How to Care for an Orchid


Orchids are very special plants that many people crave and cherish. Contrary to popular opinion, orchids can be a lot easier to grow than you might think. The Orchidaceae family is the largest flowering plant family, with over 800 genera and up to 30,000 species of these beautiful flowering plants, and the numbers increase with new cultivars every year. Native orchids occur on every continent on earth except Arctic and desert regions. Depending on the species and variety, you can grow some varieties in a warm, brightly lit bathroom or greenhouse window above your kitchen sink. Whether you choose a Cattleya, a Dendrobium, a Phalaenopsis, a Vanda or other species, you can achieve success when you follow a few general steps that are common to all types of orchids.

Step 1

Research the type of orchid you have purchased, because different species have slightly different requirements for the light, humidity, temperature, air flow, potting medium and fertilizer that will contribute to their successful growth and flowering.

Step 2

Plant your orchid in a special potting mix designed for orchids, which is primarily shredded bark. Because most orchids are epiphytes, they grow on trees and other plants in their native environments, so they do not favor regular soil. Most garden centers and nurseries carry orchid bark.

Step 3

Provide an environment that gives your orchid the correct amount of light. Without the right light, your orchid can suffer by not blooming or by getting sunburned. When a plant has the correct light it will develop purple pigments on its light green leaves.

Step 4

Water your orchid when it is dry---most orchids survive being dry better than when they are subjected to overly wet conditions. Never allow it to stand in a puddle of water.

Step 5

Give your orchid a temperature that is comfortable to you in your home. However, in winter, you might need to supply a supplemental heat source to keep the temperature above around 65 degrees F, especially at night. Some species, such as Cymbidiums, are tolerant of cooler temperatures and can withstand even as low as 30 degrees F, but this is not common in the orchid world.

Step 6

Provide humidity from 60 to 80 percent by installing a humidifier or other means of increasing most homes' rather dry environments. If you place pebbles in a plant saucer, this can help to increase humidity while keeping the plant out of standing water.

Step 7

Give your orchid some air circulation. Air movement is very important and can help to prevent plant diseases. If you install a small fan near your plant, it will provide beneficial conditions.

Step 8

Fertilize most orchids every 2 weeks. Use a water-soluble fertilizer specially designed for orchids. Look for an N-P-K ratio of 30-10-10 and follow the instructions on the label. Because orchids are sensitive to salt, flush yours with clear water every 2 to 3 months to prevent salt buildup that can be detrimental to your plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • If your orchid's leaves turn yellow, give it more shade. If you see large bleached areas that later turn black and dry, also give it more shade. Dark green leaves indicate the plant is receiving insufficient light.

Things You'll Need

  • Orchid bark
  • Plant saucer
  • Pebbles
  • Orchid fertilizer


  • Orchid Mania
  • Internet Orchid Species Encyclopedia
  • Orchids of the World

Who Can Help

  • American Orchid Society
Keywords: orchid care, grow orchids, Orchidaceae species

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.