Orchids are native to dense and humid jungles, but with the following helpful tips from an orchid expert, these elegant tree-dwellers can thrive in any home. There are so many reasons to want an orchid in your home. Orchids are uniquely beautiful and can be quite compact, making them the perfect accent for any size room. They are also a great option for people with allergies because orchid pollen is sticky and contained in a sealed capsule. (I did not know this before writing this post – so cool!)
Orchids are often stigmatized as being finicky plants. This may discourage many people from choosing an orchid for their home. While orchids do need a consistent environment and watering schedule, orchid care can be simplified to a few basic tenants.
An orchid needs a particular amount of light, water and a loose potting mix. In return for your effort you will be rewarded with lovely and long-lasting blooms. This level of care doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Keep reading to find out how to keep an orchid happy without too much effort on your part.
I will admit, historically orchids have always been a disposable plant at my house. I buy one at the grocery store with blooms on it – drown it or neglect it for a few weeks and then throw it out when the blooms disappear, along with any other sign of life. Until recently, I bought into the myth that you can water them with one ice cube a week – don’t do this! I’ve learned the hard way that this does nothing for the plant and is a waste of a perfectly good ice cube. A better option: Put that ice cube to work in a Strawberry Mint Mojito!
Below, I’ve interviewed orchid enthusiast Louise Carlson about her lifelong love for orchids and break down her essential tips for successful orchid care. Using her straightforward guidelines, you too can enjoy a blooming orchid for years to come.
Flora: When did you begin to take an interest in growing orchids?
Louise: When I was 10 – they were selling cymbidium orchids at the county fair in Cleveland for a $1! I had to put it in the basement to keep it warm and moist, but it eventually bloomed!
F: What kind of orchids do you prefer to have in your home? And why?
L: I prefer species orchids because they sometimes have a lovely fragrance and are more rare and unique in shape. Paphiopedilums are a species native to Southeast Asia and bloom about once a year. However, the phalaenopsis, a hybrid that you often see, can bloom continuously. An orchid can live for years – I have one now that is over 20 years old that has travelled across the country from Philadelphia to Asheville to Houston.
The Catasetum Sanguineum is also great. It has a shooting capsule of pollen! I’ve surprised a few people with that one before.
F: Have you grown orchids in different climates, besides the northeastern US? What are some of the concerns?
L: When I lived in Malaysia all of my favorites were there! They are indigenous and grow in the jungles. We grew orchids on the balcony, which was very easy. There is always an afternoon rain, and a mild humid climate. When we moved back to the US, we contributed our orchids to the University of Malaysia greenhouse.
Anywhere else a bright, but not direct sun, window is sufficient. In the northeast – a grow light might be necessary.
F: What are your top 5 tips for orchid care?
L: 1.Media mix – Use sphagnum moss, charcoal, rocks, bark, packing peanuts, etc. in the pot to keep the mixture surrounding the orchid’s roots airy to prevent root rot. Also, use a pot that has ventilation slits on the sides.
2. Let the media mix dry out between waterings to simulate the jungle life of an orchid, living in the crook of a tree.
3. But when you do water, water thoroughly. Wet the leaves and let the plant drain completely. Try to mimic an afternoon jungle shower.
4. Fertilize frequently with diluted mix that is especially for orchids.
5. Trim away dead roots or diseased leaves and spent flower stalks with scissors that have been passed through a flame, to prevent transmitting bacteria.
Louise’s tips have turned my orchid game around, and I hope they will help you, too. Thank you, Louise for sharing your expert insight into your love and appreciation for orchids!
For easy reference, we’ve made a handy orchid care chart that you can download, print and stick by your healthy and gorgeous orchid.
If you have an orchid tip or question, please leave it in the comments below!
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