Orchid Flowers: Gardening Tips for Growing Orchids Indoors or Out

Home Gardening Basics: Caring for Orchids

Lilac orchids

Whenever I'm approached for gardening advice, someone almost always asks: 'How do you take care of orchids?'  If you've ever wanted to know how to take care of orchids, you're not alone!

Orchids are some of the most exotic, breathtaking plants in existence and they're very popular. There are thousands of species; they vary greatly in color and overall appearance. Proper care of orchids can vary greatly as well, so it's always important to read the growing and care tips on the tag of the plant when purchased.  

Since orchids are tropical plants, many people keep them indoors because the winter cold kills them every year. Other people, however, prefer to plant theirs outdoors.  While it helps if you have some prior flower gardening experience, with just a little bit of home gardening help anyone can learn to grow healthy, beautiful orchids.  Here are some helpful growing tips for planting your orchids indoors or for planting and maintaining them in a garden outdoors.

Indoor orchid care tips:

  1. Choose an orchid that will fit your indoor temperature. Some plants are much more finicky than others. If your house stays between 68 and 75 degrees, you can choose a warm-growing orchid. If your nighttime temperatures get a bit cooler (say between 60 and 65 degrees), choose an intermediate-growing orchid. 
  2. Most orchids come planted in a special pot and rooted in some sort of bark or fibrous material. This is because orchids get most of their nutrients and water from aerial roots. So don't cut these roots!
  3. Orchid plants need high humidity and direct sun during the winter months, and indirect light during the summer months.
  4. Never let your orchid get too dry. This will kill it quickly. Instead, water consistently but in accordance with the specific instructions for your type of orchid. Remember, the water must reach and nourish all of the roots.

    DO NOT USE SOFTENED WATER. The salt will damage the roots.

  5. If your leaves turn a light green color or yellow and shrink in size, you need to add some fertilizer. If your orchid does not flower and the leaves are dark green and floppy, you have used too much fertilizer. Plants that are actively growing and sprouting need fertilizer. Those who are slow-growing or not growing do not need fertilizer. If your orchid is in bark, it needs more fertilizer than one planted in fibrous material. A general houseplant fertilizer will do the trick. Just apply about every four weeks, and read the labels.

Outdoor orchid gardening basics:

  1. If the temperature in your area goes below 40 degrees, please note that you will have to bring your orchid inside when it gets that cold. Otherwise, it will die.
  2. Orchids like part sun to part shade. The hotter it gets in your part of the country, the more shade you will need to keep your plant flowering. Choose a spot in your garden where you have ample shade, but can still see the flower clearly - one of the best garden tips I can give those who are new to flower growing is to never bury your beautiful flowers under a low-hanging shrub!
  3. A good time to plant orchids in an outdoor garden is in early- to mid-May.
  4. Properly caring for orchids is crucial.  Mist it every day, or give a heartier watering every other day. Make sure your plant does not dry out.
  5. If your plant starts to wilt or develop weird colorings on the leaves, move your plant immediately. This means your orchid is getting too much sun and needs more shade. Make sure to water and mist as well.
  6. Fertilize a little bit every two weeks, but no more than that.
  7. A stake is necessary; otherwise, your flowers will fall into the mud or break off.
  8. When the weather starts to get colder, bring your orchid inside.

Watering Tips:

  • Remember that watering orchids is definitely tricky business; most people who have trouble growing orchid flowers have simply not learned how to water it.  What is good for one plant may not be great for another. In general, the majority of orchids should have soil that is consistently moist, but not soaked with water.
  • The quality of the water is very important; as mentioned earlier, softened water can and will burn the roots of your orchid. The best method is to use distilled water, or just tap water if you don't have a softener. Rain water is also a very good thing to use. Well water for the most part is okay, but if it's hard water it can leave deposits on the leaves of the plant.
  • Orchids prefer water at room temperature, so let the water sit for a little while to warm up.
  • If you have a smaller pot, water your plant twice a week. Bigger pots (bigger than five inches) should only be watered once a week.
  • NEVER water when the potting material is overly damp or soggy.
  • Clay pots will evaporate water more quickly. Decorative pots will keep moisture in; it's a good idea to keep a close eye on these pots.  Too much water, and you can risk root rot.
  • Water on sunny days, and early in the morning so water can evaporate throughout the day.
  • For more great watering tips and information, go here.

Remember that all orchids are a little different; look up information on your specific hybrid. If you bought yours from a store, look to see if there's a tag that provides some care tips.

With a little love and work, you should be able to enjoy your orchids inside and outside!  Once your flowers are fully in bloom, consider harvesting a few blooms to add a distinctive flair to your favorite floral arrangements.


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