Orchid Care & Maintenance After Flowering
Orchids are one of the world's oldest flowering plants, thought to have survived and thrived since the time of the dinosaurs. There are over 30,000 varieties that grow in every part of the world but Antarctica. There are thought to be at least 140,000 hybrid varieties throughout the world, as well. Orchids have growing habits and needs unique to each species, but some basic care given to the plant after its bloom is finished may help ensure it blooms for you again.
Orchids are very finicky about how much and what type of light they get. It can vary greatly among varieties, but basic care dictates that a potted orchid needs early morning or late day sunlight that is slightly diffused. A south facing window often works best. Be cautious, as you can sunburn your orchid. Signs that the orchid's light is insufficient are deep-green leaves, or leaves that yellow. An orchid getting too little light is unlikely to bloom. Fluorescent grow lights can also be used to supplement light.
Some orchids like to stay moist all the time, while others like to dry out before being watered again. A general rule of thumb is to keep your orchid moist but never leave it standing in water. Water until a few drips are left at the base of its pot. Flush with room temperature water periodically to clean the medium in which it is planted. Water at least once a week, and use a spray bottle to moisten the leaves and exposed roots several times every week. Also remember that orchids prefer a relative humidity of 40 percent to 70 percent; this can be provided by growing in a green house or a terrarium.
The orchid flowers grow off spikes. When the bloom expires, it wilts and drops, leaving the spike bare. The spike then either remains green and sets about putting out new blooms, or it turns brown and dies. If the spike dies, it is necessary to prune it back. Use sharp scissors to cut the spike back as close to the main stem as you can without snipping through any leaves or damaging the stem.
Fertilize your orchid every two weeks with a very diluted 10-10-10, 10-10-30 or 30-10-10 fertilizer. It does not matter if it is organic or chemical, as long as the balance is correct for your type of orchid. In warmer climes, you can hang your orchid outside beneath a shade tree in the warmest months where it will benefit from natural light and appropriate humidity levels. Continue to feed and water it as usual. Repot the orchid with fresh planting medium if it is more than 2 years old.