7 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Caring For Orchids

7 surprising things you didn't know about caring for orchids
7 surprising things you didn’t know about caring for orchids

If you are a fan of mystery writer Rex Stout, you know that he had his protagonist (Nero Wolfe) spend at least one uninterrupted hour daily sequestered in his orchard atrium.

The trials of orchid propagation and disease protection were described in such detail that I formed an impression that this plant was difficult and temperamental to grow.

Orchids are fairly inexpensive so you can have more than one in a room | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchids are fairly inexpensive so you can have more than one in a room

Then I started using the moth or Phalaenopsis orchid as an accent plant in decorating and learned how easy they are to care for.

The addition of one of these blooming plants brings a room alive with a cheerful focal point.

The flowers last for 3 months or longer.

Because they are now readily available commercially and priced so well, it is possible to have at least one brightening up a room.

Orchid garden in Kauai | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchid garden in Kauai

Do not be daunted by how exotic they look. It belies how tough and resilient they are.

You only need to see the outdoor orchid garden at a resort on Kauai, or the orchids growing wild on the trees lining ‘Alligator Alley’ in Florida to be convinced.

Keep reading to find 7 surprising things you didn’t know about caring for orchids.

1 | Orchids Thrive On Neglect

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Orchids Growing Wild in Kauai | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchids Growing Wild in Kauai

Orchids thrive on neglect. In the wild they often grow in tree crevices!

I water no more often than once every 2 weeks.

I do not mist but will run the leaves under lukewarm running water if they look dusty.

Dunk the orchid in water | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Dunk the orchid in water

Water the plant by immersing the pot in lukewarm tap water for about 30 seconds.

Then tip the pot a little to drain all the water from the bottom before putting it back into its decorative container.

Orchids do not like to have their roots soaking.

2 | Orchids Do Not Need A Lot Of Light

Orchids do not need a lot of light | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchids do not need a lot of light

When the orchid has finished blooming, position it in indirect light­­.

An east-facing window works well for me. Any window that will grow African violets will work for your orchids.

While the plant is blooming, I do not worry about light conditions. I place it wherever it looks best in my room.

3 | Do Not Prune Old Orchid Blooms

Don't cut off the stem until it turns completely brown, since it may produce a second stem | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Don’t cut off the stem until it turns completely brown, since it may produce a second stem

Do not cut off the orchid bloom stem unless it is completely brown.

Quite often new flowers will appear on the old stem.

4 | Orchids Do Not Like A Lot of Fertilizer

Do not fertilize an orchid that is in bud or bloom | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Do not fertilize an orchid that is in bud or bloom

Add a very small amount of orchid fertilizer to the water of a non blooming plant every 3 months or so.

Do not fertilize a plant that is in bud or bloom.

5 | They Make Great Outdoor Potted Plants

Orchids make great outdoor potted plants | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchids make great outdoor potted plants

Orchid plants do well in a shady spot on the deck during the summer months.

Just be sure to drain the pots after a rainfall.

Unless you live in a tropical location, you do need to bring orchids in for the winter.

Want to get the tropical look with plants that do not have to be brought in? Click here to find out more.

6 | Orchids Do Not Like To Be Re-potted

Orchids do not like to be re-potted | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchids do not like to be re-potted

Orchid roots do not like to be disturbed.

I do not re-pot, just add a little bark or moss to the top of pots where the plant seems unstable.

Always handle the plant by the pot as opposed to the stem so that the roots are not loosened.

7 | Orchids Will Bloom Again Next Year

Orchids will come back year after year | 7 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Caring For Orchids
Orchids will come back year after year

When one re-blooms for you, enjoy the smile and feeling of pride you get each time you look at it.

Orchids look exotic but are really pretty tough
Orchids look exotic but are really pretty tough

Now that you know how easy they are to take care of, you have no excuse for not having at least one in your home!

Have comments or questions on caring for orchids? Tell us in the section below.

[wgPinItMain] 7 secrets for growing gorgeous orchids[wgPinItMain]

tips for caring for orchids

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67 Responses

  • Wonderful tips and info, thanks! I only recently discovered the bloom stalks re-bloom! 🙂 I didn’t know many of these tips. Thank you!!!

          • Hello Nancy,
            Your orchid may be finished blooming or it may need to be watered more often. Try soaking the entire pot in tepid water for 1/2 hour, then drain well. I do not use the ice cube method.

          • Please help my 0rchids get some white small bugs and it kills my plants and the flowers I think it is a lice what can I use

          • Hello Franci,
            You probably have a mealybug infestation on the plants and in the soil. You can spray the plant with rubbing alcohol, insecticidal soap, or neam oil and let it drip through the planting medium, to kill the bugs. Then rinse with water. You will likely have to repeat this process as new bugs hatch. Personally, I would trash all of the plants including the plastic pots. If you have them in fancy containers that you want to keep, I recommend washing the containers thoroughly in soap and water with bleach added. Then rinse before drying. I would also use the bleach water to wash the area where you grow your orchids– e.g. window sill and window pane. Do not add new plants until you are sure all the bugs are gone. Hope this helps.

      • Christina, have you every had an orchid stem produce and orchid sprout… I have one and don’t know what to do with it… help. Penny

        • Congratulations, Penny, your orchid has produced a new plant or keiki. When it has 2 to 3 roots that are 3 to 4 inches long you can pot it up. Cut the stem (spike) about one inch below the keiki with a sterile knife, sprinkle the roots with cinnamon, and pot into a clean clay or plastic pot using new orchid medium. Water by immersion or with an ice cube.

    • I used to kill every orchid I owned, too, until I figured out that they really don’t need much attention…now they’re the easiest plants in my house. Good luck with the ones you still have!

  • I have an orchid that put out an 7 inch shoot from healthy looking mother plant. But instead of flower buds, it has roots and leaves. What and how is the best thing I should do now? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Retta…It sounds like the plant is very happy in its location. The only thing I would do…add 1/8th tsp of orchid fertilizer to the water the next time it is watered. Then have patience. Hope this helps!

    • This new growth is called a Keiki, and is an orchid baby. When it has enough roots, it can be separated from the mother plant, and re-posted into loose orchid bark medium. 🙂

  • I love orchids I bought some and flowered beautiful. I was replanting one and the stems broke off . Can you tell me will it grow a new stalk or stalks it was a double or did I ruin it. Can you please let me know thankyou Lynn.

    • Hello Lynn, I think that your orchid will push out a new stem after it has had a 6 month dormant period. Some people cut the stem off at the plant after it has finished blooming. It is quite exciting to watch the new stems grow once they start.

  • I received a orchid 2yrs for birthday and it rebloom 2months after it loses it bloom! I finally got it right!

    • Hi Taurus…I suspect it will be a little too hot and sunny for your orchids to be happy outside. They usually like daytime temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, and most do best with indirect light…you may be able to get away with it if you put them in a shady spot.

    • We grow them outside here in Florida through the summer heat. You will have to make sure they receive enough humidity, so watering and misting will be a lot more than the advice listed here. Phals can take bright indirect sun but not sun on them or they will sunburn.

    • Thanks, Ruth! I didn’t know that! But I do have my thermostat set to drop the temperature at night in the winter so I think I have been unintentionally doing that 🙂

  • Good morning

    About a month ago I bought an orchid and it was doing beautifully. Then I decided to get another and when I put them next to each other the first orchid just close all the flowers they look kind of droopy, the roots look good and they’re not dry.

    What do I do?

    Thanks!

    • Hello Barbara, Since most orchids are in bloom from one to two months, I guess that your first plant has finished blooming for now. You don’t know how long it was in bloom before you bought it and it sounds like a healthy plant. I don’t think the second plant’s proximity would affect the blossoms on another plant unless it is infested with mites or aphids. If you don’t see any signs of them on the leaves, I would put the droopy plant in an east window until it is warm enough to go outside for the summer.

  • I have a white orchid and decided to take it out of its pot Let It game originally from the store The Roots were all rotten I cleaned it all up and decided to do water culture on it it didn’t like it so I decided to put it back in Moss will it ever recover I have other orchids that are in full water culture and they are doing well

    • I’m sorry, Theresa, that your white orchid is not doing well in spite of your considerable efforts. I personally would trash it because it may have some disease or bacteria that could contaminate your other orchid plants. I would also treat the container it is in as contaminated and either disinfect it with bleach water or discard it. If you want to try one more thing to salvage the plant, you could repot it using orchard potting mix (bark chips) instead of moss. Moss prevents the dry cycle that orchid roots like. In this case, I would isolate the white orchid from the others until it looks healthy.

  • I have one. That the leaves are wilty looking i have had it for a while it is getting ready to bloom now but the leaves hsve me bugger i know it has something to do with water but I don’t know if its to much or not enough. Thank you

    • Hello Kathy, You must be doing something right if your orchid is getting ready to bloom. Try submersing your plant up to the pot rim in tepid water for one minute every two weeks. Be sure to drain it well after. I hope this helps.

      • This may work if you only have one orchid but is not a good idea to soak repeated plants in the same container. You can spread disease from one plant to another this way. Its far better to let water run over the plant and through the media. Just be sure to drain any water off the top of Phals or you can develop crown rot.

        If the leaves are looking dehydrated then be sure to check the root system as the roots can be rotting and are unable to take up water. Cut off the dead roots and place the orchid in a terra cotta pot and water daily with a week seaweed solution to stimulate root growth.

  • Thank you I will try and will let you know how it is doing. I just love my orchids. Now I have one that has 4 spikes on it and flowers, first time I’ve had that many on one orchid. But thank you I will try soaking it. Kathy

    • Hello Pamela, Not to worry, your plant will bloom again. Eventually, you will see a new stem shooting out. The only reason I do not cut the old stems is that they sometimes (but not always) push out a blooming shoot from the old stem. I give my non blooming orchids a mild dose of orchid fertilizer once or twice a year. Good luck with yours.

      • I love orquids but didn’t have luck with them until not so long ago reported 3 one has new shoots and blooms but leaves started turning yellow found out roots were rotting. How can I save my orquid?

        • Hello Susana, Sometimes orchid roots start to rot if the crown gets wet. You may be able to save the plant by repotting it. Cut off any roots that feel hollow when gently squeezed between two fingers. Then sprinkle the roots with cinnamon, which acts as a fungicide. Use dampened BetterGro mix, available at big box stores, as new planting medium to replace the old bark. I hope this helps.

  • I’m confused. I was told not to leave my orchid outside because if bees come by and pollinate it, the flowers die.
    I think I may have read this somewhere. We live in Florida we’re they grow outside.

    • Hello Gina, There is a symbiotic relationship between orchid bees and orchids where the orchid depends on the bee for pollination. However, when one takes into consideration all the wild flowering orchids in Florida, it is pretty natural for them to be blooming outside.
      I personally enjoy the blossoms inside in the winter(Canada) and let them rejuvenate outdoors in summer shade with no problems.

  • I have twelve orchids that I enjoy so much. They usually start blooming in November, and bloom most of the year. The blooms last for such a long time, I am amazed. I have had most of them for several years, and they have roots going every way out of the pots. Should I repot them…if they ever quit blooming?

    • Hello Donna, You must be doing something right to have such good blooming success with your orchids. Repotting is necessary when the planting medium breaks down and becomes silty, if the roots are tightly packed as opposed to free flowing and twisting, or if the roots are not green. I agree with you that you should not repot a plant while it is blooming. According to the literature, orchids should be repotted every one to two years. On this I personally am negligent — if a plant is repeat blooming, I leave it be.

  • Hi Flora.I have a small indoor orchid in moss.almost three years,I have never fertilised and was recommended to only water once a month.For such a small plant and so little care it has bloomed really well each year.I think there is now more roots than moss.should I trim back the roots and replace the moss with new moss or orchid bark.or leave the roots and just top up as you said.the roots look healthy. many thanks.

    • Hello Sonia, There are two reasons for repotting an orchid — if the roots are growing out of the holes in the pot or if the planting medium is breaking down and causing it to retain moisture. That said, most orchids need to be repotted after about 2 years. I would wait until the plant is finished blooming then choose a pot that is one inch or so bigger than the existing one. Remove any dead or hollow roots from the plant. Pour boiling water over orchid bark nuggets, drain, and let cool. Place a mound in the new container and spread the roots out over it, carefully poking bark into the spaces between the roots. Because orchids are susceptible to diseases, it is advisable to sterilize your container and pruning scissors with a mix of bleach and water and wash you hands before repotting. Good luck!

  • Hi! Got a question re: one of my orchids. It has 5 or 6 healthy looking aireal roots that’s light green and shiny however the leaves are droopy and wrinkled. I doubt it will become smooth again. Should I give it up or Is there anything I can do to help it thrive?

    • Hello Kathy,
      Droopy, wrinkled leaves on an orchid with light green roots are signs of insufficient water. It is a common problem — in fact I have a plant with the same symptoms. What I plan to do to try to revive it is to soak the entire pot to the rim in tepid water for 30 minutes, then allow it to drain before putting it back into its place. When the planting medium it dry to touch, I will repeat this process. I then plan to continue watering in this manner every week and a half, which is more often that I usually water my orchids. If this doesn’t work I will discard it. Good luck with yours!

  • I wanted to check the roots and all the bark fell off…tried to replace it as was…will it ruin the plant…did put it back in original container.Will it ruin the plant? The leaves are still healthy green

    • Hello Linda,
      I have not had your exact experience so don’t know for sure if your plant is harmed. However, the roots are bared when an orchid is repotted intentionally, and the plant does just fine. I expect that yours will be okay too.

  • Hi,
    I have an orchid which I thought was on it’s way out. So I trimmed all roots that were dead wet the plant and placed it back in its original barks. Placed it in my east window and hold and behold a leaf developed on the flower stem! What is my next step?

    • Hello Pauline, I am impressed with your good orchid instincts! The new leaf is a baby plant called a keiki. It will grow roots. When the roots are 3 to 4 inches long you can cut the new plant from the spike and pot it up in new orchid bark. Be sure to sterilize your pruners and container first. Way to go!

  • Hi, I bought an orchid off the clearance rack last week. I’ve always wanted one. It’s a just add ice branded one, so I added 2 ice cubes for the 1st time on Monday (9/16/19). I was out of town yesterday and just got back today (9/19\19). Upon my return home I discovered my orchid has white mushroom looking growth sticking out of the roots. What should I do? I’ve seen people online say it’s either really good or really bad and I’m confused. I found a neat clip from the Smithsonian explaining the benefit orchids get from fungi. Please let me know what this means and what to do?

    • Hello Amber, If you do indeed have fungal growth on your orchid roots, it is part of the normal orchid growing cycle. The orchid absorbs nutrients and water from the fungus in a symbiotic relationship. The growing medium will break down faster but eventually the fungus will shrivel up. Basically, just ignore it.

  • I read that you can grow Orchids in water. You say that they don’t like having their roots wet. Now I’m confused.

    H E L P ! ! !

    • Hello Maurice, I, too, have read that orchids can be successfully grown hydroponically. However, since I have no experience with it, I cannot comment on whether dry is better than wet. In the water culture method, no orchid growing medium is used. In both methods, the crown must be kept dry. Sorry I cannot resolve your dilemma.

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