Orchid Care: 7 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Growing 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.

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126 Responses

  • I have been growing orchids for 20 years and this is the first that I have had this problem. I have pitting , small silver or whitish indentations of my Mostly healthy plants; a few leaves are limp and looks shriveling . Someone told me they thought it might be over fertilization,Someone else said it was due to a virus, and or bacteria . I have segregated them, sprinkled some cinnamon on the crown area. I had to throw out 4 plants as they just did not look healthy. Please help. I can email you pictures ,

    • Hello Helen, Sorry to read about your orchid problems. I have no experience with pitting and leaf wilt. My research suggests that you have a micro-fungus that can be treated by submersing the plant in a solution of Bayer Advanced 3 in 1 Rose and Flower Care. It is only available in the United States. Or another remedy is to spray weekly, first with Banrot plus Aliette, then Cleary’s plus Subdue, then Banrot plus Subdue. You might get a better diagnosis and treatment by sending a picture to the American Orchid Society. I agree that the infected plants should be segregated. If you are cutting off any infected leaves, use a new straight razor blade for each plant to avoid cross contamination.

      • My phaeleonopolus(?) Sp. Not great! Anyway, hasn’t re bloomed in over 2 years! The roots have suddenly gone crazy!! They are shooting out everywhere!! Is this a GOOD sign of blooming to follow?? Please help!!

        • Pam, I wonder if you are fertilizing your phalo with a fertilizer which has a low middle number (Phosphate) and a high first number (Nitrogen). Obviously, your plant is healthy. You may want to pot it up into a bigger pot to contain the roots. Then make sure it has optimum light like an east or north window in the summer months, be sure not to over water, provide a cooler temperature at night. and fertilize with an orchid fertilizer that has a high middle number. Good luck!

    • I have an orchid and it does not Bloom it’s not in a soil or bark should I put it in the soil and bark it is in the vase when I got it it was a dead but it’s got new leaves on it

  • I have 6 Orchids, one is in its 5th flowering in 18 months. My question is a couple of them have massive amounts of roots hanging over the pot, no second flowering though, any ideas please uk here

    • Hello Miriam, It sounds like you have very healthy orchids. Orchid roots are aerial and take nutrients, moisture and carbon dioxide from the surrounding air. Some of my orchids only bloom every two or so years. Occasionally I will give them a bit of orchid fertilizer if they have not bloomed in a long time but it is pretty much a happenstance occurrence.

      • My orchid has produce spike for flowering but suddenly all leaves are fallen down. I have change the potting mixture and sprinkle with cinnamon powder. The spike looks ok but the plants does not look healthy and without leaves. I have cut the rotten roots too. Pls help

        • Heidy, I am afraid your orchid is beyond redemption. I guess you could wait to see if leaves grow but it will take patience. I personally would compost it. Sorry!

          • Hello Heidy,
            Do not plant up your orchids in any kind of soil. Buy an orchid mix which consists mostly of bark chips. It is available at nurseries or big box garden centers. Soak the chips in hot water, then let them cool completely, before repotting your plant with them.

      • I get a beautiful orchid as a gift.
        But I don’t know how to take care and how mucho ice or water yo put help !!!

        • Miriam, When the plant is blooming, site it anywhere you will enjoy it most. After it stops blooming, put it in an east window. Immerse the plant in tepid water every 2 to 3 weeks, for about 30 seconds. Then drain it thoroughly. Orchids are very easy care plants.

    • I have one orchid that has 100s of long roots. Hanging over the pot. Do I repot in a larger pot placing roots inside pot? The plant looks healthy and does bloom. This year I had 9 blooms from one stem.

      • Hello Ellen, I am a firm believer in leaving healthy and happy orchid plants alone. I would only repot yours if you don’t like how it looks. In which case, you are right, the roots can be placed inside a larger pot.

  • I am the first time grower of orchid and vanda, the Vanda plant has coming out some shuts I donot know whether they are new growth of plant or it is flowering stems?

    • Hello Mansi,
      The new shoots are either roots or a new stem that will produce a flower. I suggest you wait a while — the new stem will be straighter and longer than roots in time. In any case, you just need to care for your plant as you normally would.

    • Sorry Katy, I do not have any experience with mailing orchids. You could order an orchid delivered by using an on line flower delivery service. I would do a Google search in the area of the recipient.

  • Of course orchids need to be repotted!! But never while blooming. It is a chance every 2-3 years to remove old dried or rotted roots and put it in a fresh supply of bark or orchid medium. It always gives it a new lease on life. They should bloom regularly, at least yearly with good care (or neglect) but if not I would definitely repot and put those errant roots going every which way into the new bark and they will thrive. I have been growing orchids for over 20 years with great success and am proof that they are very easy and care free plants that keep on giving beauty to my home.

      • I have a Vanilla Orchid but am not sure how to encourage it to flower. I know how to look after phals, dendrobiums, another one but I’ve gone brain dead oops! I have lots of leaves and aerial roots but that’s all. I live in the uk so not tropical 😂
        Hope you can help. 🙏🏼

        • Hello Christine, The Vanilla Orchid takes 3 to 5 years from cutting to bloom. If yours has already bloomed then I suggest you fertilize with orchid fertilizer every two weeks in spring and summer months and mist often in an attempt to provide it with the 80% humidity it likes. Good luck!

  • I am keen to grow orchid , but never succeeded. Please help me giving some step by step guidance . I have 4-5 dying stem -root rudiments (remaining in my pots) . I must mention, I live in Delhi. India.
    Kept my orchids in hanging netted pot in a one side (roof to bottom grilled balcony) enough sunlight in the morning to eve. Orchids pots receive only morning direct sun.

    • Hello Suparna, I’m sorry you are having such bad luck with your orchids. I assume you are referring to the Phalaenopsis variety of orchid. Here is what I suggest: Light — indirect light only, Phaleos can stand quite low light conditions
      Soil — orchid bark mix. I do not disturb the orchids from the growers pot I buy them in.
      Water — avoid overwatering, Immerse the pot in tepid water no more often than once a week and drain well
      Fertilizer– I add a tiny amount of orchid fertilizer to the water of a dormant plant about once or twice a year.
      I hope this helps. Good luck!

  • I received my Grandmother’s orchid after she passed. Its in a terracotta pot set inside a wire basket. The roots are wrapped around pot and growing through the wire basket🗑
    My question is
    Do I leave it or repot?
    I’ve consider wire cutters to remove wire basket or just to plant the whole thing in another pot.
    The roots are a couple feet long

  • I just got my first orchid plant. Regarding proper watering, you said 30 seconds in water…..not 30 minutes? In 30 seconds will it be able to get a sufficient amount of water?

    • Hello Elizabeth, Orchid roots take moisture from the air and hate to sit in water, so 30 seconds is about right in my opinion.

    • I bought our orchid 2 years ago, it has bloomed 2x with 4 more blooms about to open. My instructions were to put 3 ice cubes in the pot no more than 1x a week. So we do it when we remember! It is simple and simply elegant.

  • I have an orchid which was ready to bloom & all of a sudden the leaves which were about 4 in long, wrinkled & the buds fell off. Very disappointing. I never saw that happen to my orchids before.

    • What a bummer, Marilyn, just when you were anticipating new blooms. I suspect that the roots on your orchid died for some reason, so that the leaves could not get enough water. I have no idea how you could rectify the situation. Sorry!

  • hello I need help with my orchids please because they have about 3 months that they have small flies and I don’t know what to do, please

    • Areli, If you have an infestation of fungus gnats, you will need to repot your plants in new medium containing bark and coconut husks, and reduce your watering and fertilizing. You can trap the adult gnats with yellow sticky cards used to trap white flies and aphids. Cut a card into strips and insert a strip into the side of each pot. I hope this helps.

  • Hi I have two Orchid plants and both came with sticks holding up the blooming stem with tiny hair type clips… do I remove them or keep them as is wish I could share a photo

    • Hello Lee, I leave the stakes supporting the blossom stem until after the plant has finished blooming. Then I remove them and the clips.

    • I’ve grown orchids for many year and have about 20. Recently they have started to get a sticky substance on the leaves and what looks like black bumps on the flower stalks and flowers. I’ve been treating them with alcohol and cutting off the infected flower stalks. They are still blooming. Can anyone help?

  • Hi there, I received an orchid last month for as a birthday gift.

    The roots are contained in a plastic bag and it is all sitting within a terra-cotta pot.

    Should I remove the plastic bag and put the roots directly in the pot?

    It has several blooms on it and looks lovely at the moment. I’ve been careful not to give it to much water.



    • Hello Sandy, Are you sure your orchid is planted in a plastic bag and not a clear plastic pot-liner with holes in the bottom? In my experience, the latter is how most orchids are sold. If that is the case, it does not need to be potted up. I never replant anything when it is in bloom, including orchids. I suggest that you leave it be and simply enjoy it.

      • Well, it looks like a very thick plastic bag, but I’m sure you’re right, that it’s a pot liner.

        Thanks for the advice, I’ll leave it alone. 🙂

  • I love orchids (as much as anything green that grows flowers) but have bad luck with them. The one I have now was dying, and I immerse it in oxygenated water to kill the fungus blackening the roots. It grew a beautiful shoot very green and healthy, but this morning I saw the roots becoming black again. I live in South Florida, and its very hot and humid. The heat index reaches three digits almost every day. Do you think my orchid would survive for three weeks without water?

    • Hello Cristina, Black rot starts with the plant being moist. Cut out the rotting roots to healthy growth with a sterile knife and let the cuts dry. I would try 3 weeks without water (in your humid climate the plant will take moisture from the air) and then repot in moistened new orchid medium containing mostly bark. Sterilize the pots before replanting. Good luck.

  • The leaves (2) fell off. The rest were broken off by someone who didn’t tell me. It is in full bloom right now starting to drop flowers now.
    Is there any hope for this plant. I’m upset this happened
    Will leaves root? Thanks colleen

    • Sorry Colleen, about the bad luck with your orchid plant. As far as I know the leaves will not root. New leaves may grow back slowly. After it has finished blooming, try giving it a period of dormancy in an eastern window. It will likely take at least two years or longer before it blooms again.

  • My daughter give me two orchids in blue one was bright blue and the other was baby blue color. This year grow flower again and was not blue was white . So now I have two orchids with white flowers .
    The anyone know why was blue before and now are white.

  • Thank you Flora for answer me so fast .well that is so bad to know
    Because my daughter pays to much money because there blue and not other color she dee know that . Lol. And blue is my favor color.

  • I am in love with orchids. I have 11. So I am the stage to repot one size bigger and get new bark, my question on the roots that are growing outside the pot, do I keep them above the bark or plant them down in the bark ?
    Thank you

    • Hello Joanie, Some of the healthy roots that are growing outside of the pot can be gently pushed into the potting medium inside the new pot. If there is not room for them all, leave some of the aerial roots out. It is important to be careful so as not to break them off.

  • Hello,

    I love orchids but unfortunately have always had bad luck with them. I recently was tempted by their beauty and bought three. I am trying the ice cube method with three and water with one. All are in the same area, getting the same amount of light. Today was my day to attend to my orchid that takes water and I noticed that one of the leaves is about to fall off. The orchid is still in bloom; there are a few buds left to open. Does this mean my plant is unhealthy and dying? Should I remove the leaf or let it fall off on its own?

    • Hello Joanie, I would remove the dead leaf. I would guess that it had been injured before you bought it. Be sure that you are not watering too often. Let the plant drain thoroughly after watering it. Good luck!

      • Thank you so much for your quick response Wanda!! I agree, I think that this orchid may have not been the most healthy when I purchased it. I work at a grocery store in the floral department this glaze there or kids right next to my department so I’m often looking at them and this one had cut my eye over a month ago. I am now Aileen one that just came in and I’m considering buying it because I think it’s such a great deal because it’s got two orchid stocks together in one plant or one container I should say and it’s $34 and it’s a deep magenta color which I do not have yet in my collection. My birthday is this weekend so I’m considering buying it. so far it seems that the ice method is working for my other two orchids although I know this is not a popular method. Have you noticed if different color or kids grow better than others?

        • Hello Joanie, I have not observed any difference between the growing habits of phalaenopsis hybrids in various colors. Happy birthday!

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