Orchid Care Tips

The orchid family is a diverse and enormous plant family that contains more than 20,000 species of flowering herbaceous plants. Orchids are cherished for their exotic-looking flowers, which come in a variety of patterns and color combinations. Growing orchids at home can be achieved just by following a few general care tips.

Light

Orchids do best in bright, diffused sunlight, such as the light coming in from mostly closed curtains or blinds. Outdoor orchids typically prefer filtered shade, such as the shade under a tree or larger plant. Putting an indoor or outdoor orchid in direct sunlight can cause the plant to burn. The color of the plant's leaves is a good indicator of its health. Dark-green leaves signal that the plant isn't getting enough light, while yellowish or reddish leaves indicate too much light. Plants received by mail have grown accustomed to shade and should be gradually introduced to more sunlight over a period of a couple weeks.

Watering

It is always preferable to water orchids with rainwater rather than tap water, which is usually chemically treated. As a general rule of thumb, water orchids once a week during the winter and twice a week during the summer and late spring. Orchids in smaller pots need to be watered more frequently than orchids in larger pots, as the soil dries out more quickly. Test the soil by sticking your finger down an inch or so into the soil. Add water if the soil is dry. The plant's roots can rot if left to stand in soggy soil. Try to use water that is room temperature; cold water may harm the plant in the long run.

Feeding

Fertilizing your orchids can greatly improve the plant's health and appearance. Fertilizer with potassium and phosphorous helps encourage flower production and development, while nitrogen helps the foliage and roots. Water your orchid before feeding, and read the fertilizer instructions carefully. If you are using a dried fertilizer, make sure to dilute it with water first, as these highly concentrated fertilizers can kill the plant if directly applied.

Ventilation

Outdoor plants have access to natural breezes and winds; indoor plants do not. It's important to provide some kind of ventilation for indoor orchids, lest they rot from the fungus that comes with too much humidity. Leave windows cracked in the summer to allow a fresh breeze, and use a fan (ceiling or other) to provide a gentle breeze during the winter. Shift the plant occasionally to keep one section of the orchid from drying out.

Keywords: care tips, orchid tips, orchid flowers

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.