program     	:N/A
Sensitivity          	:Auto
Sharpening           	:Auto
Curve mode           	:N/A
Color mode           	:COLOR
Tone compensation    	:AUTO
Latitude(GPS)        	:N/A
Longitude(GPS)       	:N/A
Altitude(GPS)        	:N/A
miltonia orchid flower

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, and 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.

Light

Position well in moderately bright light, but no 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 do 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.

Care for Cymbidium Orchid

cymbidium orchid flower

Cymbidiums are both terrestrial and epiphytic. The epiphytic cymbidums are commonly grown as house plants. 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 house plants.

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).

Care for Epidendrum Orchid

Epidendrum_calanthum
epidendrum orchid flower

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 inches 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.

Light

Position 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).

Care for Paphiopedilum Orchid

paphiopedilum orchid flower

Paphiopedilum also known as slipper orchids are terrestrial with no stem. They are commonly grown as house plants. 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.

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.

Care for Phalaenopsis Orchid

phalaenopsis orchid flower

Phalaenopsis 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. 

How to repot Phalaenopsis step by step

Light

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

Temperature

Keep Phalaenopsis in well ventilated rooms, away from heat and draught sources. They love warm temperature with relatively high humidity. Temperature of about 68°F to 70°F is ideal throughout the year. Spray plants with water if environment is dry.

Watering

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

Feeding

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

Care for Oncidium Orchid

oncidium orchid flower

Oncidiums 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.

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.

Care for Vanda Orchid

Vanda orchids unlike other epiphytes have no pseudobulbs. They grow from a single stem emerging from clusters of root. The single stem can grow up to 2 ft. tall while some hybridized vanda (Vanda teres) can grow up to 7 ft. tall. 

vanda
vanda orchid flower

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 colorful flowers each, and can last for several weeks.

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).

Care for Sarcochilus Orchid

sarcochilus orchid flower

Sarcochilus are also known as butterfly orchids. They are epiphytic, and bearl colourful red or white flowers. The main stem a bear leathery leaves that is 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.

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.

Care for Dendrobium Orchid

dendrobium orchid flower

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 a 1000 species. D. infundibulum, D. kingianum, and D. nobile are commonly grown as house plants.

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 temperature 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 enjoy 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).

Care for Cattelya Orchid

cattelya orchid flower

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

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 temperature with relatively high humidity. Temperature of about 55°F to 60°F is ideal throughout the year. Mist-spray if environment is dry at 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 in a month during the active growth period.

Common Pest and Diseases

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 most times are difficult to treat. Every plant as well as orchid is prone to pests and diseases.

This is particularly so if plants are not well rooted and in the best planting medium, or if plants are over-watered or under-watered. It is easier to completely eradicate plant diseases if detected early.

Below are most common pests and diseases of orchid plant, effect and treatments

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

Treatment

Mix together 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 to open, and leaves may have sticky deposits.

Aphids feeding on plant sap

Treatment

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 colored in some species.

Treatment

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 to open, and plants may lose its vigour and become susceptible to diseases.

Treatment

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.

Treatment

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.

Treatment

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

whiteflies with egg deposits
scales
snail

Leafspot

Leafspots 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.

leafspot orchid
Infected leaves

Treatment

Trim affected areas to improve air circulation and sunlight, and then 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 to stunted growth, yellowing, tissue death and defoliation. Fusarium will render your plant less productive.

Treatment

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.