The orchid family (Orchidaceae spp.) is a diverse and large family of flowering plants that are cultivated across the globe in greenhouses, backyards and in homes. Though orchid cultivation can be quite labor intensive, there are a few easy care guidelines that can help prevent problems and keep the plant looking healthy and beautiful.
Whether grown indoors or outdoors, orchids generally prefer indirect or dappled sunlight over bright, full sunlight. Too much sunlight can permanently burn the plant's leaves. Orchid plants should have bright green leaves. If the leaves are a dark green, they should be moved to a sunnier location. If the leaves are yellow or tinged with red, they should be given more shade. Placing an indoor orchid behind blinds or a thin curtain often works well, and many outdoor orchids will thrive in the dappled sun under a shrub or tree.
Orchids grown in smaller pots need to be watered more frequently than orchids grown in larger pots, as the soil dries quicker in small pots. To see if your orchid needs water, poke your finger into the soil about an inch. If the soil is dry, water; if the soil is still moist, withhold water. Take special care not to get water on the foliage or flowers of the plant, as this will make the plant more susceptible to fungus.
Ventilation is an important part of orchid care. A slight breeze will help evaporate moisture and water trapped throughout the orchid's foliage that may cause fungal and bacterial problems. During the summer, simply opening a window to let a breeze in will suffice. A ceiling fan during the winter will promote air circulation through the room. Rotate the orchid occasionally to keep air flowing around all sides of the plant.
Many gardeners believe that tropical orchids need constant, extremely high temperatures in which to thrive but this may, in fact, harm the plant. Orchids require fluctuating temperatures: higher temperatures during the day and low temperatures at night. The plant can handle temperatures as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit so long as it does not extend for more than a brief period. The temperature should be allowed to fluctuate as much as 15 degrees between night and day, with temperatures no cooler than 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Blackened, bruised or mushy brown areas may be the result of fungal disease, or from frost damage in cold winter climates. Hydrogen peroxide can be dabbed over brown leaves to help with mild fungal infections, and precautions should be taken in the future (increase ventilation, avoid over-watering). Limp leaves may be a result of cold temperatures or low light levels. Fine, light-colored spots may be a result of poisoning. Be sure to keep air fresheners and cigarette smoke away from plants.