The orchid world is colorful and diverse, populated with more than 28,000 species and 300,000 cultivars, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. In contrast, the supplies you need for growing orchids are few and easy to use. Give your orchids the proper growing medium and pot, then add abundant light, air flow, regular watering and an occasional dose of fertilizer, and your plants will flower and thrive for many years.
Orchids do not grow in soil. Choose a potting medium that drains well but also can hold moisture when watered as well as support the plant and allow air flow around the roots. You can use a bark mix, peat mix or a hydroponic medium such as aliflor, which is a type of expanded clay. Some mixes contain perlite or vermiculite. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service recommends osmunda fiber, derived from the roots of the osmunda fern.
You can plant your orchids in plastic, terracotta or basket pots. Plastic pots are lightweight and the growing medium tends to remain moist longer. Some growers prefer clear plastic pots to allow light to reach the orchid roots. Heavier terracotta pots provide stability and because the potting medium dries out faster, you reduce the risk that the plant will become waterlogged. Basket pots, made of wire, mesh, wood, plastic or clay, are a good way to provide air circulation for your orchid. They tend to dry out quickly.
The American Orchid Society (AOS) recommends applying fertilizer that has little or no urea content. Select a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer, which contains equal concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium or a 30-10-10 orchid fertilizer. The AOS says that most growers use about one-quarter of the amount recommended by the fertilizer manufacturer. The society also suggests watering the orchid before applying fertilizer to avoid burning dry roots.
Orchids need abundant light to produce flowers. If your orchid's leaves are a dark green, the plant isn't getting enough light. A healthy orchid will have yellow-green leaves. A south- or east-facing window is ideal for orchids grown indoors. For outdoor or greenhouse plants, provide partial shade. You can also use fluorescent lighting. Place at least two 40-watt tubes about 6 inches above the orchids and keep them on at least 12 hours a day.
Make sure your orchid is in a well-ventilated area. Consider placing your orchid plant under a ceiling fan or place it near an oscillating fan directed away from the plant. The roots will die without sufficient air flow.